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The State of COVID-19 around the Eighth District


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

By B. Ravikumar, Senior Vice President and Deputy Director of Research, and Guillaume Vandenbroucke, Research Officer and Economist

As debates go on around the country relating to reopening the economy, this blog provides some facts and figures regarding how COVID-19 has impacted the largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) around the Eighth Federal Reserve District.

Eighth District Info

In addition to the St. Louis Fed’s main office, it has branches in Little Rock, Ark., Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn. The table below provides some basic information on these four MSAs.

Metropolitan Statistical Area Number of Counties Population (in Millions) Date of First COVID Case Date of First COVID Death
St. Louis 15 2.80 March 8 March 20
Little Rock 6 0.74 March 22 March 30
Louisville 10 1.27 March 9 March 19
Memphis 8 1.35 March 8 March 26

The figure below illustrates the path of confirmed COVID-19 cases over roughly the last six weeks in the four MSAs.

Line chart showing total COVID-19 cases across the MSAs of 8th District

As states reopen and shift from a stay-at-home scenario to a scenario with fewer restrictions on businesses and households, this figure suggests a lower bound on cases and deaths to the extent that fewer restrictions could lead to a higher infection rate.

As of May 4, the St. Louis MSA had 2,550 cases per million people in its population, while Louisville and Memphis had 1,804 and 2,766 cases per million, respectively. Little Rock was substantially lower at 1,025 cases per million.Cases per million are calculated as the ratio of total number of cases to the population in millions. For example, St. Louis on May 4 would be 7,148 divided by 2.803.

Daily Cases of COVID-19

The daily confirmed cases have fluctuated considerably. In the figures below, the solid lines show the actual data, and the dotted lines show a smoothed version that best fits the data.

Line chart showing daily cases of COVID-19 for St. Louis MSA
Line chart showing daily cases of COVID-19 for Louisville MSA
Line chart showing daily cases of COVID-19 for Little Rock MSA
Line chart showing daily cases of COVID-19 for Memphis MSA

None of the MSAs meet a White House criterion for reopening a region: downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.See the White House’s webpage “Opening Up America Again.” The average daily growth rate of cases in St. Louis, Louisville, Little Rock and Memphis over the last 14 days have been 3.15%, 3.45%, 2.52% and 2.98%, respectively.

Cumulative and Daily COVID-19 Deaths

The next figures document the cumulative and daily deaths in the four MSAs. St. Louis and Louisville lead with more than 100 deaths per million people as of May 4. Memphis had a death rate of 55 per million, while Little Rock had the lowest death rate at 30 per million. Again, the daily death rate fluctuates too much to infer a sustained trend.

line chart showing cumulative deaths due to COVID-19
Line chart showing the daily deaths due to COVID-19 for the St. Louis MSA
Line chart showing the daily deaths due to COVID-19 for the Louisville MSA
Line chart showing daily death rates in Little Rock, Ark. due to COVID-19
Line chart showing daily deaths due to COVID-19 for the Memphis MSA

COVID-19 Deaths Per Case

Another metric of interest might be number of deaths per case. That is, the number of deaths relative to the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.The ratio of deaths to cases in one MSA could be lower than that in another because one MSA may have more confirmed cases due to more extensive testing. The chart below illustrates that for the four MSAs.

Line chart showing deaths per COVID-19 case by MSA

St. Louis seems to be the exception: It is the only MSA among the four that displays a steady rise in deaths per case over the last several weeks.

Notes and References

1 Cases per million are calculated as the ratio of total number of cases to the population in millions. For example, St. Louis on May 4 would be 7,148 divided by 2.803.

2 See the White House’s webpage “Opening Up America Again.”

3 The ratio of deaths to cases in one MSA could be lower than that in another because one MSA may have more confirmed cases due to more extensive testing.

Additional Resources

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