We’re number one (no we aren’t); the pain of New York’s Hospitals; Updated Charts

First, I would urge everyone not to focus on wobbles in the numbers.  It really offends me how the media are saying things like “the US has more cases than any other country!”  That is either gross ignorance and incompetence, or else misleading and irresponsible fear mongering (my bet is the former).  For example, the US is reporting 216,722 cases, Italy 110,574.  Leaving aside the difference in testing (who is tested,  availability of testing, etc), the simple fact that Italy’s population is only around 60 million, vs. the US at over 330 million, comparing the two without adjusting for the fact the US is over five times the size of Italy is silly.  On a per-capita basis, to exceed Italy the US would have to have over 600 thousand cases – assuming we are even measuring the same thing (and we are not).  I started to do a plot of this and it was boring; you can barely even see the US points on a properly scaled plot yet.

Here’s the latest chart, which plots the mortality rate per 10,000 people so they are somewhat comparable.  As previously discussed, these things move slowly, and day to day wobbles have to be viewed with caution.  The good news it is does look like Spain is starting to “turn the corner” in the curve; Italy *might* have started to turn as well – we need another couple days of data to confirm.  Any chart can be clicked to embiggen …

As can be seen, the deaths in the New York have entered the steep part of the curve.  To see this more clearly, here is a plot with only the New York and New Jersey data points and forecast curves (as on the other plots, red from Spain, green from Italy, black the early March forecast, gray the H3N2 influenza sped up by a factor of 5) so you can see what is going on.

But raw numbers almost never provide context.  Yesterday there were 391 recorded deaths from COVID19 in New York; the day before 332.  How does that compare to a normal day?  The CDC’s Pneumonia and Influenza mortality data base does weekly tabulations.  During the 2017 H3N2 outbreak, there were 250 or so deaths – in a bad week.  In other words, COVID19 is likely killing more people in a day than influenza does in a week.  Now, you have to be a little careful with that; with influenza, often it is not listed as a primary cause of death if there is some other underlying condition, whereas with COVID19, if someone tests positive, that is being listed as the cause even if they have a significant comorbidity like heart failure.  But even assuming influenza is underreported, and COVID19 overreported, this is a nightmare.  As experts have been warning for weeks, this is overwhelming the health care system.   But, before you panic, consider that rather than taking 25 to 30 weeks as does the influenza season, the “COVID19” season will likely last 5-6 weeks.  So the total number of people killed won’t be five times the number killed by the flu, it will likely “only” be the same to 20% higher than a season like 2017 (and on par with the H1N1 season in 2009, or swine flu in 1998).

As always, you can do your part to help the medical community deal with this crisis by following the CDC and local guidelines.  In simple terms, follow Sgt Apone’s advice (nobody touch nothin’), avoid contact with anyone outside your household, use good hygiene.  If you are under 60 or so and in good health, despite some anecdotal cases, this more than likely isn’t about you.  It’s about taking the load off the system and protecting those who are vulnerable.

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