Last week was the first week that active COVID-19 cases in North Carolina showed a decline, and it was also the first week there were more presumed recoveries than new known cases. Would that happen again this week?

Active cases are known cases minus deaths and recoveries. Here are the most recent numbers, per the state Department of Health and Human Services (August 3):

  • Total known cases: 126,532 (up 12,194)
  • Total deaths: 1,982 (up 73, but DHHS reporting for this datum is notoriously fluid)
  • Total recoveries: 105,093 (up 12,791)

Here are some implications of those data (based on known cases):

  • There are 19,457 active cases of COVID-19 in NC — that is down 670 from last week
  • This was the second week in a row that active cases showed a decline
  • This was also the second week in a row there were more recoveries than new cases
  • Since May 11, known cases have increased 741 percent and deaths have increased 212 percent
  • In that same time, recoveries have increased over a thousand percent (1,053 percent)
  • There are 5.4 times more people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 in NC than who have it
  • 83.1 percent of NC’s known cases of COVID-19 are recoveries

The graph at the top of this post shows the week-to-week changes in recoveries, known cases, and deaths.

Crossing the 100K threshold

Two weeks ago, I provided a list of ten NC news media sites all choosing to headline the most alarming factoid they could pull from that day’s DHHS data release: the state had topped 100,000 known cases of COVID-19.

There were plenty of news angles they could have opted for, but the others weren’t scary. They were, if anything, somewhat encouraging: the lowest number of new known cases in several weeks, the lowest proportion of tests returning positive in several weeks, a decline in hospitalizations, and new deaths in the single digits.

Despite those possibilities, those news media all opted for the most worrisome datum, crossing the 100K threshold for “cases.” I asked:

In two weeks, which is when recoveries should also surpass 100,000, will our media showcase that fact?

Now’s their chance. Interestingly, there were more encouraging items to report in the August 3 data release:

  •  1,313 new known cases (lowest in two weeks)
  • Only 5.5% of tests returned positive — continuing in an overall downward trend of tests returning positive
  • Hospitalizations are down to 1,057 — this would be the lowest number since July 13, but it comes with an asterisk; namely, that only 79 percent of hospitals were reporting (lately that proportion of hospitals reporting had hovered between 85 to 96 percent)
  • 13 new deaths, putting the state’s death toll at 1,982

Perhaps you’ve spotted the upcoming alarming data threshold. We’re about to cross over 2,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. That could possibly happen tomorrow, and it could possibly coincide with a “spike” in hospitalizations that could stem mostly from many more hospitals reporting than they did today. (How many more hospitalizations would have been reported today had 96 percent of hospitals reported, instead of 79 percent?)

So tomorrow could prompt headlines blaring something like “NC’s COVID-19 Deaths Pass 2,000 As Hospitalizations Spike.” And Gov. Cooper and DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen, after their established pattern, could seize upon these very, very frightening headlines to justify either extending their crackdowns on businesses, people, and schools — or dropping even more.

Will we see reporting on COVID recoveries topping 100,000? Will news media explain that 83 percent of COVID cases are presumed recoveries? Is there any chance they’ll put hospitalizations in context?