One Year of COVID-19

Categories: Warren County   Retrospective

On April 10, 2020 the Warren County Health Department reported the first known case of COVID-19. In this report we’ll look back at a full year of COVID-19 in the county and see how we’ve fared at both the state and national level. Remember that all the graphics below are interactive. You can mouse over individal data points to see exact values. If you want to download a copy of the graphic as an image you can do so by clicking the camera icon that shows up in the upper-right corner of the image when your mouse is over the image.

Cases, Deaths, and Vaccinations

Let’s start this retrospective with a look at three key metrics: reported cases, deaths, and number of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Below you can explore both the cummulative and weekly totals for these important data. Each graph lists the maximum value on their respective y-axis. For new cases per week I used the five number summary as the y-axis labels. That means from top to bottom you’re seeing the maximum, 75th percentile, average, 25th percentile, and minimum values. One way to use this when thinking about that chart is to recognize that half the weeks fall between the 75th and 25th percentile markers and the more extreme values fall outside of those markers.

As you can see on the above, the WCHD reported 1691 total cases with a peak of 133 cases in a single week. This number might include a few repeat test takers but almost certinaly misses some presumed positive cases that went untested and unreported. For this reason we can’t really say how many of the county’s 17032 residents have contracted COVID-19, but the 1691 postive tests points to at least around 10%.

Another thing that stands out on the case graphics is just how significant the fall case surge was. On the total cases chart you can see that half of our 1691 cases occured before the time frame between November 8 and November 15. That accounts for roughly 7 months of the year. The remaining half of the cases came after that time with most of them falling in the November to January surge. The significane of this time period is highlighed by the fact that the weekly numbers from that time frame all fall within the upper quartile, or at or above 75th precentile. In fact, they are that quartile.

There have been 49 reported deaths with a weekly peak of 8. Once again, because positive tests is not the same as total cases of COVID-19 we cannot say with certainty what the mortality rate of COVID-19 has been in the county, but 49 of 1619 points to about 2.8% or lower. The bulk of the deaths coincide with the fall surge with the peak week for deaths lagging almost two months after the peak week for cases.

Thankfully, the number that is really surging right now is the number of individuals fully vaccinated. This number is taken from the Illinois Department of Public Health. It is not reported by WCHD. By the end of the our first year of the pandemic there were 3664 individuals vaccinated. This count continues to grow daily. Thus far, the rate of Vaccinations has greatly out paced the rate of infection as over 20% of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated in just a few months time.

Case Demographics

To capture who’s falling ill to this virus, I’ve refreshed my regular demographics vizuals for the first one year’s worth of WCHD reports. Each individaul chart lists its maximum as the top y-axis label. In the cummulative total chart the demographic groups are listed in highest to lowest total with the number decreasing as you go from left to right and top to bottom. For the weekly case number chart I ordered the groups by their weekly average. This means the groups in the top row had more cases per week on average than those in the second row and so on.

What you might notice on the case totals chart is that the 20 to 60 age range covers the top four spots with women 20-60 leading men 20-60. Within each sex you see the 40-60 age group leading the 20-40 group. The totals drop off by nearly 100 cases as you move into the 60-80 age range. You see the same arrangement in the weekly case numbers as well.

Remember that the demographic groups in the weekly case graphic are orderd based on the weekly average and that the max value for each group is listed as the top label of the y-axis. What I found interesting is that for both men and women, the maximum weekly total was 7 cases higher in the 20-40 age group than that of the 40-60 age group but that the 40-60 age groups had higher weekly averages. You can quickly see this by noting that the y-axis labels are not in strictly decreasing order like they are on the case totals graphic.

Death Demographics

The death totals chart is read in the same way as the case totals. There are, thankfully, fewer demographic groups represented in this chart with no deaths below the age of 40. Where women seemed to top the charts in terms of cases, men seem to be in front when it comes to COVID-19 related deaths with just over half the deaths being men between the ages of 60 and 100. Particularly striking is the difference between men 60-80 and women 60-80.

Warren County According to USA Facts Reporting is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that collects and reports on national data. They’ve been tracking cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. If you’ve been following this blog, then you’ll know that I use their data as the basis for any comparative analysis I do.

It’s important to know that the USA Facts data differs a bit from what you get from the WCHD reports. They both differ from what you’d get from the IDPH data. All the sources are pretty close though and you can see this by looking at case data from WCHD compared to USA Facts.

USA Facts’ totals for Warren County come in a bit higher than WCHD but you can see in the graphics above that the overall shape of the pandemic is the same regardless of which report you’re reading. One difference that is worth noting for this particular blog entry is that USA Facts reported the first case in Warren County on April 11, not April 10. To account for this I used USAFacts data up to and including April 11, 2021 for the comparisons that follow.

To compare what happened here in Warren County to other counties in the United States we need to look at cases per 100,000 people. This has become the standard for cross-county comparions. To get this value you divide 100000 by the county population and multiply by the actual number of cases. Using the data from USA Facts, I’ve done this calculation for every county in the United States for every week of the pandemic and then computed percentile rankings for each of those weeks. Such rankings let us get a sense of how things fared that week compared to other counties in the nation and the state.

First and Total Reported Cases and Deaths

The virus was first detected in Warren County in early to mid April and our first death was reported in August. It turns out that this is a bit behind the curve. Most counties in the state and in the country reported a case or a death before we did.

Given that we were late to what has been a really, really terrible party, it’s worth seeing if our totals also lag behind. They don’t, really.

Even though most counties started seeing cases before Warren County, we seemed to have caught up nationally as we’re in the 60th percentile for cases. In Illinois, we’re only in the 30th percentile so it would seem that we’ve fared better locally than we have nationally. In terms of deaths, we’re above the 80th percentile both nationally and in the state of Illinois.

The Top-Ten Weeks for New Cases in Warren County

To help understand how we accumulated a relatively high number of cases compared to much of the country we can look at the ten weeks with the highest number of reported cases. After having seen the week-by-week graphics above, it should come as no surprise that all 10 weeks fall within the fall surge.

As you can see, Warren County was usually well above the 50th percentile nationally and statewide in each of our ten worst weeks. In fact, we were at or above the 50th percentile nationally for 32 of the 54 weeks of our first year of the pandemic and for 31 weeks in the state of Illinois. So, more often than not we reported more cases per 100,000 people than most of the counties in the country. We were in the upper quartile, the 75th percentile or above, 19 times nationally and 13 times statewide. Only 11 times nationally and 12 times statewide were we at or below the 25th percentile. So while the pandemic came here later than most, we often reported more cases per 100,000 people than other counties in the nation.

When We Topped the Charts

While the fall surge deserves the spotlight that it gets for being the worst part of the first year of the pandemic. It turns out that when we go to the data and find the weeks where our weekly numbers were at or above the 90th percentile, then we are reminded that the first month of the pandemic in Warren County was also a surge. Recall that this surge seems to have been mostly due to an outbreak at the local Smithfield pork processing plant. Similar outbreaks at meat packing facilities around the country were being reported at the time as the working conditions in those facilities don’t really allow for social distancing. The pandemic was new and precautions were not in place yet.

For the week of April 19 only 76 counties in the nation reported cases per 100,000 people as high as Warren County. Only one other county in Illinois, Jasper County, had a case count as high. The cases in Jasper County appear to be linked to an outbreak at a care facility. The week of April 26 had 108 counties in the nation reporting equal or higher case counts with two being in Illinios . The Illinois counties were Cook County and Randolph County. The former is, of course, home to Chicago. The later seems to have had an outbreak in a baking mix plant in mid April.

Year Two: Let it be the Last

We’re starting year two facing the same challenge as most of the country. Cases are starting to trend up as new, more eaisily spread variants make their way through the community. At the same time, vaccine rollout continues. Just this week the WCHD started administering the Pfizer vaccine to students at the local high school that are at least 16 years old. This is definitely a good thing as the past couple of weeks have been characterized by higher than usual case counts for the 10-20 age groups. Still, I’m holding onto some optimisim. The steady increase in vaccinations should at the very least help to prevent another surge like we saw back in the fall. Hopefully vaccination hesitancy isn’t so great that we stall out too short of a level that keeps cases down and pushes them back to near zero.