Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: April 15 Update

Here’s the coronavirus growth rate through April 15. Tuesday was not a good day. Italy continues to stall. France took a big jump upward. Germany and Sweden ticked up as well. And the United States recorded 2,494 deaths, a new high. We might still peak this week, but things are looking a little dicier than they were a few days ago.

One of the most frequent requests I get is to break out the US data by state or region. There are several reasons I haven’t done this. First, I’m lazy. Second, there’s no real epidemiological basis for thinking that state borders are meaningful. Third, it leads you down the rabbit hole of slicing and dicing the data in a zillion different ways desperately looking for a trend that will prove some theory or another. The data we have is so-so to begin with, and you end up with a dog’s breakfast if you try to squeeze too much out of it.

What’s more, it probably doesn’t matter. If there’s any state that you might legitimately consider special, it’s New York. So I finally got curious and decided to see just how much New York was contributing to the overall US numbers. Here it is:

Despite being the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, New York’s share of the total death toll has been practically flat over the past three weeks. This means that if you subtract New York from the US totals, you’ll get a lower number but almost precisely the same trendline. And if New York doesn’t affect the trendline, there’s little reason to think that any other state affects it much either.

Bottom line: the United States is a perfectly good unit of measurement. Given the underlying accuracy and noisiness of the data, it’s best to simply track the US numbers and not try to torture the data into providing something that’s simply not there.


How to read the charts: Let’s use France as an example. For them, Day 0 was March 5, when they surpassed one death per 10 million by recording their sixth death. They are currently at Day 41; total deaths are at 2,865x their initial level; and they have recorded a total of 256.5 deaths per million so far. As the chart shows, this is above where Italy was on their Day 41.

The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.

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