Pennsylvania: Are We Flattening The Curve?

Pennsylvania Department of Health Declares There is “No Sign of Slowing”

As of 12:01 AM 4 April 2020 Pennsylvania exceeded the 10,000 case milestone.

The majority of cases in Pennsylvania are in the Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania region along the Boston-Washington commuter corridor. As this is a major thoroughfare connected to New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and transit systems only recently began reducing service along this route, this is not a surprise.

source: https://theburgnews.com/news/positive-covid-19-cases-exceed-10000-in-pennsylvania-almost-1600-new-cases-today

The Pennsylvania Health Department released the following statistics on positive SARS-CoV-2 cases within the state:

  • Nearly 1 percent are aged 0-4
  • Nearly 1 percent are aged 5-12
  • 1 percent are aged 13-18
  • Nearly 8 percent are aged 19-24
  • 41 percent are aged 25-49
  • Nearly 29 percent are aged 50-64
  • Nearly 20 percent are aged 65 or older.

There have been no pediatric deaths, unlike Illinois.

What Is Preventing The Curve From Flattening?

Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

A few factors are unique to Pennsylvania, one such being the presence of a large religious population known for participating in religious exemption. In the broader southeastern corner of the state, outside of Philadelphia (the eastern bottom edge of the state) these populations live beautiful lives.

In the western part of the state, an additional area is being hit – Allegheny County, home of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has its own unique culture. It is a very social city where strangers talk to each other and it is not hard to make friends if you want to go out. Social distancing presents a challenge here. We also run into the poverty and rural hospital problem in western and central Pennsylvania.

Places of Worship

At this time places of worship in Pennsylvania are continuing to operate. Recently, places of worship are coming under scrutiny as major sources of coronavirus infection. I will be addressing this more in another post.

Adoption of Social Distancing

Source: https://www.unacast.com/covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard

Unacast has rated Pennsylvania as a C- based on two factors.

Source: https://www.unacast.com/covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard 25-40% Decrease in Average Distance Traveled Per Person; 60-65% Decrease in Non-Essential Travel To Non-Home Location

The majority of trouble is in small towns in rural areas. This is not surprising, but it is important to those that we need to behave as though coronavirus is spreading through an asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic reservoir host. This means that all it takes is one person in town and the whole town could get COVID-19 very quickly.

Pittsburgh and Delayed Outbreak

In 1918, Pittsburgh’s influenza outbreak was a full 3 weeks behind that of Philadelphia’s. Pennsylvania was one of the hardest hit states during 1918, and Allegheny County was no exception. Let’s remember how even within the past 10 years, new, previously unknown mass graves from 1918 are still being found throughout the state, and particularly in western Pennsylvania [1, 2, 3].

Is Pennsylvania Really Showing No Signs of Slowing?

I decided to break this down into 2 milestones: 100 cases and 1000 cases. I then compared the growth in cumulative cases to present from each.

source: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c-wa_OpRaa0a3uzpZv_e7aA08ibALjDvB-asLZmFJv4/edit?usp=sharing

Based on the growth of cumulative cases since the 100th case, Pennsylvania is predicted to reach 100,000 cases as of 14th of April, 2020.

Source: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c-wa_OpRaa0a3uzpZv_e7aA08ibALjDvB-asLZmFJv4/edit?usp=sharing

If we look at just the cumulative cases since the 1000th case, the 100,000th case is predicted closer to 12th of April, 2020.

So, yes, the health department is 100% correct. Pennsylvania is showing no signs of slowing.

Healthcare Systems Overwhelmed

The healthcare system in Philadelphia is overwhelmed, but not for the initial reasons one might think. Out of state patients from New Jersey and New York are heading to Philadelphia hospitals for treatment. This does reduce the resources available for those living in the local area. This also introduces additional vectors of disease to the Philadelphia area.

To better address the growing need to hospitals, cities are attempting to reopen those that have closed, particularly in poorer areas. There is an empty hospital in Philadelphia that the city is attempting to reopen. One massive barrier is that the building is privately owned by a California investment banker. This is only one hurdle.

Large hospital networks across the country are shifting spending while furloughing employees in preparation for outbreaks, including patient care workers. This is also occurring in Philadelphia. The argument for reducing staff is one of finances and the increased costs of each coronavirus patient amid bidding wars for supplies. These privately owned large hospital networks operate in multiple states, resulting in the shifting of resources affecting those where the outbreaks will eventually hit next.

Milestone Forecasting

In 100 years we gained the ability to monitor the disease, albeit imperfectly, and make predictions. Disease forecasting based on mathematical predictions was used primarily in agriculture when I was in school. With agriculture, we use satellite imagery to look for indications of disease by looking at light reflection/absorption patterns. Crazy right?

I discussed forecasting in the post about New York. Please ask questions and I can go into the mathematics of these models more.

Are we at the peak yet?

No. Pennsylvania will likely have 2 peaks – one for each major city. We can examine milestones and projections for changes overtime to try and guess when these will be. Milestones can be used in the process of forecasting for making quick decisions.

At this time Pennsylvania is projected to hit its 100,000th case on 14th of April 2020. That said – this is a graph based on many data points that can be broken up.

There’s a lot of hope in that graph shape if you think about how much impact the actions of individuals can have. The slope can change and extend out that milestone if everyone starts taking this seriously. If we look at only the last few days, we have moved closer how long it takes to reach that 100,000 cumulative case milestone to the 12th of April 2020.

With the actions of every day people, such as social distancing, staying at home, adopting public mask wearing, and hygiene awareness, we can flatten the curve.

This post is dedicated to my friends currently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I love you. Please stay safe. I owe all of you hugs the next time I see you.

TL;DR

  • Pennsylvania is not flattening the curve. If the curve does not flatten more, we could hit 100,000 cases by around 12th of April 2020 unless things improve.
  • At this time it does not look like Pennsylvania is hitting a peak. There will likely be 2 peaks
  • To help flatten the curve: practice social distancing, stay at home, adopt public mask wearing, and remember hygiene awareness. We can flatten the curve. Flattening the curve now will hopefully protect Pittsburgh later.
  • People are still sick with heart disease, cancer, bacterial infections, influenza, autoimmune disorders, tumors, and everything else under the sun and because the medical system is overwhelmed, those people aren’t getting sufficient care.

Thank you to anyone that reads this. Without you I’m just shouting into a void.

2 thoughts on “Pennsylvania: Are We Flattening The Curve?

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