The Gothamist/WNYC newsroom is using statistics to shape our daily coverage of the COVID-19 epidemic. These are our current charts, based on information we get from the city and state.
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Reopening New York City
After a few weeks of tracking, the city met both the state and city criteria for reopening on June 7th, and began phase 1 of reopening on June 8th. The state is now monitoring seven criteria, and the city is monitoring three criteria, to decide whether it is safe to proceed to the next three stages of reopening- there will be at least a two week period between each phase. If these criteria show sustained movement in the wrong direction, the reopening progress could be paused or reversed. The city entered Phase 2 on June 22nd.
To make it easier to spot recent trends, we’ve made this graph showing some of the major COVID statistics for the city and state. If a second wave begins, you’d see some of these lines begin to rise.
Testing began in earnest at the beginning of March, and has increased ever since, though it tends to dip on weekends. We investigated the testing rates per county- some have seen a lot more testing than others.
The testing positivity rate tracks the percentage of tests which came back positive each day. After bouncing around early in the epidemic when there was very little testing, it gradually rose to nearly 60% around April 5th, and has fallen since. This is explained by an increase in the number of people tested each day, as well as by the waning of infections as social distancing has curbed spread.
The majority of the state’s cases are in New York City, but the downstate suburbs are also major contributors to the total. Positive cases track only people with a positive COVID test result- because testing has been limited, the number of people who have actually been infected with COVID is much higher- about 10 times the positive cases, according to New York State’s antibody screenings- on 5/2/20, they registered 20% of the sampled population was positive in NYC and 12% was positive in New York State. We do not yet know if a positive antibodies test signals that a person has become immune to COVID.
As the curve in new cases begins to flatten, the trend will be easier to see looking only at new cases.
When normalized for population, Rockland and Westchester counties are leading the other downstate counties in cases by a large margin. On June 23rd, Lombardy, the center of the outbreak in Italy, would be around 932 on this graph. Nassau and Suffolk counties have more cases per capita than New York City.
Queens and Brooklyn have larger populations than the other boroughs, so they tend to have more cases. Note: on 5/11, the Department of Health added “about 3,600 new cases who were diagnosed earlier in the epidemic but had missing address information. Most of these cases were diagnosed in late March and April.” This led to a small but noticeable uptick in the boroughs’ case lines.
At the beginning of the outbreak, all boroughs had similar infection rates, but over time, the Bronx and Staten Island have pulled away from the others. Recently, as cases stabilized in Staten Island, Queens rose to second place.
Starting on 4/1, the New York Department of Health started to release positive cases by Zip Code information- the map above shows cases over the last two weeks, to make it easier to see where the virus is still spreading. You can see totals for the entire epidemic, as well as possible demographic associations, at our larger version of the map..
We’ve charted the positive case zip code data in scatterplot. On average, the lower income, older, and more diverse a neighborhood is, the more positive cases it will have. You can examine individual neighborhoods and various demographic factors on our larger chart.
Over time, serious cases of COVID will put patients in the hospital, and once they’re unable to breath on their own, into the Intensive Care Unit. Before the crisis, New York State had approximately 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds. On April 9th, Governor Cuomo said projections indicated the state’s current stock of 90K beds appeared to be adequate.
Tracking deaths is complicated. New York State’s Department of Health only records a “confirmed” COVID death when the patient has had a positive COVID test. This may omit a large number of people who died at home, or at a hospital without a test. New York City has a different process for recording deaths. On April 14th, the NYC Department of Health began reporting “probable deaths”- people who had COVID listed as a cause of death on their death certificates, in addition to deaths of people with confirmed COVID tests. This raised the number of COVID deaths in the city by about 40%. This still may not include all COVID deaths, as more seemingly unrelated deaths may eventually be classified as caused by COVID. From February 1 through June 13, the CDC estimates there have been about 25,000 excess deaths in the City, compared to historical averages. The graph above uses the NYS DOH number for the NYS total, and the NYC DOH numbers for the NYC totals.
New deaths in New York State peaked on April 9th and have been falling since then, although not as fast as they rose. Note: on May 6th, New York State added “probable” deaths from nursing homes (although not from other sources)- this resulted in an anomalous increase of about 700 deaths. These deaths occurred during a 9 week period beginning on March 1. New York City’s daily new death total, as reported by the NYC Department of Health, largely tracks the state’s pattern, but after 4/14 includes “probable” deaths.
When viewed by borough, Queens and Brooklyn have had the most deaths.
However, once we normalize the death count by population of each borough, the Bronx turns out to have a significantly higher death rate than Queens.
By dividing the total number of deaths by the total number of positive cases, we can calculate the Case Fatality Rate per borough. Currently Brooklyn and Manhattan have much higher rates than the other three boroughs. Note: the CFR should not be confused with the overall fatality rate of COVID-19, which would include all people infected with the coronavirus- it is estimated at 0.5% to 1%.
On May 18th, the city released data on deaths by zipcode. Neighborhoods with the most cases tended to have the highest numbers of deaths, but the maps of cases and deaths do not coincide exactly. We’ve made a larger version of the map where you can also examine case fatality rates by neighborhoods.
We’ve created a set of scatterplots exploring the correlations between deaths and positive cases, as well as other demographic factors, across the NYC zip codes. You can read more about our findings in a post on Gothamist.
Demographics of COVID Deaths by Age and Underlying Conditions
Each day the New York City Department of Health releases demographic data on COVID-19 deaths. The majority of those who die of COVID are aged 65+ and/or those with pre-existing health conditions, which the DOH defines as: “Diabetes, Lung Disease, Cancer, Immunodeficiency, Heart Disease, Hypertension, Asthma, Kidney Disease, and GI/Liver Disease.” Note: these demographics include “confirmed” COVID cases only, and exclude “probable” deaths.
The New York City case fatality rate has been around 10% overall, but older people have died at much higher rates than other groups.
African-American and Latino New Yorkers have been diagnosed, hospitalized, and died at rates much higher than those for Whites and Asians.
Comparing New York City to Other Hard Hit Areas
New York is currently the world epicenter of the COVID outbreak, outpacing even the most affected cities in Italy and Spain. The New York Times also has a good infographic comparing world cities.
What Will Happen Next?
There are many models that predict the future of the outbreak, but Governor Cuomo has repeatedly praised the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s COVID-19 model. In their 6/24 update, the model predicted an apex on April 9th, with deaths falling to near zero in July, with total deaths of 31,387 in New York State.