Where we are now (Aug)?

“Where are we now?” is a key question, because (as I wrote here), much of the MSM is being faked out by its emphasis on “Confirmed Cases,” an easily manipulated statistic.  Many of the worst-affected states seem to be taking the President’s advice to “Slow the testing down!”.  Fewer tests translate to fewer reported cases, lightening the pressure on state governments. And because most states still aren’t reporting probable deaths (contrary to CDC guidelines), they can also conceal the resulting deaths.

So, IMO, before analyzing the status of any state, you first need to look at how much testing they’re doing, then at the Positivity Rate (the percent of administered tests showing infections), and only then at other trends.  It’s a lot more work than simply reporting on growth of Confirmed Cases.  We use the COVID Tracking Project’s state-level statistics from 8/18/20 as the source for data here.


Among hard-hit states in the “second wave”, only Louisiana and Arizona seem to be doing significantly better, while Alabama is showing signs of progress.

Louisiana Testing/Positivity
Click or drag to change chart in this group. All pandemic-sense original analysis based on Covid Tracking Project Data (8/14/20)
Arizona Positivity/Testing
Alabama Positivity/Testing

Louisiana was an early-hit state, with infections centering on New Orleans and tourist-driven transmission around Mardis Gras.

This created a big spike in April that was brought under control during lock-down.  When the state re-opened in June, infections climbed again, now state-wide, mostly outside of New Orleans.  Louisiana tackled the problem the right way by testing aggressively.  The peak infection rate is now down to 4.9% in the week ending August 18, down from 10.7%.  Louisiana is one of 22 states reporting probable deaths.

Arizona had the highest positivity rate of any state in early July.  This combined some of the highest infection rates in the country within the Navajo Nation, plus intense growth in and around Phoenix.  The current 9.3% positivity rate remains dangerously high, but clearly a huge improvement over 26.8%.  The testing rate, at under 1,000 tests/100k, seems foolishly low.

Note that the gradual reduction in tests from a peak of 1,345 to 930/100k is exaggerating the true rate of decline, if you’re looking at Confirmed Cases.  On the other hand, AZ is one of 22 states reporting probable COVID deaths.  This limits its ability to hide the reality of what’s happening in the long term, as ultimately Case Fatality Rates will start to climb precipitously if case counts are kept artificially low.

Alabama showed only a 7.7% Positivity Rate for the week ending August 18, while increasing testing to 1,730 tests/100k.  The previous week was 16.5%, and it was 19.9% the week before that; it’s promising, but too early to assume this latest progress is anything but ephemeral.

Minimal Improvement with High Infection Rates

There are seven states that have suffered very high Positivity Rates for over a month.  Some are showing minor improvement, but it’s still too little. In rough order (worst to less worse) are: Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Idaho, Texas, Kansas, and Georgia.

Florida is probably the worst offender.  The Positivity Rate was hovering at or near 19% for a month, and started dropping ever so slowly to 16.2% in the latest week.

Original analysis based on COVID Tracking Project data.

Note that the testing rate has nearly halved over the same period: from 1,953/100k during the week ending July 14, to 1,079 in the week ending August 18.  The combined result of the slight decline in Positivity and the dramatic reduction in testing means that 7-day average of Confirmed Cases peaked on July 16 at 13,965 and by August 18 had fallen to 3,838. 

So the MSM narrative for Florida, based on “improving” Confirmed Case counts,  is seriously overstated: most of the “improvement” has been manipulated by holding down the number of tests.  With such low testing rates and high Positivity, the risk of undetected expansion of the pandemic remains extremely high.

Moreover, Florida is NOT reporting probable COVID deaths, hiding a significant number of deaths (see Is FL 5x better than NJ?).  Frankly, it’s a shit-show.  Instead of manipulating the numbers by under-testing and under-reporting, DeSantis should be trying to save lives.

While Florida is the poster-child for how to fake-out the MSM, there are another six states in similar condition. All have suffered obscenely high Positivity Rates for at least a month, and are testing too little. Of the six, Georgia is “stuck in the middle” with moderately high testing rates, and Positivity rates still above 10%. Click or slide the image below do view different states.

Mississippi Testing/Positivity
Click or drag to change chart in this group. All pandemic-sense original analysis based on Covid Tracking Project Data (8/14/20)
Nevada Testing/Positivity
Idaho Testing/Positivity
Kansas Testing/Positivity
Texas Testing/Positivity
Georgia Testing/Positivity

Getting Worse

Unfortunately, three other states are clearly worsening, and not doing enough to contain the spread.  States with similar patterns are as follows:

  • Iowa: positivity increased from 6.7% to 10.9
  • North Dakota: positivity from 3.0% to 9.9
  • Missouri: positivity from 6.1% to 10.6%
Iowa Positivity/Testing
Click or drag to change chart in this group. All pandemic-sense original analysis based on Covid Tracking Project Data (8/14/20)
North Dakota Positivity/Testing
Missouri Positivity/Testing
Click or drag to change chart in this group. All pandemic-sense original analysis based on Covid Tracking Project Data (8/14/20)

Deceptive Practices

Faked Out, Not Fake News

Why the Current Narrative that
“Florida is Improving” is a Lie

If you browsed the New York Times Coronavirus tracker on August 9 (data through 8/8/2020), you’d likely conclude that Florida is “getting better”.  After all, on the front page of the Latest Map and Case Count for the US, Florida shows up in a section called “Where new cases are decreasing”.  Click deeper to the Florida details, and you see a nice graph which indeed appears to show that cases are dropping significantly.  The obvious conclusion is the pandemic is coming under control.

Source: New York Times Website, 8/9/2020

This obvious conclusion would be wrong.  It fails to take into account that “Confirmed Cases” is an easily manipulated statistic.  Unfortunately, virtually the entire mainstream press bases its reporting on confirmed cases and is being fooled.

In Florida, as you can see in the Time’s graph, the 7-day average of Confirmed Cases peaked on July 17 @ 11,870 and dropped to 6,550 on August 8, an apparent decrease of 44.0% (See: Note 1).

Between these same dates, the 7-day average number of tests dropped 42%!  Note: [Positive Tests] = [Confirmed Cases] by definition in this Florida data.  So, if the total number of tests administered drops, and the Positive Test Rate stays the same, cases must drop.

In Florida’s case, Positive Test Rate was 17.5% on August 8 and 18.1% on July 17.  As a result, 95% of the apparent reduction in Florida cases is due simply to the reduced number of tests.  It’s why The Covid Tracking Project’s graphs for both New tests and New cases cases depict virtually identical trends during July and August (except for slightly different scaling).

Source: The Covid Tracking Project Website 8/9/2020

Thus, by any reasonable standard, the Florida pandemic remains uncontrolled and extremely dangerous.  The best you can say for it is that the Positive Test Rate is no longer climbing (albeit stabilized at a shockingly dangerous level).  

Think Florida is alone in doing this?  Think again.  We looked at every state plus the District of Columbia over the most recent 5-week period (Weeks ending July 7 through August 4).  All of the 10 states with the highest positive test-rate cut back testing during the most recent week.  This means they all reported fewer new cases than if they’d held testing levels constant. 

Contrast these states to the 10 with the lowest Positive Test Rate:  6 of these best-performing states tested the most during the latest week.  Tests/100K averaged much higher as well:  for example, NY, with a Positive Test Rate of 1.0%, tested at a rate of 2,401 tests/100K population.  This means it tested at a rate more than 100% higher than 5 of the 10 worst-performing states, and 43% higher even than GA (the most aggressive-testing state in this group).  

The fact is that every state in the worst-performing 10 cut back on testing, despite long-standing WHO protocols to increase testing when positive rates are this high.  Nine out of these worst-performing states have Republican governors.  It’s hard to credit that this behavior is an accident.  Could they be heeding the President’s advice to “Slow the testing down”?

Note 1: This calculation (and those that follow) are based on the author’s original analysis using data released by the Covid Tracking Project.  The author’s calculation of seven-day average case counts for Florida based on the Tracking Project data were identical to the NY Time’s number for August 8, and differed by a count of 5 cases (11,870 vs. 11,865) for July 17.