Unexpectedly Intriguing!
June 10, 2020

Here is the latest update to the United States' full tower chart during the three months from 10 March 2020 through 9 June 2020, along with the nation's daily test positivity rate (the percentage of positive test results among all tests reported), and also the nation's rolling 7-day average of newly confirmed cases and deaths per day. Click on the image below to access a much larger version of the three charts together:

Progression of COVID-19 in United States, Daily Test Positivity Rate, 7-Day Total Newly Confirmed Cases and Deaths per Day, 10 March 2020 through 9 June 2020

Overall, the nation is on an improving trajectory, but one that's improving more slowly than might be expected after so much of the country was put under lockdown orders by state and local government officials. That difference between intent and result suggests that a lot of what has transpired in public policy over the last few months at the state level has been ineffective.

As a case in point, let's reflect on how things looked back in early March 2020. That was back when the state of New York only had 173 known cases of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections but no recorded deaths, and the state of Washington was leading the nation with 1,178 COVID-19 cases and 37 deaths.

Three months later, thanks largely to its dysfunctional political leadership, New York would far surpass all other states and claim the top spot for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States, with over 379,000 confirmed cases and at least 24,348 deaths, or just under one-fifth of all cases and nearly a quarter of all deaths so far attributed to the viral infection in the U.S.

Much of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic within the U.S. has been traced to cases emanating from New York City, the epicenter of the epidemic in the nation. That's how New Jersey became the second most hard hit state in the U.S., followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware to round out the list of other states in the northeastern part of the U.S. that have experienced the most cases in the country.

But the state of New York didn't just spread infections around the country. It also spread deadly policies, particularly after the state's leaders panicked when considering the predictions of computer models and began forcing nursing homes and assisted living facilities to admit patients known to have coronavirus infections, where the infections would "spread like wildfire" and greatly amplify the number of cases and deaths among the state's elderly population, already known to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. States that copied New York's panicked policies, like New Jersey, have paid a similar and unnecessarily high price in lives.

In the following skyline tower chart, you can actually see the progression of COVID-19 in each state and territory of the United States during the past three months. Fortunately, the states that have been the hardest hit are now showing elevated but greatly slowing rates of spread, but others, which had largely evaded significant numbers of infections in the last three months, such as Arizona, Utah, and Oregon, are now seeing rising numbers of cases.

Progression of COVID-19 in the United States by State or Territory, 10 March 2020 through 9 June 2020

Each of these charts span the same period of time and the width of each corresponds to 2.0% of each state or territory's population, making it very easy to see which states and territories have been most impacted and which have been the least impacted through the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., especially since we've ranked them from the highest percentage of infection within the state's population to the least as you read from left-to-right, top-to-bottom.

One limitation we recognize in the skyline tower presentation is that it is difficult to get a sense of how the number of cases and deaths in each state has evolved over time and how that directly compares to other states. The following interactive chart shows the rolling 7-day average number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia from 17 March 2020 through 9 June 2020, where if you hover over a particular curve, you can highlight it and get the number of cases per 100,000 residents at individual points of time.


The next interactive chart presents the rolling 7-day average number of deaths per 100,000 state residents, where you can find which states have performed the best and the worst over the last three months, which is another way of identifying which states followed New York's bad examples and which did not.


We're also pleased that others have developed dashboards for exploring the COVID Tracking Project's time series data that we've used throughout our series of articles on the progression of COVID-19 in the U.S. In particular, the COVID Time Series dashboard makes it easy to get detailed day-by-day data for individual states and territories for a variety of measures that the COVID Tracking Project has been following. Since we're moving away from regular updates, these are good sites to go to if you need to get your coronavirus data fix!

Previously on Political Calculations

While this is the last planned article for this particular series, here are all of the articles featuring the data visualization we've developed to track the spread and severity of the coronavirus epidemic at the state level, which we've listed in reverse chronological order, starting with this very article!

Meanwhile, if you prefer your data in the form of tables presenting numbers and percentages, we also have you covered!

We have been updating the tables in these last two articles on a near-daily basis, but we'll be updating them less frequently going forward, mainly because the incidence of new cases in the U.S. is slowing, but also because the international rankings are badly hampered by inconsistent reporting standards and, for several countries with authoritarian regimes, outright dishonest reporting of their total number of cases and deaths.

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