There are early signs that the COVID-19 Pandemic in the USA may turn this coming week — at least in terms of newly confirmed cases. The underlying doubling rate has slowed from 6 to 7 days. This is partially due to the rapid catch up in testing that has occurred over the last few days/week. The peak in daily death counts may happen in 2 weeks. Cumulative death counts will continue to rise every day into May and June and the total may shock Americans, but the rate of increase should slow.
The reason for optimism is three-fold:
- By the end of this week, testing should have caught up with best-in-class Germany with more than 3M Americans tested. Currently, 1.8M or 0.53% of all Americans have been tested.
- More than 41 states have lockdowns in place of one sort of another with >90% of Americans under lockdown rules. Florida governor finally agreed last week.
- Social distancing, while not perfect, is 90% compliant.
This may be a false Spring but if it is confirmed over the next few days, the turn could be real. As testing improves, the country should widen the net to catch asymptomatic cases and improve tracking of all known contacts. There is strong evidence that this is already happening. The percentage of all tests returning positive dropped from a peak of 17% five days ago to just 12% yesterday. In the figure below note that the line tracing the number of cumulative hospitalizations or serious cases (brown dot) is bending away from the number of cumulative positive cases (+sign). This means that more and more cases not requiring hospitalization are being identified. The death count (*sign) continues to rise exponentially but this is a lagging indicator — reflecting cases confirmed a few days to a few weeks ago.
When more and more asymptomatic carriers are identified and tracked the country may revert to selective quarantines and lift general quarantines — possibly in May. All lockdowns may be lifted by June if we maintain social distancing. In the meantime, everyone must practice social distancing diligently for two more months. Stay at home if at all possible. There are people complaining that the country cannot be locked down for 3 months to a year and they cannot practice social distancing that long. Tell them 2 months is not forever. This forecast is for the country as a whole so there will be pockets of hot zones still left in the USA that must be defended against vigorously since the country lacks a nationwide lockdown.