We are a small island, but the story of the COVID-19 pandemic is being written differently in each county. The four graphs added to COVIDWATCH show these differing narratives. Continuous data for Northern Ireland councils were not available (when this data is available it will be displayed). One of the graphs is shown above.
Methodology: New cases can vary hugely within a couple of days. These huge undulations can hide underlying trends. A 7-day rolling average will allow to some extent for test result backlogs and the impact of different work practices over weekends. (It is being used successfully by the Financial Times.) For a particular date, the previous six days new cases are added to it, and this total is then divided by seven to give the rolling average. This rolling average is then divided by the county population and multiplied by 100,000. This figure allows us to compare counties, no matter if their population is as big as Dublin’s or as small as Leitrim’s.
The shape of a county’s curve tends to fall into one of four categories. These categories are subjective and based on data at April 27th.
RISE-AND-FALL: Counties whose new cases per 100,000 rose and then fell, almost bell-curve-like. This is the most desirable textbook-case recovery scenario. Half of the 26 counties fall into this category (Carlow, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Meath, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath).
SEMI-DROP: Counties whose new cases per 100,000 rose and have fallen somewhat (Dublin, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Wicklow).
PLATEAU: Counties whose new cases per 100,000 rose but have not significantly fallen. (Clare, Longford, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Wexford).
RISING: Counties whose new cases per 100,000 are still rising (Cavan, Monaghan).
What do these graphs tell us?
Unwinding lockdown when some counties still have a rising daily incidence sounds like folly. How can the high rate of increase in Monaghan and Cavan be prevented from spreading to other counties in a lockdown-unwinding situation? Perhaps the unwinding should occur on a county-by-county basis?
There doesn’t seem to be a ‘border’ effect. Cavan (highest incidence in the Republic) borders Fermanagh and Omagh (lowest incidence in Northern Ireland). Leitrim and Louth are ‘semi-drop’ counties. Donegal is a ‘rise-and-fall’ county. Donegal and Louth are close to the two biggest Northern border centres of Derry and Newry, whereas Cavan borders rural south Fermanagh.
Munster is doing least worse: five of its six counties are ‘rise-and-fall’ counties.
Cavan and north Leinster is the core problem area in the Republic. Island-wise, the pandemic is concentrated in the Bray-Athlone-Larne triangle.
Philip McGuinness teaches at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and loves to walk around and over the wee perfect hills of the Ring Of Gullion.