Compared to What?

Johns Hopkins University has a site up that is tracking the spread of the Wuhan virus pandemic. Some of the data are very detailed. For example, county by county confirmed case and death numbers for the U. S., and the data is well presented.

One page I found interesting shows the cumulative case and death rates for the ten hardest hit countries. These graphs are of five day moving averages. Note that all of curves in both graphs (except for China’s, but they’re lying about their data) seem to be converging into a single, but broad, band. Some countries are doing better than others, but cases seem to be settling down at about 100 to 300 per 100,000 and deaths around 3 to 30 per 100,000.

The data show that America’s performance versus the virus is about average. They also show that countries that did not take proper public heath precautions (Iran, Italy, Spain, Belgium) have seen the most rapid onset of the disease, but that taking proper measures does begin to arrest the spread and perhaps constrain the total cases and deaths to within only about 3 to 10 times what could have been achieved with earlier prevention. That’s a lot of unnecessary illnesses and deaths, but not as bad as it could have been.

So it appears that we got enough ahead of the Wuhan virus pandemic to prevent it from becoming a public health disaster on the order of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. That’s good. Now, we need to act wisely and prevent those public health measures from provoking an economic and social decline on the order of the 1930’s Depression.