Games with Models, April 29 Data (And an Argument About Our Neighbors)

Hopefully what we’re seeing with a more-or-less steady decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations is the echo of the week during which the rate of positive cases did not accelerate.  It still appears that we’re past the peak for hospitalizations, as for active cases, but the falloff hasn’t been as steep as my model had predicted.  (See here for the original methodology and here for the modification.)



The other datapoints that we’re all tracking had mixed, though generally positive results.  For example, new cases didn’t slow as much as hoped, but Rhode Islanders in intensive care actually decreased.

  •  Cases:
    • Projection for 4/29: 8,136
    • Actual for 4/29: 8,247
    • Projection for 4/30: 8,440
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 4/29: 256 (original method = 266)
    • Actual for 4/29: 269
    • Projection for 4/30: 256 (original method = 264)
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 4/29: 245
    • Actual for 4/29: 251
    • Projection for 4/30: 257

Even without the perfect-world slide down the good side of the curve, the call for reopening our economy continues to grow.  That’s largely true in response to the data that nobody has been modeling (or at least promoting): the cost of our continued lockdown.

One reasonable argument in opposition that deserves some thought is that Rhode Island is not actually an island.  We can’t make decisions about community health without considering what’s going on with our neighboring states, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  I haven’t found the data to easily-enough run my model on their numbers of cases and hospitalizations, but two points can be made, nonetheless.

The first is that the hotspots in those states are not actually on our borders, as the following interactive map shows.  In Connecticut, the lion’s share of the cases are on the western side of the state, near New York City.  In Massachusetts, the hotspots are in Boston and up.

The second argument would apply even were our neighbors’ hotspots right on our border.  Rhode Island cannot control its neighbors, and we are too small and (ahem) poorly run to stay shut down.  Just like we can’t compete with Massachusetts for corporate welfare, we can’t afford as extensive a shut-down.

That being the case, we need a different strategy, and it’s the strategy that increasingly looks like it should have been the emphasis from the start.  Protect especially vulnerable groups, encourage behavioral changes across the rest of the population, and trust people to make the best decisions they can in their actual circumstances.

That doesn’t negate what I’ve suggested previously — picking a tolerable level of hospitalizations and keeping an eye on that number.  It only means that we have to make our decisions with an awareness that our neighboring states might make things a bit more difficult.

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