Good news and non-news

First, the good news. Some readers yesterday accused me of never covering the progress LA, Orange, and SD were making in slowing the spread of COVID. In fact, I covered those three counties in my post on August 19. Sorry, but I don’t analyze the same data day in and day out. On top of that, a lot of readers have relatives and/or travel to the other counties in Southern California, so an update on those counties was overdue.

As I pointed out on the 19th, the three “focus counties” are looking much better now than they did a month ago.

Since the Zorgi Score is not an epidemiological tool but more of an analytical “marker” let’s see what has caused these numbers to decline. Since Orange County had the biggest drop, let’s take it first.

On Sunday, Orange County was removed from the state’s watch list. The state’s metrics are based on much more than just cases, but this chart shows part of the story. After rising in the middle of August, case counts have now dropped to the levels at the first of the month, and those were levels not seen since June. Positivity also declined to the 4% range, while testing increased. The better news is in the last two weeks, where daily testing decreased, but positivity didn’t increase, which is typically what happens.

Will this last? Hard to say. Looking at the history over the past 3 months, it’s kind of a roller coaster. Daily cases went on a long decline from July 7 for a little over a month, and then started to rise. The rise in cases corresponded with a significant rise in testing. Bottom line: things are in a good direction, but not for enough time to feel confident it will stay that way.

In terms of hospital metrics, 3 out of 4 of them are going in the right direction and have been for 3 weeks or more. Daily patients (red area) have gone from around 800 to just over 400 today, resulting in a lower HUR of only 7%. ICU patients have also declined from around 250 to 130. The IUR of just under 40% hasn’t declined, but it hasn’t gone up, either.

OC’s fatality metrics are all over the place. The good thing is that in terms of absolute numbers, they’re relatively small. While an increase in daily fatalities from 3 to 6 is alarming percentage-wise, its not quite the same as LA’s increase from 25 a day at the beginning of July to 40 a day now. OC’s fatality doubling days were rising steadily until they got to 40, but now have flattened out. The CFR is down to 2.4% from a high of 4.3%, but back at the beginning of July, it was only 1%.

If we’re looking at trends, LA’s case-related numbers are fairly consistently in the right direction. One of the best signs is that daily testing has increased from a low of 24,000 to around 32,000, but the positivity rate has declined from around 10% to under 5%. Meanwhile, daily cases have dropped from over 2,700 to around 1,400 today.

LA’s hospital metrics are even more consistently trending in a good direction. Daily patients have dropped from just under 3,000 to 1,700 today, resulting in a declining HUR from 15% a month ago to 9% today. Daily ICU patients has also dropped from just under 700 to just under 500 today, bringing the IUR down from a high of 43% to 36% today.

LA’s fatality data isn’t quite as encouraging. The daily fatality count has pretty much plateaued over the past 6 weeks at 40 per day. The CFR has dropped slightly, from a high of 2.6% to just under 2% today. The good sign is that fatality doubling days continue to climb steadily, and are now up to 73 days, well out of the danger zone.

San Diego’s case chart is difficult to read. Even with smoothing from 7 day moving averages, there’s quite a bit of noise. Cases have definitely gone down over the past month, from over 500 to 266 today. The positivity rate, with lots of ups and downs, has dropped from over 7% to around 3.5% today, which is even more significant considering that daily testing has remained more or less stable at a little over 7,000 tests a day.

SD’s hospital trends are uniformly good. Daily patients dropped from around 500 to 270, bringing the HUR from a high of 9% to a very safe 4% today. Daily ICU patients declined from 165 to just over 100 today, and with that, the IUR went down from a high of 34% to 26%. Very encouraging news.

It’s a little more difficult to discern the trends in SD’s fatality metrics. The CFR is the most clear-cut, having dropped from a high of 2.6% at the end of June to 1.3% today. Daily fatalities dropped at the end of July from 9 to 5, but then plateaued at that level. Fatality doubling days were rising steadily until the middle of August, at which point they dropped down to 64 days and stayed there.

Now for the non-news.

With great fanfare, Trump announced on Sunday that he had broken through a “logjam” with his authorization to use convalescent plasma to treat covid-19.

Eric Topol is a physician, scientist, and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. He said, “I watched this in horror. These are basically just exploratory analyses that don’t prove anything. It’s just extraordinary to declare this as a breakthrough … All this does is jeopardize ever getting the truth.”

If you want to take a deep dive into this subject, a very good read is from the Science Based Medicine website. David Gorski wrote a very thorough article, and the title says it all: “Does convalescent plasma work against COVID-19? Who knows?” I would especially like to call attention to Dr. Gorski’s conclusion about the consequences of Trump’s attacks on the FDA:

Seeing what’s happened during the pandemic, I’m reminded what I wrote about the Trump administration very early in its time. Even just 80 days in, I saw signs of weakening the FDA’s ability to make sure that drugs are only approved based on the strongest scientific evidence, while more recently I saw even more alarming signs of the same problem. When the cruel sham of “right-to-try” was passed into law in 2018, that pretty much sealed my fear that the FDA is becoming totally politicized, and I wasn’t surprised that the law is failing. The pandemic just provided the pretext for the final assault on the FDA as a reliable arbiter of which drugs should be approved based on actual scientific evidence, rather than fairy dust, wishful thinking, and the political imperative of a President known for promoting snake oil.

It isn’t a pretty thing to contemplate what will happen if a truly safe and efficacious vaccine is developed at the same time that people have lost all faith in the credibility of the FDA. We’re not there yet, but we’re trending in that direction.

For up to date numbers on COVID, take a look at the Interactive pages on

Sick of the pandemic and ready for a change? There are only 71 days left until Election Day. Your vote counts, no matter where you live. So plan now: check your registration, make sure your family and friends do that, and motivate others to save our country.

Last, a question for LA readers. I’m working with another Redditor to see if we can’t collect case, fatality, and testing data from LA county communities. I’ve identified 19 of them that seemed to be in the worst shape: City of Industry, Wholesale District, Vernon Central, Los Angeles Central, Los Angeles South Park, Florence Firestone Unincorporated, Little Armenia, Boyle Heights, Maywood, East LA, West LA, Vernon, Florence-Firestone, Huntington Park, Irwindale, Westlake, Pico Union, Athens Village, Lynwood.

Currently, you can see the data for a single day for these communities, but not trends over time. So I have two questions:

  1. Would this be useful to you?
  2. Are there communities that you feel should be on the list, or others taken off? To make this easier on my end, I’d like to limit the list to 19, so that I can duplicate the code I use cities in San Diego County.

Special thanks to everyone who wrote encouraging words of support. I always wonder whether it’s worth it to keep doing this. While there are a few readers who made it very clear they’d like me to disappear, it seems there still area lot of you who feel otherwise. So thank you.

Have a great week, and keep safe and healthy!

2 comments on “Good news and non-news

  1. We definitely do NOT want you to disappear! Please keep doing what you are doing, you are fantastic and doing a service that the government will not provide.

    1. I really appreciate that! There are some days, frankly, when I get tired of fighting with the Trumpers. But then I look at the overwhelmingly positive response I’ve gotten from people like you, and I realize I can’t let those people get me down. They are completely outnumbered, though they make a lot of noise. Thanks so much for letting me know what you think!

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