News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Could April bring a turning point in COVID-19 pandemic?

This week marks the anniversary of what would be an ominous event: the first time the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) compiled COVID-19 data for seven consecutive days.

In the week of February 23, 2020 (Sunday) through February 29, 2020 (Saturday), 26 cases throughout Oregon were recorded by the OHA. The first Oregon death resulted on March 14. Since then, OHA has compiled massive amounts of key data.

Cases and deaths as of February 14, 2021:

Over the past five months, three articles discussing COVID-19 statistical analysis appeared in The Nugget, crunching numbers for Oregon as well as Deschutes County. The September 29 and October 20 articles numerically determined the COVID-19 “turning points” for Oregon at 439 and Deschutes County at 14.

Those levels were established based on Governor Kate Brown’s Stay At Home COVID-19 Order, effective from roughly March 23 through early June 2020. These calculations used daily mean (average) as well as standard deviations (variation).

Subsequently, COVID-19 numbers skyrocketed — summer peaked and then declined. Autumn became even more perilous. Measures to restrict COVID-19 spread were implemented in various ways, in various Oregon counties. Results in COVID-19 suppression were variable — despite heroic, determined, and consistent efforts by millions of Oregonians and people throughout the world.

In the fall, Oregon’s rates were easily in the thousands per week; with the highest during the week of November 29, at 10,564. (See table) Deschutes County cases rose sharply in lockstep — having its maximum of cases on the same week, 453.

As we know, in mid-December, Oregon started administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Although hampered in administrations, these breakthroughs have made a significant, statistical impact. Important reductions in the number of cases, hospitalizations, and resultant deaths have been witnessed. Widespread media has communicated these improvements.

The logical question now becomes: “When do the numbers tell us life will be more normal again?”

In Chart A, we see the COVID-19 process behavior for the number of cases, going back to September 27, for both Oregon (green) and Deschutes County (purple). The plotted lines use the data in the table. Both Oregon and Deschutes County spike in the three weeks around Thanksgiving.

In terms of the number of cases over time, the regression factor for Oregon is .9139. As explained in earlier articles as a “prediction” element, this factor/level is extremely reliable. As in earlier analysis, a more complicated polynomial regression was again used to understand COVID-19 behavior consistency.

Also, Deschutes County’s regression factor is high (.8626). Each line is similar in general pattern — although after mid-December their patterns are more divergent.

Importantly, the number of cases declined significantly starting in 2021. The effect of the vaccine, and potential better social-behavior practices, can be presumed to be positive influencers.

In Chart B, we take a simple, linear regression from when it appears to have the week-to-week decline in cases. Taking 11 consecutive weeks for both Oregon and Deschutes County going back to November 29, we statistically calculate the number of cases for the upcoming weeks. The lines’ slopes are extremely alike.

With the previous, Stay-at-Home “turning points numbers” with Oregon (439) and Deschutes County (14) calculated, it is statistically possible that both Oregon and Deschutes County will achieve these numbers on/about April 4. This provides hope — numerically determined — that better days could be arriving at last.

There is a lot of uncertainty in achieving these numbers, however. Vaccine distribution has been extremely erratic with the administration somewhat sporadic, especially with recent winter storms. If social preventative behavior — mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings — become lax or noncompliant, then these actions could jeopardize real COVID-19 improvement.

The significant reduction in cases, however, provides optimism that perhaps the upcoming year will bring some solutions.

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