As summer inches towards fall, the general downward trend in virus transmission is beginning to slow, and in some cases, reverse. Several states in the southeastern U.S. are showing signs of a renewed increase in illness transmission.
Missouri tops our watch list this week. After a recent drop in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, Kinsa data are showing a sharp rise in the rate of illness transmission (Rt) over the past ten days (Figure 1). Our data suggest that cases will likely rise again in the near term. We are paying particular attention to the city of St. Louis as well as St. Charles and St. Louis counties, where Rt is higher than the state average. An earlier increase in Rt in late June resulted in a significant increase in confirmed cases in the state 3-4 weeks later.
Other states in the region – Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Houston area in Texas – are also showing early signs of faster illness spread. Unfortunately, this development coincides with the impending start of the school year, which only threatens to exacerbate this new trend. Despite the best efforts of states to control the pandemic and return to normalcy, recent news shows us that COVID is not easily contained. In neighboring Georgia, for example, the decision to reopen schools led to a chaotic infection surge, which required roughly 1,000 people to quarantine and closed schools as quickly as they opened. With increasing transmission rates in Missouri, and schools set to open August 24 for in-person instruction, we are concerned that an increase in new cases is likely.