The past week has seen the case growth rate remain low. But there are signs that the case count may be rising, as post-Labor Day infections start to register and as schools and universities reopen. While the pandemic remains under control, the steady improvement in both the case growth rate and case growth itself has paused and may be starting to falter. While the control measures are still working, conditions are changing.

At the national level, as of September 17, the daily spread rate is 0.6% per day, up slightly over the previous week. The seven-day average of the daily number of new cases was up to just under 39,000, from just over 37,000 last week. While case growth remains well below July and August levels, the continued improvement has paused.

The testing news was similar. The number of tests bounced around over the past several weeks, but it has remained generally steady at around 700,000 per day. This testing level is likely insufficient, but with the drop in new and active cases, the positive testing rate has continued to decline and is now around the recommended 5%. This is a metric that will need to improve; nonetheless, signs are it may be sufficient at the moment to keep the virus under control.

Beyond the headline numbers, state-level data is generally good, although concerns remain about states in the Midwest. Overall, the national risks remain under control.

With the medical news better, the economic recovery remains on track, albeit with some areas of concern. One worth watching is consumer confidence and spending, with signs of weakness. Financial markets continue to show turbulence, as investors process the headlines. Let’s take a look at the details.

Pandemic Growth Rate Still At Low Levels
Growth rate. The daily case growth rate has risen slightly, ending the reporting period at 0.6% per day, up from 0.5% per day the previous week. The rise in the spread rate is small, but it suggests that the medical effects of the Labor Day gatherings, as well as school and university reopenings, may be starting to show in the data. That said, this is still very close to the lowest growth rate so far in the pandemic and leaves the infection curve flat at a national level, with low risk to health-care systems.

Daily testing rate. As infections have dropped, testing remains steady although variable, and it has stayed in the range of around 700,000 per day. This appears to be below the level of testing needed to develop a full understanding of the pandemic, despite the recent improvements in the spread rate.

Positive test results. That said, the positive rate on tests remains around 5%, which is close to an acceptable level. If we look at the percentage of each day’s tests that are positive, lower numbers are better, as we want to be testing everyone and not just those who are obviously sick. The World Health Organization recommends a target of 5% or lower, which we are getting close to achieving again. If the case growth rate remains low, the pandemic spread may be approaching the level where current testing is adequate.

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