As I write this on the morning of April 5th, the world-wide total is 1,218,000+ confirmed cases of COVID-19/SARS-2 and 66,542 deaths. In the US, those numbers are 312,250 and 8,503.
I am referring to information in two articles, Coronavirus patients over age 80 have a death rate of 15%. Here's the death rate for every age bracket. And The 2019-nCoV Statistics Are Misleading: Why Everyone Already Knows And Acts Like This. I am also referring to CDC data on the H1N1 Influenza pandemic we had a couple of years ago.
Before I get into numbers, let me tickle your brain with this:
For the 2009-2010 H1N1 “Swine Flu” pandemic, plus from March to November 2014, we had several people appear in the US with the Ebola virus. Thankfully, the Ebola did not turn into a pandemic. In each case, the media took the path of “inform, downplay, do not induce panic.”
COVID-19 is admittedly different. “The Common Cold” is caused by several strains of viruses, namely rhinovirus, coronavirus (other than -19), respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and parainfluenza. The (rightfully) scary part of COVID-19 is that it is contagious before you are symptomatic, which is not usual.
Back in January, the media (and Democrat leaders) were in a “dismiss” mode, telling people to “go to Chinatown, get out and mingle,” and “Trump is a racist for calling this “the Chinese Disease” or whatever. Yet, why are the media in a “panic, upplay, misinform” mode today instead of doing what they did for H1N1 and Ebola? Because by and large the members of the media hate Trump. The media realized in February and March that they can use this crisis as a weapon against Trump to make him unelectable in November.
Do I think this can turn serious? Yes. Do I think it’s time to panic and or respond reflexively? No.
Now we can talk numbers.
For the H1N1, 76% of the fatalities were between 18 and 64. For COVID-19, 80% of the deaths so far are from people who were 65 and older.
If we take the deaths and divide them by the number of confirmed cases, my calculator shows a 2.71% fatality rate. Having a certification as a Project Manager, I am aware of a term used in risk management called “known unknowns.” This means “we know this thing is a risk to the completion of the project, but we don’t know how big the risk actually is.”
The second article uses math to explain a “known unknown” about disease, which is “how many people contracted this disease but recovered without specialized medical treatments”? Basically, if someone got sick, used OTC medications to address the symptoms and got better without seeing a doctor, they would fall into this “known unknown.”
This article came up with an admittedly very loose supposition that for every confirmed case, there’s an average of 4.3 cases that went unconfirmed and unnoticed. But even if that number is 2 undiagnosed cases for every confirmed case, that would change things drastically. In that case, including our known unknown of 2:1, that’s now 8,291 deaths against 917,460 infected, and we now have a death rate of 0.9%. And if we went high on the estimate, say 6:1 known unknowns, that’s 2.14 million infected and that death rate drops to 0.4%.
So here’s what we have to realize, then ask ourselves.
- COVID-19 is here to stay. Just like the cold, influenza, Conjunctivitis, AIDS/STD’s, we will never be rid of it. An annual vaccine might be developed, but get used to it folks.
- We really don’t have to change our behavior to keep it under control. What stops the spread of viruses in general are frequent hand-washing and not touching our eyes/nose/mouth/face after we touch potentially infected surfaces. We just have to do it all the time now, not just when we’re symptomatic.
- COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly and those with serious issues, especially respiratory-related conditions.
With those points out on the table, and now knowing what we know about the modality, methodology and fatality profile of this disease, do you think it’s justifiable to shut down the entire United States, or maybe just insulate/isolate those at the highest risk of dying from this?
Looking at the fatality rates, if you’re under 50 with no co-morbid conditions, you have a 1% chance of dying from this, if you even contract it at all. Statistically, you have a higher risk of dying in a vehicle crash commuting to work and home every day.
Knowing all of this, which sounds like the rational choice?
Shut down the entire US economy and everyone self-isolate for the foreseeable future?
Get most people back to work, use appropriate anti-viral protocols (hand-washing, no face touching, etc.) and minimize exposure to those most vulnerable to sickness, namely the elderly and those with pulmonary issues.
I’m going to take the reasonable risk and go with the latter.