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For better or worse, Pennsylvania is reopening its economy.
More than half of the state’s counties have entered the Wolf administration’s “green” phase for reopening, which lifts most restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Another eight counties will enter the green phase on Friday.
The Wolf administration’s decision to reopen comes at a time when new cases and deaths have fallen significantly since they peaked in Pennsylvania in April. But now we face a new question: As restrictions loosen, will cases and deaths resurge in Pennsylvania and how significantly?
On Tuesday, we launched a new feature on our “tracking the spread” dashboard to make it easier for our reporters and our readers to answer that question. For each county, we’re now assigning a summary describing whether its trend of new daily cases over the past two weeks is “rising,” “falling,” or “unclear.”
As of Wednesday morning, our model shows that 13 counties in Pennsylvania have a rising number of new cases and 20 have a falling number. Meanwhile, 34 were statistically unchanged or had an unclear trend.
It’s important to note that these summaries should not be considered the final word on how the coronavirus is spreading in your county. Epidemiologists develop sophisticated models, using multiple metrics, to monitor the spread of diseases. Our model, which uses a type of statistical modeling called linear regression to analyze new daily cases, is relatively simplistic by comparison.
And, because our analysis is based only on cases over the past two weeks, our model won’t necessarily capture broader trends: Cumberland County, for instance, had a notable fall in new daily cases about three weeks ago but its numbers have since stabilized, leading our model to conclude its trend is “unclear” as of Thursday morning.
That said, new daily cases remain an important metric for both health officials and researchers, and we believe these trend descriptions will provide something of an early warning system to our reporters and our readers about counties that may be facing a resurgence in cases. How is your county trending?
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