This is a COVID-19 (aka SARS-cov-2, aka “novel coronavirus”) thread. Post what you like, including resources. I may incorporate the best of those into this original post so that people have them available. Initially, I’m working from memory, but I’ll edit the post and insert sources as I comb back through my communications and find them.
We are at the start of a global pandemic. The virus is highly contagious. Epidemiologists estimate that, in roughly the next year, 30% to 70% of the human beings on the planet will be infected with it. Initial reports suggest an approximately 2% fatality rate, overall (weighted heavily toward the elderly, but not entirely). If half of us get it, and of those, 2% die from it, we’re looking at, very roughly, 1% of the human population dead from it. In round figures, for a planetary population of almost 8 billion, that’s 80 million dead people in the next year. Even if, in the end, it’s half that lethal, that’s 40 million dead people. That’s with medical care, of course; it’s perfectly possible that, as it overwhelms the medical systems of countries all over the world, that it will be much more lethal than 2%. In China, about 15% of people with COVID-19 required hospitalization, and about 5% of the infected required intensive care, while in Italy, more than half of people with COVID-19 needed hospitalization, and 10% needed the ICU. 1 People who need ventilators and don’t get them typically die. Let’s say 90% of them. So, if 4 billion people get COVID-19, and 5% of them need intensive care, and most of those don’t get it, we’re looking at a mortality rate of around 4.5%, or about 200 million people dead worldwide.
That figure does not include people who need critical care for other reasons but won’t get it because the system is overwhelmed.
Note that these are not worst-case figures. Worst case: 70% of humans get it, and the mortality rate turns out to be 4.5% because the medical systems are overwhelmed. In round figures, that’s 250 million dead people, still not including people who need critical care for other reasons who don’t get it.
In people aged 20-29, this virus appears to ride along symptom-free at high rates.2 That means that, by the time many people in that age cohort have symptoms, they have already been infecting other people for the incubation period, which is around 5-14 days. That makes it very hard to contain.
It does not appear to be transmitted in a passively airborne fashion, like measles. However, viruses of this type can apparently survive for up to nine days on hard surfaces3, and this specific virus has been shown to survive at least three days4. So it’s not just people; it’s things which people touch, including handrails and elevator buttons.
As of today, 03-16, the United States has no way to test widely for it. (We were offered tests, but we refused the offers of help and tried to develop our own, but then developed a faulty test kit which had to be redesigned, which meant substantive delays.) Initial testing protocol was pointless, because no test kits were available. Now that they are starting to become available, there aren’t enough, and people are still being refused testing unless they have had contact with a confirmed case or travelled from a known hotspot, like Iran or Italy. In other words, we are flying blind, having no good measurement of size of the problem.
One way to try to infer the size of the infected-but-undetected population is to look at the number of tests of suspected cases which are positive. Based on that work, as of roughly 03-12, we probably had 100,000 infected people in the United States already.5
The United States has prepared very poorly. First, in 2018 we eliminated our federal pandemic response agency. Then, in the earliest days, we didn’t socially distance early enough, and we still aren’t; a large percentage of the population is being encouraged by some media to go out and mingle.
Also, we have a population without universal health care, many with high-deductible coverage. Our population is used to rationing healthcare themselves, to deciding for themselves whether it’s worth the cost to seek medical help. One result of such a system is that many people who should seek help or screening don’t do so.
Also, we have a population in which large numbers of people don’t have sick leave or employment protections. It is absolutely routine for people in service sector jobs to work even when they know they’re sick. Restaurant servers, for instance, when they do call in sick are routinely asked, “When can you come in?” or told to pop DayQuil and come in or lose their jobs. This means a large number of people have serious short-term incentives to engage in behavior which will result is a high rate of transmission.
Also, our supply of ICU beds, and ventilators, is much lower than what will be necessary for a pandemic of this size, so we’re probably headed into a situation where we have to look at the “no ventilator” death rates, above.
To make matters worse, President Trump declared a travel ban in a manner which prompted a lot of people abroad to panic and fly home at the earliest opportunity, creating huge logjams of people in United States airports where people were packed closely for six hours or more. There are reports that the lines of suspected infected were queued up inches away from people who showed no sign of infection. It would have been hard to create a better system for spreading the virus among incoming travellers.
And here we are. Say what you need to say, being mindful of the commenting policy. Citations are helpful, and if anyone can help me source references or correct numbers, I’ll be grateful; I wasn’t planning on writing this, and didn’t take good notes as I educated myself.
Finally, because humor will be one of the things which gets most of us through this: remember that it’s only a quarantine if it’s from the Quara region of France. From anywhere else, it’s “sparkling isolation”.
The best hand washing video I’ve seen yet. You may have thought you knew how, but unless you’re a scrub nurse or a surgeon, I’ll bet that you didn’t.
Current status, presented graphically.
COVID-19 community calculator. Put your ZIP code in and see how your community will fare.
- https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/10/simple-math-alarming-answers-covid-19/ [↩]
- See the image below, a comparison of South Korean cases versus Italian cases. In South Korea, they are testing everyone. In Italy, they are testing only people with symptoms. Look how many more cases in the 20-29 age cohort they are finding in South Korea. [↩]
- https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195670120300463 [↩]
- various media sources, easily searched [↩]
- I’m looking for the cite on this [↩]