COVID-19 data is about to flatten, drop and spike: 5 considerations when reviewing numbers 

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The four-day Thanksgiving weekend will disrupt a number of COVID-19 data points for several days, causing a plateau or drop followed by a spike, neither of which should be taken as evidence of anything to do with the pandemic itself, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Five things to consider when looking at COVID-19 numbers for the next several days, according to Project co-founder Erin Kissane:

1. Thanksgiving infections are unlikely to be clearly visible in official case data until at least the second week in December.

2. Data for testing, new cases and deaths will be most volatile through at least Nov. 30 and perhaps several days longer considering the backlogs created by a four-day slowdown are occurring amid a major case surge. For example, Washington state has announced it will not report data between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.

3. Testing and reporting patterns will be similar, in that far fewer people will be tested on Thanksgiving Day, and perhaps on the day after as well. Then the usual weekend pattern will begin. 

4. The same will be true for reporting, since the Project compiles data and organizes it by the date on which it's reported — not the date of specimen collection, date of death, etc. 

5. One metric to watch: Hospitalizations. The new admissions metric in the public hospitalization dataset from HHS shows only moderate volatility and will likely be an additional source of useful data. "These numbers are reported by hospitals or hospital associations, and hospitals don't get weekends off," notes Ms. Kissane. 

 

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