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Health and Public Policy

Coronavirus Observations

Coronavirus Statistics and Observations

This dread virus causes one to really stop and think about what is happening to our world and society. To make sense of this I wanted to look at the numbers as much as I can from my socially distant location. I am truly fortunate to be out of the way of a lot of human contact as there are not that many people around my location this time of year.

For those who are not as fortunate and who have to live in a major city, I thought it might help to think about this from a mathematical perspective to give people hope that social distancing is necessary and helpful at this time. Being trained as an engineer it helps me make sense of how things are unfolding in the spread of the disease by looking at the reported cases and the death and recovery rates of the United States as a whole and some of the more hard-hit regions of the country like New York, New Jersey and Washington state.

These data (below) seem to indicate that one contracting Coronavirus here (U.S.) so far has a 1.1% chance of death versus the world at large (4.25% – 4.3%). We should not look at this percentage difference and assume that we are 4 times “better off” in terms of being safe from death in terms of encountering this infectious disease.

One theory of a lower death rate here is that fewer people in the United States smoke tobacco products than they do in other parts of the world. Despite that fact, we should not assume that we are safer than anyone else in the world in relation to death from coronavirus. It is too early on in our measurement of the spread of the disease to draw such conclusions.

Most importantly, we should not get comfortable with this premature set of statistics and ignore government health procedure warnings. Some people may look at the small number of deaths and feel that they can ignore government health warnings (like students have been doing on spring break). This group of people (those not heeding health guidelines) need to understand that we might not have seen an advanced stage of the disease and therefore have not seen the worst of its effects. 

To accentuate the point, these data could mean that we just have not seen enough cases or detected as many serious cases and that hospitalization may spike in the next two weeks causing us to “catch up” with the rest of the world in terms of mortality rate. This would be truly a disaster, so I believe that we all need to take this seriously and “shelter in place” avoid public contact and social gatherings (even in private homes).

Staying distant from one another is very difficult for human beings to do but we have to do it to avoid the chance that we accelerate our rate of infection and the percentage “death rate” to that of the rest of the world. 

Ray of Hope

As a “ray of hope” however, we may be fortunate enough to have learned from the experience of those in other parts of the world despite our slow response to the virus in general. An example may be our initiative to seriously consider treatments that have worked on patients elsewhere. For example, we may have a “head start” on the use of therapeutics that can ease suffering in the United States.

These therapeutic approaches could ease the suffering of individuals and relieve the pressure on hospitals by allowing fewer people to require ventilators. Despite this hopeful approach we should not count on that to keep the “death rate” down. Our scientists and the FDA are also racing (literally) to approve new treatments and possible vaccines but these are a few months (new therapeutics) and at least a year (vaccines) away from general adoption.

Being well aware that the United States is slow to implement testing of its citizens we cannot know the current true infection rate. It is encouraging to see on the local news that drive-through testing facilities are being established in Massachusetts. These facilities require a person to have a doctor’s note verifying that they have coronavirus symptoms to be tested (otherwise they are turned away according to local news reporters) but at least we have a means to test those who are likely to be infected and to start getting some good data on actual versus false infection rates.

According to this website: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus (selected because it seems to stay updated regularly; and it is in agreement with the Johns Hopkins University data https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html that is quoted on CNN and other news outlets), the death rate percentage across the world and the United States (percentage of deaths in relation to all infected persons) is relatively constant (percentages below).

The number of World-wide Coronavirus cases is 324,064 with 13,782 deaths, 96,006 cases showing recovered, 214,276 active cases with 109,788 closed cases (recovered plus deaths).

World-wide Cases (as of March 22, 2020  1:15 P.M. EDT United States)

  • 324,064 total confirmed cases
  • 13,782 deaths
  • 96,006 recovered cases
  • 214,276 Currently infected patients (as we know and estimate due to lack of U.S. testing)
    • 204,121 – Mild cases (95%) 
    • 10,155 – Serious or critical cases (5%)
  • 109,788 closed cases (96,006 recovered plus 13,782 deaths)

This leads to the following percentage calculations based on a given outcome:

  • Percentage (World-wide) of deaths per infected person – 4.25% 
    • (13,782/324064 = .0425)
  • Percentage recovered – 29.6% 
    • (96,006/324,064 = .296)

United States case data (as of 1:15 P.M. EDT United States)

  • 35,746 coronavius cases (it increased while I was writing this) by about three thousand known cases)
  • 392 deaths
  • 178 Recovered cases
  • 35,176 currently known infected cases
    • 35,176 Mild cases (98%)
    • 708 Serious or critical cases (2%) 
  • 570 Closed cases
    • 178 Recovered/discharged (31%)
    • 392 Deaths (69%)
  • Percentage (U.S.) of deaths/infected person – 1.09%
    • 392/35,746 = .0109
  • Percentage recovered/discharged – .5% (one half of one percent)
    • 178/35,746 = .00498

These percentages do not reflect any inference about a person’s age when they contracted the coronavirus or their general health condition. It is just raw data to see how this virus is impacting the US versus the world NOW. These percentages could change drastically as the virus spreads in the population and has more longevity in the general population. As more cases are confirmed through expanded testing and as the disease manifests over time, the picture of how many people die from this dread virus and recover from it could change radically.

Again, at risk of repeating myself, these data seem to indicate that one contracting Coronavirus here (U.S.) so far has a 1.1% chance of death versus the world at large (4.25% – 4.3%). This could mean that we just have not seen enough cases or detected as many serious cases and that hospitalization may spike in the next two weeks causing us to “catch up” with the rest of the world in terms of mortality rate. Hopefully that will not happen, and our use of therapeutics can reduce the suffering (and death rate) that is being experienced by many people across the world.

Catching up with the death rate elsewhere would truly be a disaster, so I believe that we all need to take this seriously and “shelter in place” avoid public contact and social gatherings (even in private homes). Staying distant from one another is very difficult for human beings to do but we have to do it to avoid the chance that we accelerate our rate of infection and the percentage “death rate” to that of the rest of the world.

We should have faith in the scientists to find a therapeutic course of treatment that gives hope this year, and a vaccine that keeps this dread disease from re-appearing next year. In the meantime we should all be prudent and remain away from others and exhibit responsible social behavior, despite our fundamental urges to be with other people.

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