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Mar
31

COVID19 – the latest data and the cost of ignoring reality

Ignore anyone who says we’ll be back to normal by this date or that.

The problem is straightforward –

  • we don’t have enough data,
  • far too many people are still doing stupid stuff, and
  • there’s still way too much happy talk from people who should know better.

Testing is only now ramping up – six weeks+ into the COVID era there have been less than a million tests in the US; we lag well behind other developed countries in the percentage of residents tested.

The painful reality is the government’s repeated missteps and screwups have left us in the dark about the real dimensions of the spread of COVID19.

Where are we today

We don’t have current, accurate data from an official governmental source on the actual number of COVID19 tests that have been conducted. The CDC’s own database reports a drop in the average daily number of tests since March 17 – but that doesn’t include all tests.

Fortunately, there’s a volunteer project documenting the test count and other key statistics; you can keep updated here. Pretty impressive effort, with data quality ratings as well so you can determine for yourself your level of comfort with the accuracy of the count.

As of 6:42 am eastern yesterday, there were 851,578 tests reported in the US, with 141,232 positive.

As of 6:42 am eastern today, Tuesday March 31, the Covid Tracking project reported 956,481 tests, with 162,399 positive.

Again according to the Covid tracking project, as of 7 am eastern yesterday March 30, 19,839 patients were hospitalized and 2,447 died.

The hospitalization count increased to 22,490 (13%), and the death count increased 21% to 2,981.

Another leading source is Johns Hopkins University; it’s numbers are slightly different than the Covid Project (143,055 positives and 2,513 deaths as of 6:11 am eastern yesterday March 30).

I’ll let you ponder why a group of volunteers and a university are able to do a better job tracking these data than the nation’s disease tracking institution. (fortunately the Trump Administration, which just three weeks ago had sought a $1.2 billion cut to CDC ‘s budget – and an additional $452 million cut to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)’s budget – changed it’s mind.

Then there’s the report from Wuhan China (the apparent originating location for coronavirus that 5% – 10% of people who a) tested positive, and b) recovered, have now tested positive again.

Communities and institutions that aren’t taking tough measures to control exposure are getting hammered.

Elected officials and many citizens of Fort Myers, FL listened to politicians, not scientists, keeping beaches, restaurants, and a casino open despite warnings. In a county where 30% of residents are over 60, only about 4 out of 10 residents complied with isolation guidelines last week. This may well have devastating consequences – so far there are 171 confirmed cases and 6 deaths in Lee County. with 40 hospitalized.

Those totals will certainly increase.

Many residents of The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida, ignored pleas to avoid socializing; 29 have tested positive as of last Friday.

Liberty University was one of the very few colleges that invited students back to campus after spring break; not surprisingly some showed COVID19-type symptoms, and at least one has tested positive. Yesterday Liberty President Jerry Falwell disputed some of the Times’ reporting; note earlier Falwell dismissed COVID19, comparing it to swine flu and inferring it was a North Korean plot or an effort to harm President Trump.

What does this mean for you?

I bring these to your attention to note that coronavirus doesn’t care about ideology; social distancing reduces infections and saves lives; not enforcing social distancing increases infections and kills people. Places like Ft Myers and Lynchburg VA (Liberty University’s location) – and the people who live there – will suffer from COVID deniers’ decisions.


8 thoughts on “COVID19 – the latest data and the cost of ignoring reality”

  1. Reality seems to be subjective here. 10 days ago you predicted that 3,000,000 here in the US could be infected by today. As of this morning the case count for the entire world isn’t yet 1/3rd of that. Although we all recognize China is blatantly lying about their stats. You’ve been quite critical of our government. Maybe that is fair, as the government has a history of falling short of expectations on just about every major crisis. Given the relatively low number thus far compared to your dire predictions, I would say the government is doing pretty well considering the magnitude of the challenge. I agree that we should all practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, but hyperbole and fear mongering doesn’t help the cause.

    1. Good morning Frank – good to hear from you and thanks for your perspective.
      Allow me to respond to your observations.

      1 – my post on Saturday March 21 stated:
      The infection rate just increased 5-fold in 4 days; if that continues [emphasis added], by Wednesday – 4 days from now – there will be 125,000 confirmed cases. A week from tomorrow there will be 625,000. Four days later 3 million of us will be infected.
      I certainly won’t quibble about dates (the 3 million number would have happened on Friday April 3, not today. Regardless we won’t be anywhere near that number of DOCUMENTED infections by April 3).
      I will point out two things – first, the math was based on a key word – “if”. second, I’ve repeatedly emphasized that we don’t know the actual number of infections due to the lack of testing.

      2. I disagree with your characterization of the current government’s response and statement that the government has fallen short on just about every other major crisis. (I assume you are speaking of the federal government). There’s ample evidence – documented in citations throughout my blog posts on COVID of the current administration’s feckless approach; I’d encourage you to read other posts if you are interested in that evidence.

      Second, past administrations’ approaches to diseases including HIV (under Bush2), swine flu, ebola, SARS and MERS were fast, comprehensive, and effective. Same for many responses to natural disasters, with the notable exception of Katrina.

      Hope that clarifies things, and thanks again for the comment.

      Joe

  2. Thanks Joe. Can you please explain how miraculously typical deaths from say strokes, heart attacks, asthma attacks, obesity, etc. are all of the sudden on decline? I really would like to know your take since over all death in the US has dropped. Right now, they are giving everyone who dies a Covid-19 lab test. If people die from heart disease, but were asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19, their deaths are counted toward the total. Same with other viruses and illnesses. For example, if I die from a heart attack today, and it is determined that I have Covid-19 in my system at the time of death, my death counts as “complications from coronavirus”, even if I never had any symptoms. Why is the media trying so desperately to get the numbers they need to justify this pandemic response? Is there an alternative motive behind this whole thing? I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but I also don’t trust the MSM due to their history of reporting false news to push their personal agenda. It’s very interesting… Thanks.

    1. Hello Spencer – thanks as always for the thoughtful question.

      I’m not sure everyone who dies gets a COVID test; couldn’t find any cites on that.

      I’m also not sure that any death of a patient who tested positive for COVID is attributed solely to COVID – again couldn’t find any cites on that.

      If you have cites please share.

      The media that I follow is consistently trying to get the data right – and is severely hampered, as are all of us – by the lack of testing, the rapid spread of the disease, inconsistent reporting of results in different countries, and the inconsistent positions of some elected officials and government scientists. Frankly I don’t see this as a main stream media issue as I’ve never bought into the “MSM as false news purveyor” idea.

  3. Thanks for keeping us up to speed on things Joe. For anecdotal evidence about the potential outcome of breaking the quarantine I suggest people look up/Google the Church Choir in Washington that decided to practice despite warnings. It may be an extreme example but it reflects the potential risks we are facing by our daily choices..

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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