A number of commentators on the right have been claiming that Covid is primarily a New York/New Jersey thing, helping to bolster the claim that the rest of the country can proceed with opening up. In early April, there were numbers to back up this position. For example, on April 10, 46% of known cases and 53% of COVID deaths had occurred in just these two states.
But historically, pandemics start in the biggest, most dense cities and then spread out into the countryside, since while rural populations aren’t immune, they are remote so spread occurs more slowly. If this pattern is repeating itself, we should start to see growth in cases and deaths begin to diversify out of NY and NJ and into the other states.
If we look at cases, this is exactly what we see. NY and NJ peaked in early April, but have trended and now only represent 22% of new COVID cases in the US.
Deaths show the same pattern, starting at half of the new deaths per day, and ending yesterday at only 30%.
This isn’t just a trick of the percentages: When we look at raw cases, we can see that NY and NJ are trending dramatically down, while the rest of the country are heading up.
Breaking this out into all the states, Let’s take a look at growth rates for each state. The general trend is clear; the urban centers and early hit states have social distanced with a vengeance and driven their growth rates down rapidly. The superstar grwoth states are dominated by rural red states, who while they may have low numbers (and small populations) have furious case growth rates and the high death rates that will follow. A few states are particularly concerning:
Nebraska/Iowa/MN/KS with lots of cases and very high daily growth rates. This is partially dominated by a few meat packing plant incidents, but those cases are spreading out among the population. Anyone with over a 10% growth rate is on the way to an exponential breakout.
Virginia’s number is terrifying. 18K cases, growing at 10% per day.
Overall, the pattern over time is clear. Rural states are not immune, they’ve just taken longer to take off onto their own exponential growth curves. States only become immune after getting a really terrifying punch in the nose from the virus, then shutting down and distancing themselves into relative safety.
Rural states, by and large, just haven’t felt the impact yet. The danger is that this will lead them into overconfidence and they’ll open up fully just as the fist is approaching their face.