News has spread that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has ordered something close to a lock-down of Massachusetts. Specifically, the physical locations of all “non-essential” businesses must close tomorrow at noon to reopen on April 7. In these stressful times, many will be pleased to know that liquor stores are included on the list of stores that can stay open.
This action by Baker raises the question states will be facing until this episode is over, first when deciding to close things down and then when deciding to allow them to open again. When is the right time?
This isn’t a question meant to downplay the threat. Given the harm to the economy and the damage of panic generally, not to mention the precedent for future outbreaks, there must be some level of infection below which life goes on.
According to the indispensable Worldometer site (which has proven to be accurate and quickly updated), the United States now has 40,855 cases of COVID-19, including those who have died and those who have recovered. Of especial note is that the death rate has been drifting downward as we’ve seen more cases, and is currently around 1.2%.
Focusing in a bit, more than half of those cases are in New York state. Zooming in a bit more, however, shows that it’s really the counties around New York City in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that account for the bulk of the U.S. COVID cases.
The following interactive map shows the cases by county for these three states plus Massachusetts as of last night (using the “source” links on Worldometer). (Given data limitations, I distributed the number reported for “New York City” across the five relevant “counties” evenly.)
Data as of 6:30 p.m. 4/3/20.
I’ll update the numbers as I’m able, but at the time I first collected them, the Worldometer was reporting 33,546 cases for the country and 15,168 for New York. Two things are worth noting. First, from Sunday to Monday, 78% of all new cases in the entire country (5,707 of 7,309) came from New York state.
Second, outside of the immediate sphere of New York City, the cases fall off precipitously. This is true of Boston, too, although obviously to a much lesser extent.
We should keep this sort of geographic specificity in mind as the federal government and the states’ governors decide how to respond to this crisis.