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Counting the counties (COVID-19 daily data update CXII)

Graphs day 112, pandemic day 119, day 189 since the first cases were diagnosed.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 11,620,096

Total deaths: 538,058

Today is independence day in the Solomon Islands, but there are NO CASES of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands – one of the few places in the world to remain completely free of this new disease. Sounds like a good opportunity to take a closer look at cases in the United States.

Cases in the U.S. overall

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the United States: 2,936,077

Total deaths: 130,285

Here is how the number of cases reported per day has changed in the U.S. over the course of the epidemic:

Cases reported per day in the U.S. The light blue line shows actual cases; the brown line shows the overall trend (10-day moving average smoothing)

We had this pandemic under control. Cases were steadily decreasing from early April through mid-June. And now the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic is worse than it has ever been.

Cases by state

Here’s the map of the total number of cases reported from the beginning of the epidemic in the 50 U.S. states (excluding territories, which is why the total number looks a bit different).

Total cases by state (click for a larger version)

The total amounts shown on the map above show the total impact of the epidemic in the U.S. from the beginning. Another way to look at the cases reported yesterday, giving us an idea of the state of the epidemic right now. Notice which states are experiencing the most cases right now. How is this map different from the map of total cases above?

Cases reported yesterday (July 6, 2020) by state. Click for a larger version.

Yet another way to look at the progress of the epidemic is to look at how the rate of cases has changed since the pandemic reached the U.S. in early March. Plotting all fifty states on a single graph would look like a plate of spaghetti, so how can we create a clean graph that displays as much useful information as possible?

After doing a lot of data exploring, I found a few different patterns that states have followed over the course of the epidemic. I chose one representative from each pattern and displayed them on one graph. The result is a graph of cases in seven key states around the country: Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, and Ohio.

Here is the graph, with all our usual formatting and labeling (“dpm” means “deaths per million people”):

Cases in each state over time. Click for a larger version.

The pandemic seems to be well-controlled in New York and Maryland. Cases are increasing in Ohio and California, but they remain at a fairly low level for now. Meanwhile, cases in Arizona, Florida, and Louisiana continue to increase quickly.

Cases by county: one example

I’ll close today’s update with a first look at something a new dataset will bring us a lot of exciting insights as we go: cases by county. We can take a much closer look what’s going on from place to place.

As a teaser for what the new county data will allow us to do, consider a question: what does “cases in New York” mean? New York State is a big and diverse place, including everything from Manhattan to small north country towns like Watertown. Looking as “cases in New York,” like we did above, compresses all those diverse places into one graph.

But now:

Cases per million people per day in three regions of New York state: New York City, Westchester County, and the rest of the state

Using the county data, I divided cases in New York State into three regions. The graph is plotted on “Qatar scale” (zero to 700 cases per million people), BUT Westchester County goes off that scale. The inset map goes up to 1,000 cases per million people.

There are so many other exciting things we can do with the county-level data. What would you like to see?

Want to try out some of these graphs for yourself? You can get the data that I used to make the country graphs from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) COVID-19 data site. Click on csse_covid_19_data, then on csse_covid_19_time_series, then download all the CSV files. Or clone the whole repository in GitHub.

You are welcome and encouraged to use my Excel templates. They’re now at version 5.1, and I have two separate templates: a global data template and a U.S. state data template.

Update tomorrow, and every day after that until this pandemic comes to an end or I lose my mind.

Update from the tree lobster (Daily COVID-19 data update CXI)

Graphs day 111, pandemic day 118, day 188 since the first cases were diagnosed. If you haven’t seen my other post today, learn the fascinating and beautiful story of the tree lobster.

Very quick update today, just with total case numbers and one updated graph.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 11,449,707

Total deaths: 534,267

Today is independence day in the southern African nations of Comoros and Malawi. Fortunately, there are not many cases of COVID-19 in either country.

Usual graph style: each country is color-coded and labeled, labels include total deaths per million people from the beginning, label sizes and line thicknesses represent the case fatality rate.

Countries where the epidemic is still getting worse (click for a larger version)

Tomorrow is independence day in the Solomon Islands, so I’ll definitely report on cases there, but I might do graphs of U.S. states instead. What’s your preference: states or countries?

And meanwhile, I’m starting to look at cases by U.S. county, which will let us ask questions like “how bad is the epidemic in Upstate New York compared to New York City?,” and “what is the correlation between medium-scale population density and number of cases?” That’s going to be fun, updates soon.

Want to try out some of these graphs for yourself? You can get the data that I used to make the country graphs from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) COVID-19 data site. Click on csse_covid_19_data, then on csse_covid_19_time_series, then download all the CSV files. Or clone the whole repository from GitHub.

You are welcome and encouraged to use my Excel templates. I’ve tinkered enough that I’m plus-plusing the version to 5.1. I have two separate templates: a global data template and a U.S. state data template.

Update tomorrow, and every day after that until this pandemic comes to an end or I lose my mind or scientists find me hiding under a tea tree bush on Ball’s Pyramid.

Except they weren’t: The Tree Lobster

An 8-inch-long red creature that looks like a huge cockroach combined with a small lobter
A specimen tree lobster (Dryococelus australis) from the Melbourne Museum. Click for a larger version.
Credit: Peter Halasz (Wikipedia user Pengo)

The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) was one of the strangest animals ever to walk the earth.

It lived only on Lord Howe Island, a tiny island of 300 people about halfway between Australia and New Zealand. It was eight inches (20 cm) long. It looked like a weird cross between a cockroach and a lobster, and so it was nicknamed the Tree Lobster. It had no natural predators. It was completely harmless, living in and munching on trees.

In 1918, the SS Makambo ran aground on Lord Howe Island, and thousands of rats escaped like, uh, rats from a sinking ship. The rats ate and bred, and the tree lobster never stood a chance. Within two years, the Lord Howe Island stick insect was extinct.

Except it wasn’t.

The Discovery

Thirteen miles (20 km) southwest of Lord Howe Island is Ball’s Pyramid, an extinct volcano that juts 1,800 feet (560 meters) up from the remote Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the world’s truly beautiful places, and one that very few people ever get to see. But you can see it in this photo:

Panorama of Ball’s Pyramid
Image Credit: Jon Clark (CC BY 2.0 license)

…and you can go there yourself with on Google Earth, embedded below. Be sure to zoom out until you can see Lord Howe Island, and then a looooooooong way farther until you can see the coast of Australia.

Scientists guessed – hoped, really – that some tree lobsters might have floated the 13 miles from Lord Howe Island to Ball’s Pyramid and established a sustainable population there. There are no trees on Ball’s Pyramid, but there are enough small bushes to provide a food and shelter for some stick insects. And so, two of them (scientists, not stick insects) decided to have a look for themselves.

In February 2001, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile traveled to Ball’s Pyramid to search. They climbed the rock, hundreds of feet above shark-infested waters, to search. And after a few searches, they found some sign of tree lobsters. And by “sign,” I mean “poop.”

But of course a few piles of poop isn’t enough evidence to conclude that a species has apparently risen from the dead. And the stick insect is nocturnal, so to find live animals, they knew they had to go back at night.

And so on the night of February 26, 2001, Priddel and Carlile went back to look again. “Went back” meaning “climbed up a sheer rock face above shark-infested waters in complete darkness.” Yes, they had safety equipment, but it must have still been terrifying.

And they found it: under a single tea tree plant (Melaleuca howeana) was the world’s entire population of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects. Twenty-four of them. The scientific paper Priddel and Carlile wrote uses detached academic prose, which completely fails to hide their excitement:

Two members of the survey team (N.C. and D.H.) ascended the Pyramid at night to conduct a nocturnal search of the area surrounding the shrub… Reaching this site at approximately [10 PM], they found, observed and photographed two adult female D. australis on the outer edges of the shrub (Figure 2).

These specimens, the first to be seen alive in more than 70 years, were highly conspicuous, their glossy bodies strongly reflecting the [flashlight]…

(Priddle, Carlile, Humphrey, Fellenberg, & Hiscox, 2003)

The Current Situation

A black-and-white photo of a stick insect seen in 2001. It looks like a giant cockroach crossed with a small lobster. It's sitting on some tea tree leaves.
This is it: the discovery photo of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Priddle, Carlile, Humphrey, Fellenberg, & Hiscox, 2003, Figure 2, page 1395)

Two years later in 2003, scientists returned to Ball’s Pyramid to collect specimens. They returned with two males and two females, which they sent to the Melbourne Zoo to start a captive breeding program.

Seventeen years and fifteen tree lobster generations later, a healthy population of 14,000 tree lobsters lives in captivity – mostly in Melbourne, with some pairs in zoos all over the world. Once rats are eliminated from Lord Howe Island (which they’re also working on), the plan is to reintroduce the tree lobster to its original habitat.

It’s a rare success story in a world full of creatures we are driving to extinction. But let’s take our success stories when we can. There’s hope.

More information

If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating story, check out these resources:

How you can help

The captive breeding program is expensive, so if this story is calling to you through a world full of need, the Melbourne Zoo is accepting donations to continue their work. Here is a two-page fundraising brochure explaining the program. If you feel called to donate to conservation biology more generally, a good place to start is the World Wildlife Fund. Obviously no pressure to donate during these trying times. I have no affiliation with either entity, so no conflict of interest.

Postscript

This has been super-fun, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Here’s that animated film, embedded via Vimeo.

Sticky from jilli rose on Vimeo
.

Be sure to check out the rest of my series on Things That Are Not What They Seem, Except They Weren’t.

Part 1: Joe Magarac
Part 2: Iron Eyes Cody
Part 3: Malba Tahan (with BONUS MATH!)
Part 4: Major William Martin
Part 5: Count Victor Lustig
Part 6: The Grass Mud Horse
Part 7: The Tree Lobster

Jolly good news! (Daily COVID-19 data update CX)

Four Cape Verdean-American teenagers riding on the back of a truck waving American and Cape Verdean flags. Cape Verde's flag is blue with thin white-red-white stripes about 2/3 of the way down, and a circle of 10 yellow stars representing the 10 islands.
Viva Cabo Verde!
A street parade celebrating Cape Verdean independence, July 5, 2019 in New Bedford, Connecticut
(photo credit: South Coast Today)

Graphs day 110, pandemic day 117, day 187 since the first cases were diagnosed.

Yesterday was U.S. Independence Day, so I showed you an update of U.S. cases. Today is Independence Day in both Algeria and Cape Verde, so we’re back to the global data, and I’ll include those two countries, just for today. Never forget that other people love their countries just like you love yours.

And never forget that people are dying of COVID-19 all over the world.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 11,267,309

Total deaths: 530,754

Worldwide cases and deaths

The number of daily cases (blue line below) continues to go up in a jagged curve. Smoothing the curve to remove the day-to-day variations (with a 10-day moving average smoothing) shows the general upward trend. Four months into the global pandemic, and things are still going to get worse before they get better.

Cases of COVID-19 reported each day worldwide. The blue line is the actual reported number of cases; the red line is the smoothed number of cases (10-day moving average smoothing), showing the overall trend. Click for a larger version.

We are still on pace to hit 600,000 deaths worldwide in about two weeks. The global case fatality rate is at about 4.7 percent.

Cases and deaths by country

Two countries have changed categories today – and both in the right direction! Another appears to be on track to changing in the wrong direction. Algeria and Cape Verde are temporary additions, and I’ve temporarily removed India.

India continues its mercifully slow upward trend. Considering India’s high population density, it could be so, so much worse. Whatever the Indian government and people are doing to slow the spread, it’s working. Be like India.

Countries where COVID-19 was quickly contained

Usual graph style for all today’s graphs: each country is color-coded and labeled, labels include total deaths per million people from the beginning, label sizes and line thicknesses represent the case fatality rate.

Countries that quickly contained their COVID-19 epidemics (click for a larger version)
Captain Picard does an unprecendented two-handed facepalm
Captain Picard hears about the cause of the new outbreak in Australia

Sadly, look at Australia. A new outbreak has begun in the most Australian manner possible: travelers to Australia were being held in quarantine at a Melbourne hotel, and the security guards enforcing the quarantine were having sex with the quarantined guests.

That might be funny, but only if no one dies in this new outbreak. I’m going to say that if Australia reaches 6.8 cases per million people (half their peak rate from late March), I’ll move them to the “getting worse” category, but sadly it’s likely a matter of when, not if.

Countries where COVID-19 is now under control

Now that the case rate in the United Kingdom has fallen to 5.5 cases per million, the UK gets to move into the under control category.

Countries where COVID-19 is currently under control (click for a larger version)

As they say there: jolly good news!

Countries that are headed in the right direction(-ish)

More good news here: not only has Chile moved into the “moving in the right direction” category, they have also un-Qatared themselves back on to the main graph, with fewer than 200 new cases per million Chileans.

Countries where newly-reported cases per million people are steady or decreasing (click for a larger version)

As they say there, so fast that I would find even other Spanish speakers would find it incomprehensible: ¡Gracias a Diós, que siga!

Countries where the epidemic is getting worse

The usual countries are still here, and today also birthday countries Algeria and Cape Verde. Tomorrow is Independence Day in Comoros and Malawi.

Countries where the epidemic is still getting worse (click for a larger version)

Cases are increasing quickly in the USA, South Africa, and Serbia. And Brazil is about to go off the chart. As they say there, f*da-se Bolsonaro!

Lastly, as I say here on this blog:

Want to try out some of these graphs for yourself? You can get the data that I used to make the country graphs from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) COVID-19 data site. Click on csse_covid_19_data, then on csse_covid_19_time_series, then download all the CSV files. Or clone the whole repository from GitHub.

You are welcome and encouraged to use my Excel templates. I’ve tinkered enough that I’m plus-plusing the version to 5.1. I have two separate templates: a global data template and a U.S. state data template.

Update tomorrow, and every day after that until this pandemic comes to an end or I lose my mind or ABIN finds this blog.

Data Fireworks (COVID-19 data update CIX)

Graphs day 109, pandemic day 116, day 186 since the first cases were diagnosed. Today, Earth has passed 11 million total cases of COVID-19.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 11,074,878

Total deaths: 525,121

Happy Fourth of July! In honor of U.S. Independence Day, we’ll take a closer look at the pattern of cases and deaths in the United States.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the United States: 2,794,153

Total deaths: 129,434

Here’s the map of the total number of cases reported from the beginning of the epidemic in the U.S. This is total numbers rather than per capita, so naturally the larger states show more cases. The slight difference in the total is due to the fact that the number above includes the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands (American Samoa has had no cases).

Total cases by state (click for a larger version)

The total amounts shown on the map above show the total impact of the epidemic in the U.S. from the beginning. Another way to look at the cases reported yesterday, giving us an idea of the state of the epidemic right now. Notice which states are experiencing the most cases right now. How is this map different from the map of total cases above?

Cases reported yesterday (July 3, 2020) by state. Click for a larger version.

Three days ago, I showed, for the first time, graphs of cases over time in the U.S., in the style of the global graphs I’ve been making all along. I described several categories of states and showed two graphs: states where cases peaked early in the epidemic, and states where cases were low at the beginning, but where the epidemic has been getting worse quickly recently. I had shown several states in each category, which resulted in very complicated graphs.

I realized it would be clearer to show just one or two states in each category. And so – note that these numbers *are* per million people:

Cases in each state over time. Click for a larger version.

I showed a state that peaked in early April (New York), a state that peaked in May (Maryland), two states that have gotten much worse (Florida and Arizona), a state that started bad and is getting worse (Louisiana), and a state that has stayed fairly low throughout (Ohio).

One state I haven’t shown on this graph is the Granddaddy of Them All, California. The curve for California follows that of Ohio, but at a slightly higher level. I’ll keep an eye on California as we go, and show them on future graphs.

Want to try out some of these graphs for yourself? You can get the data that I used to make the country graphs from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) COVID-19 data site. Click on csse_covid_19_data, then on csse_covid_19_time_series, then download all the CSV files. Or clone the whole repository in GitHub.

You are welcome and encouraged to use my Excel templates. They’re now at version 5, and I have two separate templates: a global data template and a U.S. state data template.

Update tomorrow, and every day after that until this pandemic comes to an end or I lose my mind.

Wangception

Another COVID-19 update coming tonight, but moose cannot live on COVID-19 updates alone. Today is part of this blog’s usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, so I’m getting back to posting about all the other fascinating things in the world.

Today, it’s a return to our amazing planet Earth, and the amazing tool that can show it to us in glorious detail, Google Earth. (Note: Today’s post is possibly slightly NSFW, depending on your workplace’s policies and whether you work for Wang Laboratories.)

There’s an old saying about my home state of Florida. I’ll let Homer Simpson tell it:

A clip (4 seconds long) from the Simpsons’ 2000 episode “Kill the Alligator and Run”

That 2000 episode of The Simpsons popularized the saying, but I heard people refer to Florida as “America’s Wang” as early as the 1980s. Because, I mean, just LOOK at it, hanging there wangishly in the southeast corner of the U.S.:

America

and zooming in for a closer look reveals its full wangliness:

Florida (aka America’s Wang)

But zoom in again to unzip the truth about one of Florida 67 counties… Pinellas County is Florida’s wang!

Pinellas County (aka Florida’s Wang aka America’s Wang’s Wang)

Pinellas County, home of the cities of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, is a peninsula that hangs flaccidly down from the rest of Florida, bounded by Tampa Bay on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west. The whole southern tip of the county looks a bit wanglike, actually, but there’s one area in particular I’d like you to focus on.

Like many coastal regions all over the world, Pinellas County features a system of barrier islands, formed by the waves and tides along the beach. These islands tend to be long and thin, and when they are oriented just right… well, take a look at Long Key, the Wang of Pinellas County:

Long Key (aka Pinellas County’s Wang aka Florida’s Wang’s Wang, aka America’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang)

But we’re still not done here, because take a close look just to the right of the red pin marker on Long Key to see this:

Belle Vista Beach (aka Long Key’s Wang aka Pinellas County’s Wang’s Wang aka Florida’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang aka America’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang)

The outline shows the neighborhood of Belle Vista Beach, a wealthy enclave of large single-family homes in St. Pete Beach, Florida (and until 1957, a city in its own right before being merged the rest of St. Pete Beach). Looks like a lovely and wangly place to call home.

But we’re still not done, because on the southwestern edge of Belle Vista Beach, enclosed by McPherson Bayou, is a small protuberance called Mangrove Point:

Mangrove Point (aka Belle Vista Beach’s Wang, aka Long Key’s Wang’s Wang, aka Pinellas County’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang, aka Florida’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang, aka America’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang)

…and thus we have reached the tip.

If you were to visit the very tip of America’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang’s Wang, what would you see? Amazingly, Google Earth can take us there:

The tip of the Wangs

And it can be yours!

I didn’t plan it this way, and I didn’t even know when I started writing this post, but the pink house in the middle is for sale. For just under $1.7 million, you can own this 4-bedroom, 4-bath, 3000-square-foot (270 square meter) house at 3 Mangrove Point in St. Pete Beach, Florida – at the tip of all the wangs!

When the house sells, I’ll remove this part of the post and end at the street view of Mangrove Point, so I don’t ruin anyone’s privacy.

But until then, a message to whatever unfortunate real estate agent is listing the property: I’m sorry and congratulations, this is the weirdest free advertising you will probably ever get.

Stay tuned tonight for a COVID-19 update, and stay tuned over the coming weeks for the return of favorite series like Except They Weren’t, and for some exciting new series. Stay safe and stay curious!