Monroe County a Likely Candidate to be Among Next Counties Announced Tomorrow as Moving to Yellow
HARRISBURG (MAY 21 2020) - We don't want to get anyone's hopes too up, and we have no inside sources, but based on the data, which we have been pouring over for the last six weeks, Monroe County is likely to be among the next counties moving to yellow.
At a conference call with the press this afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf said “I’ll be announcing a whole range of counties tomorrow moving from red to yellow. The hope is that we’ll also be making some counties that might even be moving from yellow to green tomorrow.”
In the past announcements of this sort, the governor has identified counties for movement into the next phase of reopening and set the time for the move at 12:01 am on the following Friday. If past practice holds up, the counties announced tomorrow as moving to yellow likely will be moving to the "aggressive mitigation" stage on Friday, May 29.
We are merely speculating here, but it is based on the data. Of the counties which will remain in the red phase tomorrow, Monroe has the lowest number of new cases per 100,000. The gating criteria for consideration on movement into the yellow phase is fewer than 50 total new cases per 100,000 over a two-week period. For Monroe County, we pegged that number at 85 cases (here's how). Monroe's total new cases over two weeks went down to 83 this past Saturday; it has come up above 85 the last two days. But the county still has the lowest number of cases per 100,000 of any county remaining in red:
RED COUNTY TWO WEEK TOTAL OF NEW
COVID-19 CASES PER 100,000 POPULATION
as of May 21, 2020
Other data supporting inclusion of Monroe County in the next wave of counties is the rolling seven-day incidence trajectory, which not only shows Monroe on a steady downward path, but as the having the best trajectory of all red counties other than Pike (Carbon, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming counties are in or enter the yellow phase tomorrow).
Moreover, the Northeast Region itself, although as a group still above the target of new cases over two weeks, has a very good three-day new case average well under the target:
The state's Carnegie Mellon Decision tool also somewhat favors the reopening of the county. The decision tool, which is updated twice weekly, is not intended to give a "go/no-go" in any particular metric, but to gather and display the data to assist in the decision making. In this summary chart, the colored dots represent the 14-day new case total, the commute risk (residents leaving, commuters entering the county from/to other areas), the ICU capacity, population density, the vulnerable population, and the re-opening risk. The lower on the chart the ball, the "better".
The highest risk factor in Monroe County is the ICU capacity. Unfortunately, the data behind this characterization is not available. We do not know, for instance, if the analysis has taken into account that both of our hospitals are members of large networks and were able, during the surge in Monroe County, to exponentially increase their ICU capacity by bringing in ventilators and equipment from facilities in their network located in areas not as badly affected. The next highest risk is the "commute risk". Given that Monroe County has 17,000 who commute to New York and New Jersey, and just as many who commute to Luzerne, Lackawanna, Northampton, and Lehigh Counties, that's not a surprise. However, with all of those locations still in red shut down phases, the commute risk assigned to Monroe County in this chart (updated yesterday), is lower than Carbon County, which enters yellow tomorrow. It looks fairly good from this data that Monroe County will likely be on the list of counties announced tomorrow as moving to the yellow phase. For more in-depth on what the yellow phase will mean, check out our analysis here.
Regardless if we are on the list tomorrow, it remains imperative to remember that "yellow means caution" - keep your mask on out of your home when social distancing is not possible, wash your hands, keep your distance, and stay home.
UPDATE PennLive agrees with our analysis