Use Cautious Optimism as New COVID Cases Level Off

As we continue to monitor the situation in the Metro-Detroit area we are cautiously optimistic that social distancing is helping reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases.  Like many other areas around the state, country, and world , Metro-Detroit experienced an exponential growth rate in new cases.  According to the New York Times, The Metro-Detroit area is second only to New York City in confirmed cases. Following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay at Home Order being issued on March 23, we may be seeing a slowing trend in the number of new cases.  This is positive, but we should be cautious.  There are still many infected people who are unaware they are infected, and could easily spread the virus if the State and city lift restrictions too early or too aggressively.  On April 9 Whitmer extended the Stay at Home Order for the State with the intent to continue to try to flatten the curve. 

First, we see that the number of new cases across the State is beginning to level off.  We utilize as the source of collected data- which is reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) daily.  One note, because on the last two Fridays and Saturdays the numbers were simply repeated we used a linear interpolation (averaging growth between those two days) in the data series to get a clearer sense of what is happening in the state.  We care a lot about the policy responses at the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies and are in the process of analyzing government responses across the 50 states and Washington DC to see how we can help slow, and eventually stop, the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite this potential levelling of new cases in many areas, we need to continue forcefully exercising our social distance to the extent that we can.  This is vitally important, and our actions do not simply impact our probability of contracting the virus it can be the difference between life and death for many populations.  The Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, through the National Neighborhood Indicator’s Partnership, recently estimated that for each additional week we stay home we save 378 lives and if we stayed home for 60 full days we would 2,713. 

We know that the disproportionate number of cases in the State are in the Metro-Detroit area.  It’s worth noting that this metropolitan area experienced many of the first cases and a very rapid rise, and while the region is slowing we are still seeing an uptick in cases in Wayne County (outside of Detroit), Macomb, and Oakland.  We use MDHHS for these data as well. 

Finally, we know density matters regarding the spread.  In the following table we see that there is a tendency for the number of confirmed cases, death rates and deaths per confirmed case to rise with population density. This may be a function of the health care system becoming too overwhelmed as the total number of cases rises. 

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