COVID-19 Spread Continues

NY COVID-19 Data from 4-6-20
New York Data as reported on 4/6/19 by

Reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were up 25,240 to 336,776 in the past 24 hours, an increase of just 8 percent.  Because reported cases were also down last Monday only to tick up again the next day, we are not going to make too much of this drop in the rate of growth, which may simply be a lag in data caused by the weekend.

The number of deaths in the U.S. attributed to COVID-19 also slowed slightly to 1,156 in the past 24 hours, a 14 percent increase, bringing the total 9,655. 

In New York, there are now 122,031 cases with 4,376 hospitalizations and 4,376 ICU admissions.  As you can see in the image at the top of this post, which was taken from the website, this represents a downturn in the number of new cases.  In fact, more COVID-19 cases were discharged from New York hospitals than were admitted, which should help alleviate over crowding.  Again, we’ll wait at least another day to see if the trend continues before we get our hopes up.

Global Growth Continues

Global growth continues as the number of reported COVID-19 cases grew to more than 1.289 million in the past 24 hours, with more than 70,000 deaths reported.  Case growth throughout Europe continues uninterrupted, but numbers in Italy and Spain appear to be slowing while growth continues in Germany and France, with the former exceeding 100,000 cases.  The UK reported its largest single day of COVID-19 deaths, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to the hospital with a serious case of COVID-19. He had previously been treated at home.

We are also seeing growth in the Middle East, where Iran has a reported 60,500 cases, Africa, and South America, where Brazil has reported more than 11,000 cases and close to 500 deaths.  Over the course of the next few weeks and months, as growth levels off and (hopefully) starts to slow in the U.S. and Europe, we may see growth in Africa and South America increase.  Other countries with fewer reported cases, such as Russia and India, may also see their rate of infection increase.

Lies, Damn Lies and Coronavirus Data

There has been a great deal of media coverage about the accuracy of COVID-19 case data given by the U.S.  There are at least two issues:

First, many hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have underlying conditions.  If they die in the hospital, the death is attributed to the coronavirus, regardless of whether or another illness was the actual cause of death. Some people object to this, saying that overstates the number of deaths.  This, in my opinion, is a bit absurd, since many of those patients were living with well-controlled diabetes, heart conditions or other diseases and would have continued to do so for years had they not caught COVID-19.  In fact, non-COVID-19 pneumonia kills a great many elderly as does the flu, and those deaths are not attributed to the underlying illnesses.  I feel this argument is easily dismissed as the practice of attributing these deaths to COVID-19 is consistent with previous public health practices.

The second issue, and one that I feel is more of a concern, is that many people are dying without a formal diagnoses because patients cannot get tested or do not get test results back prior to death.  Since tests for the deceased are given low priority, these numbers are not added to the rolls in a timely manner, if at all. This implies that the number of deaths, like the number of cases, is lower than officially recognized.  I think this is probably true. 

Despite having administered more than 1 million tests, a challenge patients and doctors faces remains a shortage of tests and an often lengthy wait to get test results.  While 24 different tests have been approved in the U.S., getting them out and available, as the Wall Street Journal reports, remains a challenge.

A global shortage of swabs has also been a bottleneck for rapid testing, as one of the key suppliers, Copan Diagnostics Inc., is based in the hard-hit Lombardy region of Italy.

There have also been multiple reports that data from China is severely under-reported and that deaths may exceed 40,000.  Deaths in Italy are also under reported, again because there are not enough tests to confirm those who have died from COVID-19 symptoms actually have the coronavirus. 

From a data standpoint, whether numbers are under reported due to a lack of tests or to help a country save face, does not much matter.  We are simply dealing with the numbers we have and must assume that within each country, at least, there is some consistency in how data is gathered and reported. If cases in country X are under reported by 40 percent, the important thing is that they are consistently under reported by 40 percent.

In the end, we must all remember that this crisis was a surprise, and one for which the world were woefully unprepared.  There was no existing test because until three months ago, there was no virus.  While the threat of a pandemic existed, no one knew that it would be a respiratory disease, especially given that many past plagues and pandemics — including the black plague, measles and small pox — were not.  All doctors, public health officials and governments can do is respond the best they can given what they know at the time and adjust their response as they learn more.

As preppers, we prep for the unknown. We can anticipate based on our experience of fears, but no one has a crystal ball. But when the balloon goes up, we each do our best given what we know at the time and adjust as we learn more. That’s all we can expect of anyone.

For some perspective, read yesterday’s report to see how the numbers have grown in 24 hours or a week ago, COVID-19 Growth Rate Slows in U.S.