Perspective: The Number We Should Be Watching

Commentary

The daily uptick of confirmed coronavirus cases is scary, and yet, in the very real sense, they almost don’t matter at this point. We have to assume every human being will at some point breath in this nasty coronavirus. The good news is that most people won’t even notice, the better news is that no matter how many confirmed cases there are, the real number worth watching is the mortality rate. It’s the only number that matters.

Most people who get it won’t know, many who get it and feel sickly will recover, and people with weak immune systems will suffer the most. Par for the course when it comes to influenza.

This virus is a wimp as it goes. It shares 75% of its genetic structure with SARS, but has far less potency, even though it does have the ability to ‘hang around’ for a long time in a host. It just doesn’t do anything unless the immune system is so challenged that even a wimpy virus can’t resist the temptation to make itself at home. It’s like an annoying in-law who shows up one day and decides to stay, but because you might be too weak to challenge him, he stays until all of your food is gone. The analogy might be silly, but COVID19, considering the reaction, is not as scary as it appears to be if you watch the numbers and apply context to the wave theory of how it is spreading.

Consider for a moment the Wave theory.

Based on several reports, it appears COVID-19 showed up in early December. December 1st, 2019, is when first cases were reported, and this is the first wave of people infected and then spread it to others.

By December a few doctors in Wuhan began noticing patients with COVID-19 symptoms, only they didn’t know until a few weeks later that it was aggressive and spreads easily. It also lingers for up to 3 weeks before becoming symptomatic. What started out as 11 cases became 30, then 300. The first “wave” of superspreaders (who didn’t even know they were sick) were busy infecting others who would get sick because of the sheer numbers of people being exposed.

Every 3 weeks is a ‘wave” and by the 2nd wave, which would have been around December 21st, more people were getting sick in Wuhan proper but the CCP was busy denying the problem, which allowed the virus to spread very quickly in a city of 11 million people and in an area three times larger than Los Angeles. But, because so few people were showing sickness between December 1 and December 21, the first wavers (people who were asymptomatic at this point), were busy getting on planes and traveling to places like Iran, Italy and South Korea, not to mention other large cities in China.

Then the explosion came in Wuhan by the beginning of the 3rd wave, around January 17th, 2020. That’s when the exponential death curve kicked in. First-wave and second-wave carriers had infiltrated Hubei and the hospitals became overwhelmed, but still to come, the third wavers (people who were contaminated between January 17 to Feb 01) were also showing signs of critical illness.

And it wasn’t until January 20 when China announces the virus.

December 1, 2019 – 1st Wave (a few hundred falling sick)

December 22, 2019 – 2nd Wave (3,000 sick, dozens dead in Hubei, thousands of super-spreaders leave Hubei)

January 2, 2020 – 3rd Wave (signs of contagion in South Korea, Japan, Iran)

January 17, 2020 – 4th Wave (major explosion, lockdown in Hubei, Trump ends all Chinese flights into to U.S.)

February 1, 2020 – 5th Wave (Iran and Italy now seeing exponential confirmed cases, some deaths)

February 17, 2020 -6th Wave (Europe now seeing initial cases, South Korea a hotzone)

March 01, 2020 7th Wave (italy and Iran now hot zones)

March 16, 2020 – 8th Wave (confirmed cases grow from 400 to 3,000 in the U.S. but deaths under 100)

DAILY DEATH RATES BY COUNTRY

(SOURCE: CDC AND WHO)

The reason we see saw a huge uptick in Iran, Italy and South Korea was directly tied to people who were the first to be contaminated and theN spread in these countries where there is a huge inflow and outflow from China. These three countries had the most 1st and 2nd wavers, in essence super-spreaders who simply overwhelmed the system.

In America, the death count matters not the cases.

The communal spread is coming mostly from later 3rd generation or 4th generation people who have the virus and don’t know. It’s just like a germ and it goes from host to host until it finds lodgment (a place to hang around), and – if the conditions are right, takeS over the host until the host or virus dies.

And since most of us in America are now aware of this wimpy, opportunistic bug, social distancing, good hygiene and a temporary recession from “being normal consumers,” will abate coronavirus spread until the northern hemispheres are warmer and more humid, which, according to a recent study published by the NIHC (National Institute of Health of China), seems to hold just as warm weather was bad for its half relative SARS.

The death count is what you watch. The number of cases is an eventuality, but the mortality rate, if it stays under 2% (and it will as the confirmed cases grow, but deaths do not exponentially follow), then we will have dodged a bullet.

Thus far, and despite coronavirus being in the U.S. since late January, no exponential growth has occurred in the number of U.S. deaths.

Europe and the U.S. probably got exposed at about the same time, but unlike the U.S. which stopped flights from China on January 21, Europe did not, allowing super-spreaders to infiltrate, mostly nationals returning home and who had traveled abroad to places like Italy, China, Japan, South Korea and other early hot zones. The same thing happened in the U.S., but in far less numbers.

For context, even though there are now almost 4,000 confirmed case in the U.S. is (as of 3/16/20), 70 have died, and 12 people right now are considered serious. Relatively low compared to Italy or Iran, and as we are seeing in Germany and Switzerland.

To be continued, but be hopeful and watch the mortality rates, confirmed cases is not red flag, how sick people are getting is, and so far, the numbers are reassuring. 

Worst case scenario predictors say 1 million people could die in the U.S with COVID-19. This would be roughly 3 thousand people a day for 18 months. 

In China there have been thus far only 5 days where more than 3,000 deaths reported, and this was the epicenter, a place where 90% of male adults smoke, 11 million people in an area the size of Los Angeles and San Diego with air quality issues to boot, and a medical system that was not prepared to deal with a crisis that was being swept under the rug while it festered. Factoring in all of these circumstances the U.S. is clearly in a much better and robust position to “smooth out the curve.”

More context. It took three weeks between the first 259 deaths were reported until the big day on February 12 where 14,000 deaths were reported. In the U.S. it is now 17 days since the very first death was reported, and the most deaths we have ever had was 11 deaths in one day (March 14); a very far cry from 14,000 that occurred in Hubei around the same time

If we follow CDC guidelines, we can beat this thing, and that’s the point. We can’t look at confirmed cases online, the real tell-tale sign of our containment efforts will be a lower mortality rate, period.

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