More COVID-19 Perspective

The United States is at week 9.5 of COVID-19, since the first reported US case. As of 3/28/2020, there are 116,057 cases.

At the same point in the current flu season there had been approximately 130,000 hospitalizations. The vast majority of flu cases do not require hospitalization. So serious flu cases exceed total (known) COVID-19.

That suggests a couple of things. Either COVID-19 is far less infectious than the flu, or it’s far less serious.

The fact is, unless we do widespread COVID-19 testing of the general population we have no idea how widespread it. The vast majority of known cases are mild to moderate; many people never show symptoms at all. In the case of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, we have a possible model.

  • Population: 3,711
  • Tests: 3,068
  • COVID-19 positive: 634 (17.1%)
  • No symptoms: 328 of the 634 (51.7%)
  • Deaths: 7

If that is a good model for the general population, and our 116,057 known cases represent 48.3% of actual infections, then there may really be 240,284 cases out there. So the mortality rate, rather than the seeming 1.67%, is only 0.81%. The rate the Diamond Princess saw was only 1.1%.That suggests COVID-19 is less infectious than the flu. OTOH…

If 17.1& of the population will be infected, then we will reach 56,259,000 cases. Compared to flu’s estimated 38,000,000 – 54,000,000 to date, it may be about as infectious, but much less severe in most cases. Remember: at the same 9.5 week point in each, more flu victims required hospitalizations than we have total COVID-19 victims.

From March 15 through March 21 — one week — the flu killed 1,000 people.

From January 21 to March 28 — 9.5 weeks — COVID-19 nailed 1,988; an average of 209.3 per week.

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