A few days ago I noticed that the confirmed case slope in Nebraska had crept up and taken over the lead in the above chart of the top 25 states by case growth. Note that these case and death rates are normalized by 1000 population. This allows us to compare cases better. For instance, Arizona has more new cases per day than Nebraska, but when you consider that Arizona is a more populous state, their normalized case rate is about 1/5th of Nebraska’s. Don’t get fooled by news reports with pretty graphics showing raw numbers!
Interestingly, though, despite this large growth in cases in Nebraska, are were very few deaths. This is an interesting trend that Nebraska just might be a bit earlier on than other similar states. Perhaps this case growth rate is a sign that deaths will follow, but right now the pattern seems different than the earlier outbreaks back East. Here’s what I see.
In the table above, we see that one county, Douglas, the home of the city of Omaha, is driving nearly all of the new cases. Their case growth rate (IROC_confirmed) is 3x the next highest county and about 30x the rest of the counties in the table above. This indicates that the steepness of Nebraska’s case curve is primarily due to what’s happening in Omaha. Looking this up, I found this link that talks about Grand Island, NE, the third largest metropolis in Nebraska (Hall County). They had a meatpacking plant outbreak back in April and the virus made it into nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Note that now, Hall County’s case rate has flattened. They kicked off a flurry of testing and contact tracing in the county, which seems to have worked. Perhaps the outbreak in Hall County triggered one in much larger Douglas County.
I’m interested in watching how the COVID-19 infection spreads now that we’re moving into warmer weather in much of the US. I’m also interested in how “new” regions like Douglas County respond. Are the hospitals, the health agencies, and the governments learning from hard-earned lessons back East? If so, we may see cases with much lower death counts through the summer.