Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, estimates that “between 100,000 and 200,000” deaths may result from COVID-19 in the U.S.
Fauci, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom under President George W. Bush, who has served under every administration since Ronald Reagan, and is now the nation’s most publicly quoted expert on immunology, should not be ignored.
Yet I still see online, signs of denial. “How do you know?” “What’s the actual mortality rate?” “There’s still a lot of testing not done.” “What about people who get Coronvirus and have no symptoms.”
The answers are already there in the numbers. As for what hasn’t been measured: That’s right, we don’t know, but it’s really not important yet. That’s because we are still fighting to get the community spread of this dangerous virus under 1.0, the point where one infected person doesn’t infect more than themselves and the growth rate of the disease begins to reverse itself.
I’ve been tracking the case counts of COVID-19 since it broke out of China into the U.S. Dr. Fauci’s numbers track perfectly with what we see on the John’s Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
“But H1N1 Swine Flu was much worse,” is another head-in-the-sand deflection.
No, it wasn’t, and it isn’t. COVID-19 is not the same as Swine Flu, and in fact it’s not an influenza at all. It has similar symptoms, but it’s not flu. From Johns Hopkins:
Influenza (the flu) and COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, are both infectious respiratory illnesses. Although the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can look similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses.
COVID-19 is also more virulent, as in easier to spread, than both seasonal flu or H1N1:
While both the flu and COVID-19 may be transmitted in similar ways (see the Similarities section above), there is also a possible difference: COVID-19 might be spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.
This is bourne out by the exponential growth rates we’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad until strict social distancing and quarantines are in place.
COVID-19 is also much deadlier than seasonal influenza or H1N1, or even the 1918 Spanish Flu that ravaged the world. Based on the numbers we know now (even if every single unresolved case recovers):
- Seasonal flu worldwide mortality: .06%
- COVID-19 worldwide mortality to date: 4.6%
- 1918 Spanish Flu (500 million cases, 50 million deaths) worldwide mortality rate: 10%, in the U.S.: 2%
- COVID-19 U.S. mortality rate to date: 1.75%
With full countermeasures, we can expect 4 to 9 million Coronavirus cases in the next six months: that’s 70,000 to 157,500 deaths at the current mortality rate. But Fauci’s model also takes communities into account–in places like New York City, where a massive number of cases can overwhelm the health system, the mortality rate will far exceed 1.75%.
Why? Because that number is based on having ventilators, ICU beds, and first responders for every acute case that would otherwise result in death. With between 25 and 40% of U.S. cases in the NYC Tri-State area, we may be looking at closer to the global rate of 4.6%: that’s 18,400 deaths in that 304 square mile area alone.
Italy now has 97,689 cases (as of this writing) and 10,779 deaths, an 11% mortality rate. If New York matched this, we’re looking at 40-50,000 dead.
This is a catastrophe.
Even outside New York, there will be pockets of overwhelming infections. There will also be large areas of the U.S. that make it through relatively unscathed: if countermeasures are kept in place.
This means if you’re one of the people in denial, constantly looking for reasons why we’re confined to our homes, not able to go to the park, or the beach, or to the dentist, you have your answers. I can’t do any more than the numbers we have already seen to convince you.
If you don’t listen to me, listen to Dr. Fauci. If you don’t listen to Dr. Fauci, listen to President Trump (who listens to Dr. Fauci).
As Trump says, some places in the U.S. might be able to slightly loosen restrictions sooner than others–probably not by Easter but not far off, if we believe what we’re being told now and exercise maximum discipline.
If we fall into denial, and start flouting the restrictions (like some pastors have done with their churches), then our communities will break out in clusters, overwhelm the local health systems, and begin reporting deaths. We don’t need massive testing results to see what the math is showing us. We have all the numbers we need right now.
We do need massive testing. We will need this in order to be able to relax some restrictions. We will need this when we start opening the economy. Not now, not with you and your family right now though: what we need is for you to take this seriously.
I’m not one for anecdotes versus hard numbers, but maybe this is what it will take for you. It doesn’t matter where you live, or what you do for a living. There will be thousands of stories like this. Don’t let one of them be yours.