If this rate of growth continues and there are sufficient test kits available, we’ll reach the one million mark on April 2 instead of April 10, which is what I had projected earlier in the week. In other words, our curve is climbing, not flattening. However, federal official still hope it will flatten in the next week or two.
According to the New York Times, at least 147 people in the US have died from COVID-19, a jump of 40 from yesterday, or 38 percent.
Much of the surge in new cases increase is attributable to cases in New York, which reported more than 1,000 new infections, thanks largely to increased availability of testing kits. That means the cases were there and the disease was spreading, we just didn’t have sufficient test results to show it.
What does 1,000 new infections mean? It could mean 150 people who will need to be hospitalized, with around 60 of them needing ventilators. It will probably lead to at least 20 deaths, possibly more.
1,000 new cases distributed around the country is not unmanageable, but 1,000 cases in one city is a big bite to swallow. Add 1,000 or more new cases every day and you can see how things might get out of hand pretty quickly. No wonder they are sending a hospital ship with 1,200 beds to New York.
New York is our canary in the coal mine, showing what will happen in the virus gains a foothold in other large cities with similar population densities. Right now, the New York Times reports that New York has 2,282 cases, Washington State has 1,026, and California has 875. Eleven other states have between 100 and 500 cases. But if social distancing and quarantines are not aggressively pursued, these numbers will continue to climb.
Some Perspective Please
When you compare these numbers to other countries, the United States looks pretty good. According to Johns Hopkins numbers mid-morning on Thursday, March 19, here are the top countries:
81,154 (thought to be far higher)
18,407 (thought to be far higher)
With the exception of China, these countries have far smaller populations. So you could argue we’re doing pretty good. And right now, much of the global growth is coming from Europe.
Alternatively, you could argue these countries reflect what we will look like in a few days or a week. The question is: Are we ahead of the curve on prevention and mitigation or are we simply behind the curve on infections because we barred travel from China? I’m afraid it may be the latter, but we’ll know in just a week or two.
The mortality rate is also significant. In Italy, approximately 8 percent of known cases have resulted in death. In Spain, by contrast, the mortality rate is half that. In the U.S. we are closer to 2 percent, but that will likely climb as deaths usually lag behind active cases.
If we compare the new coronavirus to the flu, instead of to other countries, we see that these numbers are still well below the data for the flu. The CDC’s preliminary 2019-202 flu season data estimate between 36 and 51 million cases and between 22,220 and 50,000 deaths. This raises the obvious question: Are we over reacting? Is our reaction to the Wuhan Coronavirus causing more harm than the disease itself?
In terms of danger to our economy, the nation’s mental health, and the integrity of our social fabric, I think our reaction to coronavirus is causing significant damage. But if we look at it in terms of saving 650,000 lives, then that damage may well be worth it. How often do you get a chance to save thousands of lives?