Today’s thoughts about COVID-19

There are now more than a million confirmed cases of infection by the virus that causes COVID-19. Worldwide, the mortality rate is 5.3%. Of course, there’s plenty or reason to believe that it’s less fatal, and that 5.3% ignores the many people around the world who likely have been infected but have not been confirmed (either because of false negative results or because of lack of testing). I spent some time crunching numbers this morning. Not because I think there’s anything that I can learn that others don’t know already, but because it keeps my mind from wandering and I like crunching numbers. In the same way, I’m sharing this number crunching here, not because I think anybody should read it, or take it as some real source of information, but because this site has been a faithful outlet for me to put my thoughts on paper. So here’s what I found.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on some of the death projections and where we stand. The President is now claiming that 100,000 dead will mean we did an “excellent job,” which makes me yell “fuck you” at my television (or iPad or laptop screen, wherever I might be watching when I hear that garbage). At this point, I’m not sure what to make of the numbers that we have, and I think it’s fair to be suspicious, but the numbers are all I have. For this exercise, I used the numbers from the now-famous website hosted by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (Johns Hopkins University).

I looked at the number of cases per country, and calculated the current mortality rates, current recovery rates, and the rate of cases that do not yet have a known outcome. Not surprisingly, countries like South Korea, where there were early infections, and stringent measures to track and to contain the infections, have a high rate of cases with a known outcome. Specifically, of the 10,062 confirmed cases, 1.7% have died, 59.8 have recovered, and only 38.4% remain with an unknown outcome (conversely, 61.6% of the cases have a known outcome). As I’ve said before, there might be some obvious error that a first year epidemiology graduate student would see, but it seems reasonable to believe that countries with more known outcomes (meaning more people that have reached the end of the infection, one way or another) are closer to the end than those with fewer known outcomes. The United States is one of those with fewer known outcomes. Of our 257,773 cases reported (as of today), we have a 2.6% mortality rate which is lower than the global numbers, but we also only have a 3.6% recovery rate, which is considerably lower than the current global total of 21%. Indeed, 93.8% of our active cases do not have a known ending, suggesting that we’re just at the beginning. The hope, of course, is that most of the active cases will build the rate of recovered cases, but it’s frightening to have such a large percentage with unknown endings.

I have no idea how this site will handle a table (especially in a mobile view), but here’s the table, only showing the top-20 countries (based on number of confirmed cases).

Total confirmed Total Deaths Total Recovered Mortality rate Recovery Rate Active cases % with known outcome
United States 257773 6586 9311 2.6% 3.6% 93.8% 6.2%
Spain 117710 10935 30513 9.3% 25.9% 64.8% 35.2%
Italy 115242 13915 18278 12.1% 15.9% 72.1% 27.9%
Germany 89451 1208 24575 1.4% 27.5% 71.2% 28.8%
China 82509 3326 76760 4.0% 93.0% 2.9% 97.1%
France 59942 5398 12548 9.0% 20.9% 70.1% 29.9%
Iran 53183 3294 17935 6.2% 33.7% 60.1% 39.9%
United Kingdom 38688 3611 205 9.3% 0.5% 90.1% 9.9%
Switzerland 19303 573 4846 3.0% 25.1% 71.9% 28.1%
Turkey 18135 356 415 2.0% 2.3% 95.7% 4.3%
Belgium 16770 1143 2872 6.8% 17.1% 76.1% 23.9%
Netherlands 15819 1490 260 9.4% 1.6% 88.9% 11.1%
Canada 11746 153 2163 1.3% 18.4% 80.3% 19.7%
Austria 11444 168 2022 1.5% 17.7% 80.9% 19.1%
South Korea 10062 174 6021 1.7% 59.8% 38.4% 61.6%
Portugal 9886 246 68 2.5% 0.7% 96.8% 3.2%
Brazil 8195 335 127 4.1% 1.5% 94.4% 5.6%
Israel 7030 39 338 0.6% 4.8% 94.6% 5.4%
Sweden 6131 358 205 5.8% 3.3% 90.8% 9.2%
Australia 5330 28 649 0.5% 12.2% 87.3% 12.7%
Worldwide 1056777 55781 221595 5.3% 21.0% 73.8% 26.2%

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