Nothing much has changed since Wednesday. Here is the same plot I ran the 25th, updated with three more days of data. The black line is a theoretical curve that represents a generic model of how COVID19 mortality should behave. The grey line is the 2017 H3N2 flu progression sped up by a factor of 5 for comparison purposes (in other words, the 24 weeks of the heart of the normal flu season compressed into 4-5 weeks). The dots represent actual data as of the totals as reported this morning. I added a few more regions like France and the states of Georgia and Louisiana, as well as South Korea. Click to embiggen …
Of these, China (grey +) and Iran (grey o) look weird. I suspect those numbers are “munged.” But Spain (red dots) and Italy (green dots), which are the farthest along of societies that might resemble the US, seem to be following the expected progression. South Korea is a clear outlier, but they jumped on this very early, have a very aggressive testing and containment approach, and have FOUR TIMES more hospital beds than the US. New York is the cyan triangles that are hard to see because it’s just starting to creep along the curve – about day 30 or so, as is Louisiana. The next 20 days will be very scary – you can see that is the steepest part of the curve, and people will talk about doubling times, and extrapolation the daily rates far beyond the point where they will start to settle down. But the curve will almost certainty, and quickly, stabilize.
Where will it end? Not too different from the mid-week estimates. The latest projections are that the US will see between 50 and 80 thousand deaths. That sounds like lot, but the 2017 influenza season saw 61 thousand H3N2 influenza deaths, albeit over 6 months, not 6 weeks!. New York will likely see upwards of 5 thousand (currently 200 or so). Smaller communities will also see a rapid rise in deaths that, without context, will seem terrifying. Expect the health care system to be in crisis, and please do what you can to support the medical community. This will be horrific for them – even if the risk for you personally is low if you do not have pre-existing health problems. Chatham County, Georgia hospitals, which serve about 400,000 people, will likely see nearly 1,000 respiratory cases, of which 100 may die, all in the next three weeks. But again, by the end of April, most parts of the country should be at the upper end of the curve, with the deaths per day decreasing.
How soon will we know if that really is our future, or something worse? Italy should be passing their peak number of deaths per day. I expect that by early next week we will see a downward trend in their numbers, followed by Spain 4-5 days later. If by the 1st of April Italy is still recording 700 or more per day, that will be a source of concern.
Short Version: yes, the numbers without context are scary. The media is shifting attention from one “center” (like NYC) to another (NOLA) depending on which gives the bigger headline. It is obscene. The big picture is nothing has changed. Take this pandemic seriously but not to panic, following the CDC guidelines, limit interactions outside your immediate household (aka social distancing), keep strict hygiene protocols, and otherwise doing everything you can to try to slow down the rate of spread. It’s more than likely not about you. It’s about that 1% of so of the population who will get very sick, and may not get enough care because the system will be overloaded.
And STOP focusing on the “death race” numbers. It’s just not healthy. Check the news maybe once a day to see if local guidance has changed, and otherwise take care of yourself and your family. PS – don’t binge watch ST:Picard, even Sir Patrick couldn’t save it 😛