COVID-19: Elephant Sighting

As far as this engineer can tell, here’s about all you need to know about the COVID-19 pandemic:

Total Deaths = Total Cases recorded two weeks earlier

This also works forward in time: given the total number of cases “today”, I (and you) can predict the total number of deaths in two weeks, give or take a few days.

Run the numbers for Italy, because it has a relatively long timeline and trustworthy data:

  • 2020-03-01: 1694 cases → 2020-03-15: 1809 deaths
  • 2020-03-02: 2036 cases → 2020-03-16: 2158 deaths
  • 2020-03-03: 2502 cases → 2020-03-17: 2503 deaths

As the numbers become difficult to comprehend, the time difference slows to 16 days instead of 14:

  • 2020-03-06: 4636 cases → 2020-03-22: 4825 deaths
  • 2020-03-07: 5883 cases → 2020-03-23: 6077 deaths

On 2020-03-23, Italy had 63,927 confirmed cases. Prediction: Easter will not be celebrated in the usual manner.

Consider the data for the US, also in March 2020:

  • 2020-03-05: 175 cases → 2020-03-19: 174 deaths
  • 2020-03-06: 252 cases → 2020-03-20: 229 deaths
  • 2020-03-07: 353 cases → 2020-03-21: 292 deaths

Pop quiz: Given that the US has 32,761 total cases as of today (2020-03-22), estimate the total deaths in two weeks.

New York State will have similar statistics, although it’s too soon to draw conclusions from today’s 20,875 confirmed cases.

In addition to the Wikipedia articles linked above, you may find these sites useful:

Exhaustive tracking and mapping from Johns Hopkins (the GUID gets to reach the JHU data):

Comprehensive COVID-19 tracking, with logarithmic graph scales:

More raw data:

CDC National cases, with a per-day graph down the page:

New York State COVID-19 info:

Perhaps more useful for me than you, but the Dutchess County information:

The current recommendation: remain home unless and until you develop COVID-19 symptoms requiring urgent medical attention. Should that happen to me, I fully expect there will be no medical attention to be found and, certainly, all available medical equipment will be oversubscribed.

Speaking strictly as an Olde Farte looking at the data, the future looks downright grim.

On the upside, it’s amazing how little an order to remain home changed my daily routine: so many projects, so little time.

Memo to Self: Wash your hands!

13 thoughts on “COVID-19: Elephant Sighting

  1. If the Covid-19 caseload spikes it will exceed the capacity of our healthcare system and there will be a heart-rending triage. We may imagine gruesome scenes — old people laying on blankets in the hospital parking lot, gasping for breath, waiting for the Angel of Death. When resources are scarce, we must save the younger healthier specimens. As someone well past age 70 I fear coming to this end, and yet endorse it.

    1. One thing’s for sure: we’ll run out of medical facilities long before we run out of patients. So, given the slope of the curve, if we need acute care and aren’t getting it right now, we likely never will.

  2. I hope the model doesn’t hold. Varying test rates will make it harder to apply. (Los Angeles ran out of kits, and I think Italy is no longer testing…)

    Aesop at has a similar, unexpurgated take on the situation. He’s an ER nurse in Southern California, and it doesn’t look good. (He’s blogged a lot on epidemics, including the Ebola near-miss). He thinks that special facilities will be set up for CV-19 patients, like the 2000 bed one at the Jacob Javits Center. People will recover (or not [wince]) with what they can do, but it can’t be ICU grade care.

    Oregon’s closure order hits big recreation/sports facilities, so those could be used similarly. Locally, despite 1-2 official cases (reporting is lagging more and more), the sole hospital in the county is gearing up for a major onslaught. We already got a big hit with flu. The “patient has flu symptoms but tests negative for Flu-A and Flu-B” seems to be more common. CDC tracks this as Influenza Like Illness. I’m not happy with the results. Only 20-30% of the people reporting such actually have Flu-[AB]. Hmm. Julie calls it “the headcold from hell”. Starts like a cold, then clobbers the lungs, then back to a cold.I’m getting better, but still hacking 9 days after the fever broke. Julie is a week behind me, just barely starting to sleep through the night.

    Triage centers seem to be getting built. Our local hospital put up two tents “to expand the ER”. I suspect triage will happen there. There’s a sports/recreation pavilion a couple miles from the hospital…

    Julie’s not up to sewing, but the home-brew surgical masks seem interesting. I have a few surgicals and close to a hundred just plain dust masks. If I cough in public, I want to be wearing a mask.

    Take care.

    1. Italy is much further along than we are, by any measure. Their cases are now increasing by only 8% day-to-day, so the total doubles every nine days.

      I was unwilling to work out the time delay as a function of the rate, but “increasing hospital capacity” is a linear non-solution to an exponential problem. When you double the number of beds / cots / pallets / square feet now, it’ll be full in a matter of days as the number of cases doubles. Obviously, you can’t continue to double capacity forever.

      Stay out of the biomass …

      1. increasing hospital capacity

        Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have implied that they are actually going to be “hospitals”. I suspect they’ll be downstream of the triage centers and will get the people who either a) will be rather sick but will survive with a bit of semiskilled care, and c) the people who aren’t going to make it anyway. (Italy has reported to put patients over 60 in the no-intervention group.) Those in group (b) will get the critical care until that runs out. If groups a & c overfill the overflow, it’s home time, I suspect.

        I’ve seen pictures of the first couple of overflow facilities from several weeks ago. Picture a lot of beds, and no equipment.

        I go back to the Diamond Princess “petri dish”, where in the population, generally older, 17% got the virus, and of those, about half were asymptomatic. Whatsupwiththat had an article on that a while ago (link if I can find it: waiting, OK, here:

        That gives me hope. (WUWT has a new article on Italy. Starting to read it, but it’s getting late for me.)

        In the wow! category, the Nevada governor just did an emergency order banning the use of antimalarial drugs for coronavirus patients, because reasons. I have relatives over there, and that won’t make them any happier. (Niece is pregnant and trying to isolate as much as possible.) The Oregon governor exceeded expectations and did a sensible closure order, basically non-critical businesses that involve crowding people together. (Restaurants already at takeout/delivery.) No dance sessions for you! State parks are closed after weekend crowding. Sigh.

        1. Doubling your hospital capacity buys you three extra days. It’s not clear to me how much nursing home capacity can be partially converted, but they can at least administer oxygen for the borderline cases.

          Italy has a 24 or 28 percent smoking rate, depending on the source (UN vs CDC) while the US is down to either 18 or 15 percent. Greece (at 42%) is followed by Germany at 30% as the highest two in Western Europe. Could make a difference? I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

    2. Since taking some action makes me feel better than not, I ordered the following from Amazon:

      Professional Nail Dryer 72W – SUN 5 Pro Best UV LED Nail Lamp for Fingernail & Toenail Gel Based Polishes

      with the idea that it may (who knows?) be used to sterilize a surgical mask after use so it can be reused. Is it the right wavelength or intensity of UV? Beats me, but I always whistle walking past a graveyard, just in case.

  3. From our ham radio email list…
    Here are two of the most educational, intelligent and and
    non-political videos on coronavirus I have seen…

    They explain exactly what is going on, and better yet, WHY…

    You really want to watch both.

    Mike Morris WA6ILQ

    1. Good explanations!

      I had to work through the 1% lilypad coverage, but, yeah, seven days is spot on.

  4. It appears to me that the second video uses a form of Verizon Math suggesting that the number of vents available is just 0.02% of those needed and that 0.02% is equivalent to 1 in 50. Is there something I’m missing? I think that 1 in 50 is correct but that would be 2.0%.

    1. Good catch!

      As far as I can tell, the current shortage is an order of magnitude, which means having no “stockpile” going into the exponential increase next week. In round numbers, 0.02% seems about right: 1:5000 (-ish) in two weeks.

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