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Reopening – A COAT 2.0 Case Study

Brittany BoxMay 15 2020

Across the country, the rates of new infection for COVID-19 are declining in many areas. The country has started to reopen (37/50 states at last count, in at least some fashion), and in some places you can shop, hike, golf, and even get a (much-needed) haircut. But as we move in the general direction of “venturing out”, we as a society are desperately seeking definitive answers on what’s been “successful” and what needs to be done going forward so that we can resume some sense of normalcy and get the economy going again. 

Let’s be clear – we are probably experiencing at least a touch of cabin fever (and for all the right reasons).  But with all the excitement around reopening comes an equal amount of unease and uncertainty. Could doing so lead to another spike in new case counts?

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Using COAT, we have been following Los Angeles County over the last week, and it’s proven to be a very interesting case study. 

In one week, it went from having one of the largest downtrend in new cases in the entire country…to having one of the largest spikes since the start of the crisis in the US. 

How does this happen?

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has given counties in California the authority to decide their best reopening plan. Although Los Angeles County introduced measures very early on, it has still seen about half of the state’s Covid-related deaths, and as a result, the LA mayor has been hesitant to reopen too quickly. 

On Wednesday, Los Angeles reported the second highest spike in new cases since the start of the outbreak with 1,327 new cases. Many of these have taken place in institutional settings – nursing homes, prisons, etc. 

We have been using COAT to quickly identify areas with fluctuations as severe as that of LA and dive in deeper.

Here is how LA County fairs compared to other counties in California:

As you can see, more recent data suggests (as of 2020-05-14), that LA County may be experiencing a greater increase in the number of new cases than the rest of the state of California.  When comparing new case counts in LA County versus all other California counties, LA alone is reporting 47% of new cases across the state over the past 7 days (6727 out of 14254 new cases across the state.)  Meanwhile, LA county represents 25% of the population of the state of California. 

THERE AND BACK

We will continue to track how the situation in Los Angeles unfolds. Current headlines read that the beaches are set to reopen Wednesday (5/20), following announcements that hiking, golfing and shopping are permitted. 

The Opening Up America Again plan suggests that looking at the rate of newly confirmed cases over a 14-day period is sufficient for understanding a state’s infection trajectory. However, Los Angeles county’s activity over the past week has suggested otherwise as they’ve jumped from THERE to NOT YET THERE in the course of a few days. 

This case study has also shown us just how quickly the situation in a county can change, and just because you’re THERE, doesn’t mean you’ll stay THERE.

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