There is some very tentative information today that New York may be nearing the peak of its outbreak. I want to emphasize very tentative. If we keep abreast of developments in the hardest-hit countries in Europe, even if this is at or near its peak, we will see more days where the numbers jump again. And finally I will say that there is evidence of some numbers slowing down on weekends. With all that, the number of deaths in New York was lower yesterday and today than on Saturday when it reached 630. The number of new hospitalizations has also slowed while the discharge has increased. There is also some evidence of a decline in new cases. But, as we have discussed, this can be an echo of the testing constraints. We can finally note that before yesterday’s revision, the IHME COVID-19 model had predicted that New York would peak on April 6.
If this turns out to be the peak of the epidemic in New York, I would like to share some information about the date and how they compare it with very consistent patterns from China and Italy.
To give some context, let’s look at Italy where the epidemic has clearly peaked, although maintaining it is still at a brutal rate of more than five hundred deaths per day.
We can now see that the deaths reported by Italy peaked on March 27 when 919 people died from the disease. Italy shutdown with a series of rolling actions from March 8-10. The lockdown in Lombardy was announced on March 8. So there are 19 days of dramatic social distance / lockout and the peak of death. In particular, this is very close to the pattern in Wuhan, China, where there were 20 days between locking Wuhan on January 23 and the peak of death on February 12. (There were slightly more deaths recorded on February 23. But that was due to a change in the way of diagnosis.) Both areas also one day apart in peak infections reported.
If April 4 turns into the daily peak of death in New York, the previous 19 days are Monday, March 16. So let’s see what happens on that day and around it. It was the first day of school closure in New York City and one day after Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced the closure on March 15. As we noticed at the time, we saw anecdotal accounts from all over the country that school closure – whatever its immediate impact – is a major social signal from the crisis and dramatic changes in behavior in cities and regions throughout the country.
“Pause” by Governor Cuomo (there is a shelter version in New York) announced on March 20 and entered into full force on the 22nd. So that is another key date.
We can also see the progress of the locking up of New York City, the distribution center of daily subway passengers, which dropped from 91% to 24% of normal passengers during the second and third week of the month.
Let me make it clear that we do not know that New York is at its peak. But we see some evidence of that. The extraordinary overlap of locking with the peak of deaths and infections in Italy and China is also important to understand the duration of outbreaks in other regions.
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