A Tale of Two States (with apologies to Dickens), the denouemont

Two days I posted the following puzzle — here is the answer and a bit more

A friend in med school, a classic University of Chicago graduate, was fond of saying “that’s how it works in practice, but how does it work in theory?”

Well, this country is currently in the midst of an immense social experiment (lockdowns) essentially based on theory (models).

We’re about to find out how it worked in practice.

Here are some recent statistics from two states.

State 1

3 day moving average of new cases of COVID19 ending 25 April — 2778

3 day moving average of new cases of COVID19 ending 13 May — 901

3 day moving average of daily deaths from COVID19 ending 25 April — 177

3 day moving average of daily deaths from COVID19 ending 13 May9 — 96

 

State 2

7 day moving average of new cases of COVID19 ending 25 April — 740

7 day moving average of new cases of COVID19 ending 13 May — 525 (the state allows 14 days for all the data to roll in, so the last date they regard as having secure numbers is the 7th of May and here the number is 539)

7 day moving averages of deaths from COVID19 ending 25 April — 35

7 day moving average of deaths from COVID19 ending 13 May — 24 (the state allows 14 days for all the data to roll in, so the last date they regard as having secure numbers is the 7th of May and here the number is 27).

One state loosened its lockdown restrictions 25 April, the other had them in effect through 13 May.  Your job is to figure out which one did and which one didn’t.

The denouement — State 1 is Massachusetts (which kept the lockdown) and State 2 is Georgia which loosened them on the 25th of April.

As usual, actual data answers some questions but raises new ones.  Contrary to the disasters predicted (see later), in Georgia the new cases of symptomatic pandemic flu declined by 29% and the number of deaths declined by 22%.  The 13th of May is way past the longest possible incubation period for cases beginning prior to 1 May.  So from this, the conclusion one might draw is that the lockdown was ineffective.

But hold on. Massachusetts also showed declines in new cases and deaths, and by greater amounts 68% and 46% than Georgia (29 and 22%)  implying the lockdown was of some use (in accelerating the decline in cases and death).

Pandemics and epidemics have a natural history of peak and decline, in the USA our pandemic is on the decline.

People who assumed (on purely correlative evidence) that lockdowns prevented new cases, and that lifting them would cause a marked increase in new cases and deaths, are clearly wrong.  It’s possible that cases will spike in the future proving them right, but pretty unlikely.  It’s only fair to give the doomsayers a sporting chance and followup is planned in a month.

Here are a few predictions of doom.  Future predictions and definitive statements from these sources should be taken with a grain or more of salt.

From The Atlantic — “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice — The state is about to find out how many people need to lose their lives to shore up the economy.” — https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/04/why-georgia-reopening-coronavirus-pandemic/610882/

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Comments

  • Mark Thorson  On May 24, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    I think the timing for release from lockdown is perfect. If you wait too long, the number of cases may go down, but then any subsequent rise will be interpreted as the “second wave”. The dems are just itching for that so they can blame Trump. If you do the release at the first sign of cases going down, you may get a plateau instead. The “second wave” will be absorbed into the first wave.

    It’s kind of like how the human pulse has two distinct peaks and a valley between them in young adults. As you get older, your blood vessels stiffen and the second peak moves closer to the first peak. Next, the valley becomes a plateau. Then, the plateau stops being flat and merely becomes a slow part of the descent between the first and second peaks. Finally, in the old, sedentary, and obese, the second peak moves under the first peak and disappears, although you can sometimes still find it by taking the first or even second derivative of pulse pressure. If you need that kind of math to find the “second wave”, there is no “second wave”.

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