By Hayden Winks
There’s so much bad coronavirus info out there right now, so I’m hoping these stats and graphs make things clearer for you guys. Because I am not a doctor or virus expert, I won’t be commenting on anything medical outside of what’s been made clear by Dr. Fauci.
One thing that needs to be abundantly clear before we get started is the difference between “Confirmed Positive Coronavirus Tests” and the actual number of people who have the coronavirus. That second number is far greater because the United States has limited who gets tested. Unless you’re an NBA player, a politician, a celebrity, or are showing the severe symptoms, then you haven’t been getting tested so far. That means that all “official” numbers are suppressed and that the problem is indeed bigger. It also makes comparing the United States to other countries dangerous because the testing rates vastly differ.
The bars in the chart represent the number of new positive cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. on a daily basis. It is pretty clear that the problem is still growing. In fact, the doubling rate — how long it takes for the positive case number to double — has hovered around 2.1 to 2.4 days, per the Financial Times. Is that bad? Yes. If this rate holds up for another week, there will be about 300,000 confirmed positive cases in the United States. Another two weeks? Over 1,000,000. Yup, one million. This is why experts want everyone to stay inside. Slowing the growth rate is essential not just to defeating the coronavirus but to also keep our hospitals below max capacity.
I also wanted to point out how dangerous the coronavirus can be in high-density populations like New York City (blue bar chart). About half of the new coronavirus cases in the United States are in New York, and the number of cases in NYC blew up within just a matter of days because of how much human interaction there is on a daily basis. Subways, restaurants, office spaces, etc. all add to the growth rate, which is why you are seeing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo take aggressive actions. He can’t afford more coronavirus patients because his hospitals are filling fast.
This chart includes the other 49 states and the District of Columbia (read: no New York). At first glance, there are a few states that really stick out as having notable containment issues — New Jersey (NJ), California (CA), Washington (WA), Michigan (MI), Illinois (IL), Louisiana (LA), Florida (FL), and Georgia (GA). This shouldn’t be a surprise because these states have high-density regions. In terms of population density, these states rank 1st, 11th, 22nd, 18th, 12th, 26th, 8th, and 17th respectfully and include some of America’s most visited cities — Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, New Orleans, and Miami.
Now, this doesn’t mean that low-density states (think Mississippi or Montana) are in the clear. Take this with a grain of salt, but I’m projecting that low-density states are just lagging behind because people haven’t traveled to or from there at the same rate of a place like New York City. If states who haven’t been hit hard by the coronavirus don’t take social distancing seriously, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the virus creeps into their communities. All it takes is a few businesspeople or spring breakers to catch it in Chicago or Miami and bring it back home a week later.
The last point I wanted to make with the state-by-state chart is that no state has had much success in slowing down the growth of new cases. All of the bars appear to be growing at noticeable rates across the board. There’s two reasons why this is the case: 1) The coronavirus is still actually spreading, and 2) the amount of people actually being tested is growing. The second part is good because everyone needs to know what we are up against.
Part two also means that extrapolating data too far down the calendar is probably bad science. Assuming the United States’ doubling rate of 2.1 to 2.4 days lasts for one to three to nine months is something I’m uncomfortable doing. In fact, doing so actually can be detrimental to the overall cause because idiots will stop staying inside if they notice the confirmed cases aren’t nearly as high as what fearmongers are spitballing. What I’m saying is to take it seriously, but don’t tell everyone that “56% of America will get it” when projections like that are rooted in very iffy assumptions.
When looking at coronavirus death data, it’s important to understand that it’s on a time lag because people don’t die instantaneously. If there’s a big spike in coronavirus cases today, then we should assume there will be a spike in coronavirus deaths in a week or two. That’s why it can be dangerous to side eye the seriousness of the issue in the United States by citing today’s death totals. This unfortunately means that the death totals should continue to rise going into April because we’ve seen noticeable growth in positive cases over the last week or so. Of course, a vaccine or more access to medical equipment can limit the numbers.
The other caveat with coronavirus death data is the underlying variables that are in play. Things like age, smoking, pre-existing medical conditions, and quality of hospital care have impacts on survival rates. A healthy 25-year-old is far less likely to die from the coronavirus compared to a 75-year-old smoker, but that doesn’t mean healthy and/or young people shouldn’t take this seriously. I personally don’t like being sick, especially this level of sick (it’s worse than the flu morons), and I personally like my grandparents alive, so staying inside helps me in at least two ways.
Because of those underlying variables that we just talked about, there are differences in coronavirus mortality rate between countries (and likely between states and cities in the United States). For example, 23% of Italy’s population is at least 65 years old, while the United States is down at 18%. That alone is probably enough to assume that the United States’ mortality rate won’t be as high as Italy’s.
Coronavirus cases and deaths are both growing in the United States, so re-opening businesses (or even suggesting that it’s a possibility) at this point appears to be dangerous, especially in high-density areas like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, and Miami. Until the growth declines, which it hasn’t yet, people should be staying indoors to protect those who are far more likely to die from catching COVID-19 (elderly, people with pre-existing medical conditions, etc.). Because of the demographic and population density differences between countries (and cities and states within the United States), it’s easy to be way off on projecting future coronavirus cases and deaths. That’s why these experts had a wide range of future projections. With that said, if nothing is done to slow down the growth rate, the severity of the issue will be nothing like it is today on March 25th. It will be far worse. Stay inside. Wash your hands. Don’t be an idiot. And, look forward to the inevitable five hour line for haircuts when this is all behind us.
If you have any questions about my research, reach out to me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).
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