May 21, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus cases are on the rise across the South

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several Southern states are seeing a rise in new coronavirus cases, moving them further away from an important target for safely reopening parts of their economies.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's reopening guidelines call for a consistent decline in new cases before proceeding with the process — and some states are proceeding even without clearing that threshold.

Between the lines: The total number of cases is an important piece of the puzzle — but it's only one piece.

  • The number of new cases will rise as a state performs more testing, so looking at this metric in isolation can give the false impression of a worsening outbreak.

Yes, but: Some of the states whose new cases are increasing in this analysis — including Arkansas, North Carolina and North Dakota — also fare poorly in a more holistic analysis that also accounts for other metrics.

Where it stands: South Dakota has made the most progress over the past week, cutting its new cases by over half.

  • North Carolina and North Dakota bring up the rear, with spikes in new cases of around 40%.

This analysis uses a seven-day average, to minimize the distortions of reporting delays or similar technical issues, and compares that average to the average from the week before.

  • We're using data from the COVID Tracking Project. Other sources, including the widely used Johns Hopkins database, show different results for some states, including Washington state.

The bottom line: No one measurement tells the whole story, and there are signs that most of the country is moving in the right direction.

  • But there's a big difference between moving in the right direction and being out of the woods, and there will be no victory over the coronavirus without a sustained, documented decline in the number of new cases.
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