COVID-19: Reading the Numbers

May 13, 2020;  US Tragedy-Count at 82K and rising…

Everybody is getting bombarded with numbers, statistics related to Covid-19 infections & sometimes with little explanation of their underlying significance. For example Russia: They report a little over 2K deaths (henceforth more correctly referred to as tragedies!). They also report 242+K infections, but say that is because of new testing, implying these are “old” cases already there and –somehow- just now being discovered. If you assume a reasonable average under 5% fatality rate (Sorry , there is no euphemism for the ultimate infection result.), they will in the not too distant future report over 10K tragedies. That they report such a low tragedy rate shows only these are likely newer cases – and rising quickly.

The virus is everywhere, still as infectious as ever. Only our perceptions are changing over time…

There is a graph on the Financial Times website comparing countries’ tragedy rate with all countries starting at the same point. That is, juxtaposed from when the individual country first reported 3 tragedies. Most graphs are normal: fast rise, plateau, eventually a more gradual descent. Currently the exceptions are Mexico & Brazil with both still in their initial rise, the latter heading direct to USA numbers -by far the highest- quickly. Did we mention that both those two countries -USA & Brazil- have national leaders who have been among the loudest in their downplaying of Covid-19 as something not to worry about, that it will “go away” on its own? Surprised that England is high up there with them?

The dominant feature we take from this graph -however- is the slope China took from peak to almost no cases. When you consider the severity of their lockdown & the extent of their testing/tracing during this period it should be apparent that this slope – the angle of descent– is perhaps a best-case scenario, a benchmark in any case.

Opening up prematurely in the various US states will guarantee that the US together will never achieve this slope! Other countries, where the populace is not as caustically divided as in the US & the people in general have more trust in their governments, have implemented lockdowns more successfully, but have still not achieved China’s descending slope. We all still have a long, hard road ahead. Moreover, the continuing emphasis by the US federal government on opening in the US, while still neglecting expansion of critically all-important testing/tracing, instead pushing all responsibility on the states (later the convenient recipients of all the blame for what the federal government should have done at the very beginning!) will keep the tragedy graph of the USofA meandering… a little down, some up, down…up…maybe big up even. In any case, it is our sorrowful evaluation that if this graph does not go down drastically, the 2020 Santa Claus will bring the USofA a tragedy count of at least a quarter, and quite possibly a half a million!!!