And as time goes on, it seems to me, if we’re not pushing the number of cases down, eventually the number of cases are going to go up because bumping along in the way that we have actually feels quite unsustainable. Because you can just see it everywhere right now. You can see it in the protests. You can see it in Las Vegas. I mean, these things are not morally equivalent, but we can see people are gathering in groups more often. They’re expanding their pods.
Wells: My understanding from just ambiently absorbing news and information is [that] there was this crisis moment where we were all super freaked out in March and April. Into May, some of the most dramatic stories started tamping down. And now we’re starting to reopen. And the sense I get from that is that there were a lot of cases, and the trend is going down. What are you actually seeing in the data?
Madrigal: Basically, the New York metro area drove the first wave here. If you look at the national numbers, they’ve been going down for a long time, but if you actually take out those places, that isn’t really what’s been happening. When you take out the East specifically, cases everywhere else were kind of bumping along for May and basically since the end of May, they’ve been trending upwards as people started to loosen up and the loosening up that had happened before started to be reflected in the data.
I think what makes this story kind of complicated is that the states that people expected to have major outbreaks immediately, like Georgia or Florida, didn’t see it happen like that. It’s not that the numbers haven't gone up, but they haven’t gone up as much as they have in places like Arizona and California. And so it says a couple things, at least to me: (a) what the government says is not the only thing, and (b) people’s individual behavior matters a lot. And for a long time, regardless of sort of the politics at the top, people were doing a lot of the same stuff.
Wells: Right. There was more unity in behavior than you would have been led to believe.
Madrigal: Yes, that’s right. Exactly. And now that’s running the other way. I think people in California are acting more in concert with people in Georgia than you would’ve thought.
Wells: What are the states that you're most worried about?
Madrigal: Arizona and North Carolina. We haven’t seen another situation like New York yet. We haven’t seen an outbreak that starts to move extremely quickly through a population. Arizona is the closest thing we have to that right now.
Just look at their numbers. Back in May, they were getting 300 new positive [cases] a day, and now they’re getting 1,438 yesterday, 1,500 the day before that, and 1,200 the day before that. You see this line that’s just going up really quickly. And I think one of the major questions—and something that I feel like we just haven’t grappled with for some reason—is: What happens when this happens?