Monday, May 4, 2020

Interpreting the Coronavirus Numbers

3,419,784 cases and 243,355 deaths have been recorded globally as I write this post. The United States recorded 1,127,712 cases and 66,075 deaths at this point. The numbers reflect recorded cases and deaths. They do not accurately count the total number of exposures or deaths. Studies in Los Angeles, New York and Silicon Valley show a much high multiple of infected persons, keeping in mind even the recorded numbers show asymptomatic persons with one accepted theory that 80% of infected persons are asymptomatic. The initial screening, such as in airports, was for fevers. If you did not have a fever, you passed screening and were not counted as being infected, even if you were asymptomatic. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of asymptomatic persons spread the disease globally. Second, many early cases were treated as regular flus or related illnesses. Third, many countries don’t have the means to diagnose or treat covid-19 patients. Many victims suffer or die at home. Fourth, some countries, led by China, are underreporting cases. We know the virus originated in Wuhan, Hebei Province in China. We know cell phone carriers in Hebei Province dropped 2 million cellphone accounts in early 2020. China says the carriers were simply consolidating accounts. We also know the 7 Wuhan mortuaries were cremating bodies 24/7 and that Hubei Province brought in 40 mobile crematoriums. Yet China is listed only as ninth in countries reporting cases, trailing the United States, Spain, Italy, U.K., Germany, France, Russia and Iran. We also know the Iranian government received a report two weeks ago saying the number of actual cases and deaths were at least double the reported number. Iran’s stats are based on patients entering hospitals. North Korea continues to report zero cases. The numbers are important in determining the lethality of Covid-19. If we take, for example, 243,355 ÷3,419,784 = 071%, that is 7.1%. That is a high lethality rate. Estimates to date have ranged from .05-4%. The death rate for the normal flu is .1%. Scientists may need a year or two, especially with widespread anti-body testing, to calculate the true lethality of the virus. If it turns out to be exceedingly low, perhaps reflecting that of the regular flu, then the world made a great mistake in shutting down, creating global economic chaos. Even though these numbers re imprecise, they are revealing about the virus risks. The risks are greatest in cramped working or living conditions, people with preexisting conditions, and the elderly. Let me emphasize that every life lost is a needless loss. No one should have died of Covid-19 because China mishandled Covid-19 once China’s doctors diagnosed the new virus. Let me note from a personal perspective I fall into two of the high risk categories: older with preexisting conditions (asthma). Here’s what we do know, about 28% of the reported cases and 29% of the reported deaths are in New York. Most of those are in New York City and surrounding communities. In short, New York has been struck the worst, and has been leading the U.S. in the need to lockdown the country. Over 20,000 deaths, some in New York City, have occurred in nursing homes and assisted livening facilities. Over 97,000 positive tests have resulted in these facilities. A large percent of the New York cases is disadvantaged minorities. Task forces have been established to study the problem. Here’s my theory: A large percent of New Yorkers live in cramped housing. Many of the economically disadvantaged minority residents have poor diets, eat junk food, and receive inadequate medical care. Many have pre-existing conditions, especially high blood pressure, asthma and cardiac conditions. They commute to work in crowded busses or subways. They are the victims of preexisting inequity. As of Thursday, 17% of California’s cases and 44% of deaths were in these facilities. The results for Orange County, with 3.2 million residents, is 17% and 44% respectively. Half of California’s cases and deaths are in Los Angeles County. Nations, states, counties, and cities that have experienced low infection rates so far are not in the clear. Singapore received kudos in initially containing the virus. Through testing, contact tracking, quarantines, and travel restrictions Singapore held the count to 1,000 by the end of March. Singapore now has seen about 17,500 cases. Contagion reached into the foreign worker dormitories with the residents clustered in tight, up to 20/room, dorms on the outskirts of the city. All it takes is one asymptomatic carrier to spread the virus.

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