This project, published on Sunday, May 9th, 2021, aims to compare the prevention efforts of Philadelphia, PA with its 5 neighboring counties, which are, in no particular order, Delaware, PA, Montgomery, PA, Bucks, PA, Burlington, NJ, and Camden, NJ. The data show that Philadelphia’s rapid prevention efforts to subdue the growing number of cases in the county around April 2020 proved helpful during the next wave of the pandemic in December 2020, when Philadelphia County saw much more effective prevention going into January 2021 than did surrounding Pennsylvania counties. These efforts were far more effective than New Jersey counties' efforts. We analyzed per capita trends in the data historical data and searched the news for notable prevention efforts being conducted by each county to see if we could explain some of the trends. A live map of case counts is also included and is updated daily.
Philadelphia's COVID-19 infection rates and prevention efforts have fought a tremendous battle over the last year. March and April were the first months of the pandemic, and Philadelphia County's per capita case count was the highest of all surrounding counties. Delaware County and Camden also had high per capita cases in April, but not as high as Philadelphia's. From around May 2020 to August 2020, even in the midst of the George Floyd riots, counties with high cases started to stabilize and cases per capita remained fairly low until October 2020, when they started picking back up. November and December 2020 were the worst months for every county; even areas like Bucks County, which had seen relatively few cases, had very high end-of-2020 numbers. Around this time, the vaccine was approved for emergency use; we see some very interesting trends. Philadelphia is the only county that was able to significantly reduce its per capita case count from December 2020 to January 2021. Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks counties also saw reductions in cases from December to January, but not as intensely. The New Jersey counties saw increases in case counts in the same time period. Since January 2020, cases went down everywhere for a few months and then spiked back up in April 2020.
The historical per capita trends are fairly similar to each other. We then looked at prevention efforts around March 2020 in Philadelphia vs counties that did better (Montgomery, Bucks, etc.), and prevention efforts in December 2020 in Philadelphia vs counties that did worse (Camden, NJ, Burlington, NJ).
News reports in mid-March 2020 show that Pennsylvania's cases were rising and that the cases seemed to be concentrated in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. According to the first article in the PREVENTION EFFORTS section, "in a new front to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dine-in facilities starting Monday in five heavily populated counties, including Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, and the four counties ringing Philadelphia." These efforts made a difference in counties like Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks, but News Article had the highest number of cases out of these counties in April. An article from March 30th describes how Philadelphia then surged its prevention efforts, one example being "How Temple’s Liacouras Center was transformed into a hospital site for the coronavirus pandemic." These efforts, combined with mandates to stay home and practice social distancing certainly had an impact, as news sources in mid-April started writing, "while it's too soon to say whether Philadelphia has avoided a surge in coronavirus cases that would overwhelm its health system, the nation's sixth-largest city has, so far, avoided becoming what some feared would be the outbreak's next hot spot." Philadelphia showed high preparedness; "schools have been closed since March 13, and will remain closed for the rest of the school year. A week after schools closed, Philadelphia issued a stay-at-home order, on March 22."
Counties close to Philadelphia but not as populous/concentrated like Burlington, Camden, Bucks, and Montgomery were not affected as badly as Philadelphia early in the pandemic. Most of these counties were following the protocols deemed by the state and practicing social distancing (which is much easier in the suburbs than in a city). Surrounding counties thought that it would be fine to reopen normal life after April; "Governor Phil Murphy ordered New Jersey parks to reopen" around Apr 30, 2020.
However, we see that the level of community resourcefulness that Philadelphia had to show during this first wave made the county even more prepared than surrounding counties to handle the December 2020 wave. The historical heatmaps show that all counties have December numbers that hover around the "MORE" region, but only Philadelphia's January 2021 numbers drop close to the "Fewer" region. Fittingly, news sources report around this time that "Philadelphia announced sweeping new restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases and extended COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining, gatherings to January 15," taking swift action, as before. Jersey counties, on the other hand, saw very little reduction in cases from December 2020 to January 2021. In fact, in Burlington County and Camden County, cases per capita seemed to get higher. This is fitting with news trends, as the timeline shows that Gov. Murphy has been signing orders since April 2020 to reopen parks, golf courses, businesses, beaches, etc.
All in all, Philadelphia had the worst first wave per capita in April compared to surrounding counties, but the early response and efforts during this time were used again during the December spike and were highly effective compared to states that were less prepared the second time around.
We include a live map of exact numbers of COVID-19 cases by county using the New York Times GitHub dataset. At the time of publishing this project, many citizens are vaccinated or just about to be vaccinated. There are mutant viruses spreading around the world, but they seem to be varying in their levels of fatality. We hope that all regions take the example of Philadelphia, coming together and acting early to prevent the spread as best as possible.