There is no further mystery in the data: the relationship between the rate of infection and subsequent mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. this late in the pandemic has become clear. The news is not good.
The spike in the death rate has arrived…and it is bad
From Tuesday of this week (July 7th), and every day since, the death rate has spiked to levels not seen in a month. For the first time since late April, the 7-day trailing average no longer reduced, but increased, and at a very significant rate. As can be seen in the graph above, the upturn in the moving average appears to mirror the increase in the rate of infection which had occurred approximately 26 days prior.
This delay in increase has been puzzling to us as it does not reflect the general scientific consensus that death follows about 14 days from the onset of symptoms. There may be several explanations for this apparent anomaly, but the stark fact is that the data point to an alarming rate of increase in mortality. These rates could exceed the peaks we were experiencing in April as we still do not know when the rise in the infection rate will peak.
Given this, the data also points to a likely increase in mortality of rates that significantly exceed the rates being experienced in early to late April. This would put the US on a path towards a a very serious situation. Because it is still early – the spike has been with us less than a week – it is unclear what the rate of the increase will be. The initial numbers appear not to be linear in relation to the infection rate – that is the slope of the curve may not be as steep – but only time will tell.
The infection rate, which appeared to be ameliorating last week, spiked again this week, exceeding 70,000 on Friday 10th, a single day record and driving toward the 100,000-mark about which Dr. Fauci expressed concern.
On the All-in Podcast (Chamath Palihapatiya, David Sacks, Jason Calacanis and David Friedberg – four outstanding startup wizards – catch them at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCESLZhusAkFfsNsApnjF_Cg/feed) this week, the suggestion arose that the US is headed for a Sweden-like experience with COVID-19, as an accidental outcome to the decentralized way we have dealt with the threat. The notion is that we will eventually get to a form of community immunity which is what Sweden appear to have reached, although this was their objective all along.
Unhappily, though, it is apparent that this may happen in the US with a higher mortality rate than experienced by Sweden, which experienced about 547 deaths per million population to date. The US has experienced 415 deaths per million of population to date. It is possible, at current rates of growth of infections, and if the mortality rate continues to grow in sympathy (even if not in direct linear proportion), that number could double, or more.
We will be drilling deeper into the mortality rate in the forthcoming week: again exploring the CDC “Excess Deaths” numbers (which is still not showing any signs of increase, but that, too, is a lagging indicator.) We will also be exploring the impact on the most vulnerable states. We close this briefer than usual report with a graph showing the mortality trendlines in Florida, Texas and California that bears out the statistics from the rest of the country. In this graph we have shifted forward the infections by 26 days, showing the correlation between infection and mortality rates at that precise date delay.
Stay safe, every one! More next week.