If you want something to affirm your ideology, this article, is probably not for you. The data is the data whether it supports an agenda or not. Now, how’s it going?
Phase 3 took effect September 25 2020. Among other things, Governor DeSantis’ phase 3 plan abolished occupancy restrictions at restaurants/bars. theme parks can return to normal, Large Sporting events can resume but all with one caveat: Social Distancing Rules Must Be Maintained.
Fatalities per capita
The ultimate judge of the COVID pandemic is its death toll and economic damage. The percentage of a state’s population that died of COVID is the “Fatalities per Capita”. The four states with the most COVID fatalities per capita are Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts (in that order). After its initial wave plus Sunbelt Surge, Florida ranks 11th in that statistic. But the difference in the statistic is significant: Florida’s fatalities per million population (750) is less than half that of the Top Fatality states (1250-1800).
Fatalities per case
The percentage of cases resulting in a fatality is the “Case Fatality Rate”. It reflects how those at mortal risk are protected from the spread. The four states in addition to Florida that experienced a second wave or “Sunbelt Surge” are Lousiana, Arizona, California, and Texas. Compared to those states, Florida shares the same roughly 2.5% Case Fatality Rate as Texas and California. That is, 2.5% of cases ended in a fatality. Arizona and Louisiana are higher. California’s lockdown was no more effective in protecting the vulnerable but inflicted devastating economic and social lockdown damage. That is, California had the same percentage of cases result in fatalities but had the added destruction of a lockdown. As of this writing, 42% of the California population lives in counties still under lockdown with another 25-30% under phase 1 type rules (see Which California Counties are reopening).
A statistics guy I follow on Twitter living in a locked down county of California recently shared how is wife went into labor but had to take an UBER to the hospital when his car would not start due to not running under lockdown. She miscarried. Alone. While some Floridians lament their mask-less neighbors and sensationalized spikes from certain news sources, they are free to go about their business and freely choose their activities/risks without fines or arrest. Businesses large and small are open in Florida, people are working and our children are back in school. Florida’s medical systems are handling COVID and are open for treating other illnesses. Even a close family member is allowed to visit.
The top portion of the graphic below shows the overall Case Fatality Rate difference between Florida, other Sunbelt and the four “Top Fatality Per Person” states. The bottom portion shows the Case Fatality Rate for Florida’s fellow Sunbelt Surge states (solid lines) compared to the four Top Fatality Per Person states (dotted lines) over the course of the pandemic as cases/fatalities ebbed and flowed. To me, it shows how Floridians and our systems successfully handled, treated and lived with COVID even though we had cruise ships lined up in our harbors and with the oldest median population age (see median age ranking from Wikipedia). In the spring wave, all states were faced with the same problems. The people and systems of some performed better.
Back to Fatalities per Capita
Furthermore, Florida is further distinguished in the visualization below. Over the course of the pandemic, Florida had fewer fatalities per capita than the four “Top Fatality” states in spite of having more more cases and an older population. It is untrue that more cases means more fatalities. Thus far, Phase 3 has not changed the fatalities or case rate of the virus in Florida. It’s same as during Phase 2 leading up to Phase 3.
The Art of Counting
The Florida Department of Health system was not designed or intended to be a realtime system. Many COVID dashboards and reports show stats for the current day or week. The value in collecting data is in seeing where we are in light of where we’ve been. One day does not make a trend. What we see over and over is a weekly pattern where the number is very low, the next day very high and trickling down over the next few. The graphic below shows a sampling of closeups of our stats illustrating their weekly pattern. The rolling 7-day average (dark line) smooths it out. It’s slow to rise and slow to fall; much to the chagrin of Chicken Little.
Until the effects of immunity and vaccines are felt, increased testing results in increased cases and vice versa. But it’s meaningful when cases don’t increase in spite of increased testing. Lacking testing data for Boca Raton, we collect data for Broward and Miami Dade to see how Palm Beach County (dark gray) residents are doing in comparison. After 3 weeks of phase 3, testing has risen faster than cases.
As of July, Florida publishes stats for the number of beds used for patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID. Combined with daily hospitalizations and daily COVID fatalities you can get a sense of community health. In the graphics below, COVID beds have hovered around 100 since Phase 3 started which is 3% of the total available hospital beds in PBC. COVID beds for the state are also at 3% of all state hospital beds. County fatalities vary up and down in a weekly cycle but are relatively even over time with a slight bump at the end of the “Sunbelt Surge”. Hospitalization utilization peaked in PBC at 60-80% throughout the surge.
Where are we then?
While there’s a kerfuffle about Percent Positive, we publish the official number from the state. While other calculations exist, they track the same as shown here by Eric Chokey in his Sun Sentinel article:
Below is a 3-up graphic showing the daily case, testing and percent positive stats for Palm Beach County as reported by the county to the Florida Department of Health. What the experts say of percent positive is when it goes up for a week, it predicts a flare up. When it goes down, it predicts subsiding. What value makes a good or bad number depends on how you calculate it and that is the domain of others to determine. But for a consistently calculated number going back to April, we publish the official state calculated value as shown in the graphic below.
COVID is here to stay.
I was reminded recently that some strains of late 1800’s Russian flu are still in circulation. COVID isn’t going to zero. It’s up to us to follow the guidelines when sickness strikes and to do the things that prevent the spread so we can keep our businesses and freedom going.
Since April, Jim Wood and I have collected COVID data every day. Our goal was to present hard to find data on Boca Raton and Palm Beach County so residents could make informed decisions to protect themselves, choose their risk and as a community, govern ourselves. Our county and city have data but do not provide it to residents. Broward does. Seven months into this we still collect data every day and publish our findings Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the BocaFirst COVID Tracker. We think the County should step up, take responsibility and be transparent. If you agree, Contact your County Commissioners.