CLEVELAND, Ohio – When the Ohio Department of Health reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases in more than a month on Monday, it was not a problem, but a significant example of a trend that had been developing since late last week.
The long and generally steady decline in recently reported COVID-19 cases has ended, at least for the time being. And the number of cases is on the rise.
For 12 consecutive days, from June 6 to last Wednesday, the number of new cases reported each day ranged from 300 to 434, averaging 389 per day during this period.
Then, as of Wednesday, the state reported 700, 609, 531, 546 and finally 729 in its updates at 2 pm each day.
In clearer terms, the seven-day average, a way to smooth trends that might otherwise be affected by timely processing lab work or paperwork, hit a two-month low on June 12 in 381. Since So the seven-day average has risen nearly every day, reaching 566 on Monday, the highest point since May 27.
What is behind the spike?
While the trend is clear, what is behind the increase is certainly unknown at this early stage with limited publicly available data on these new cases. At least three factors could be coming into play.
* Ohio has gradually resumed its activities, from work to play, including the widest opening of restaurants and shops, and entertainment centers like swimming pools and parks.
* Many people with symptoms were never tested at first. When supplies were limited, testing focused on the sickest and oldest patients, and healthcare workers. Now anyone can get tested, said Governor Mike DeWine. In the seven days to Monday, the state reported 102,190 tests, compared to 80,140 and 75,922 in the previous two weeks.
* And some older cases are being added to the totals, such as those where blood tests show an earlier presence of the virus. In the past week, 204 cases have been added to the total with an onset of symptoms since May or earlier, including April 97 or earlier.
One way to “clean up” data for uneven testing and case reports is to look only at hospitalization records. These are some of the most serious cases, and also those that state health officials were always most likely to know about.
The encouraging trend in hospitalizations to date is that they have not shown the same upward increase found in the total number of cases.
The numbers for both total coronavirus patients and those in intensive care units are well below where they were from April to early June, although they increased slightly in recent days.
For example, the Ohio Hospital Association reported 549 coronavirus patients in Ohio hospitals Monday, with 217 of them in the ICU. This compares with 760 and 323 on June 1, and 1,067 and 411 on May 1.
However, a patient could have coronavirus for several days or more before being hospitalized, or even being diagnosed. And the latest hospitalization numbers are often reviewed a little later.
Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. follow us on twitter @RichExner. See other data-related stories at cleveland.com/datacentral.
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