I have recently seen and heard people and news outlets quoting numbers showing that the US now has more diagnosed SARS-COV-2 cases than Italy or China. That is actually, factually, correct, but not necessarily accurate.
I am neither an expert on infectious disease nor an epidemiologist, and everything I say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. These are, of course, my own personal lamentations, not official opinions or by any chance or reason guidelines – please listen to your local authorities and healthcare providers regarding the latest guidelines in your area and turn to your disease control website for more information (CDC in the US, ECDC in Europe).
This is a very serious disease! And it’s hitting us bad since we have no immunity to it and for other reasons (urbanization, globalization, etc.). *PLEASE* listen to your local authorities, practice social isolation, respect the needs of others and take care of yourself, your families and communities, stop the spread and make sure the weaker individuals in our society make it through this.
Help healthcare in flattening the curve so that we don’t get overrun and are able to keep taking care of those who will eventually need it.
Everything below does not take away from what I said above.
As far as I can tell, China only tested people that had a fever, then had CT findings (they used CT for screening, not molecular tests), then tested directly those people that had both. Remember that this was the beginning of the plague and tests were less available and only being developed. The US is testing a lot of people without fever and mild symptoms for other reasons (not at hospitals so much but in the outpatient/drive-in settings), so it’s not surprising that numbers are higher.
The US has five times the population of Italy. If you want to compare raw numbers, you should probably compare the US to the EU. Or, just taking the five first countries in that list (Italy, France, Spain, Germany & The UK), using the ECDC numbers from 3/25, the US has 85,991 cases and these combined five have 219,828 cases.
Raw numbers are meaningless, they look nice on maps but they mostly cause panic and sell papers. Benjamin De’Israeli said before:
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics”
Numbers need to be put in context, but that is hard even for the experts in this evolving situation.
We do know this: our goal needs to be to flatten the curve. The important numbers don’t only include the number of people infected, but the rate of infection, the availability of hospital and ICU beds, the availability of healthy healthcare staff, equipment, PPE, etc.
If we take no precautions, the rate of infection will be so high that healthcare will be overrun and when that happens – we get what happened in Italy. And the only way to do that is by practicing social distancing, limiting our contact with other people and objects to slow down the spread. If your job is not absolutely essential or can be done from home, you should stay home. Call your doctor before driving into an ED or UrgentCare as a lot of facilities now have fantastic options for telemedicine and can help you with initial screening over the phone, FaceTime, video chat, etc. If you’re at risk, you should follow more strict social isolation and precautions.
The CDC has a dedicated website for COVID-19. This should be the best source of information. Most importantly, it has guidelines that update daily and are tailored for different populations. Find it here:
Stay Sane and Healthy! Remember that we’re all in this together.
Image from official CDC web page, accessed 03/27/2020 at 9am. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html
Statistics from ECDC official web page, accessed 03/27/2020 at 9am and are true to 03/25/2020. Source: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases
CDC official COVID-19 web site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
ECDC official COVID-19 web site: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china
McNeil Jr., Donald G. “The U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Coronavirus Cases”. The New York Times. March 26, 2020. Accessed 03/27/2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/health/usa-coronavirus-cases.html