The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t slowing down in the United States. But in Michigan, things are starting to look up. Hospitalizations are down, the rate of case increase is slowing, and the state has been able to slowly reopen the economy over the past few weeks.
Based on the graph below, it’s safe to say Michigan has flattened the curve for now, although the risk of a second spike hasn’t gone away.
But is Michigan doing better than other states? It depends on how you look at the data.
The map below was featured on CNN on June 23, and shows the percentage growth in cases by state over two weeks (from June 10 to June 23). As you can see, both Michigan and Texas are in red because the number of cases in both states have doubled.
The map makes it look like Michigan is as bad as Texas. But while Michigan’s rate of increase has dropped significantly since May, Texas has had a large spike in recent weeks as restrictions have quickly loosened.
States with fewer cases overall are more likely to have greater change in either direction. If a state has a comparatively low number of cases, it takes less absolute change to double (or half, for that matter) the total.
Michigan and Texas showed comparable percentage changes in their weekly new cases for the past two weeks, at +75.0% and +70.3% respectively. But looking at the absolute differences, Michigan's weekly new cases rose by 826, and Texas' total rose by 11,211.
As an example of the opposite phenomenon, Vermont posted a decrease in new cases by 29.8%, the third steepest percentage decline. But that was only a reduction in 14 new cases per week, from 47 to 33 new cases.
Check out the chart below to see the change of cases in each state by absolute number and percentage:
Of course, the number of cases isn’t necessarily the best measure of how states are doing with containing the virus. Testing rates differ state-to-state, and many states are reopening without proper contact tracing infrastructure in place.