The US death rate is approximately 900 per 100,000 people. Thus, for a medium sized city of a million there are on average 25 deaths per day. Not all of these deaths will be preceded by hospital care of course but that gives an idea for the scale of the case load of the health care system. The doubling time for the number of cases of Covid-19 is about 5 days. At this moment, the US has over 25 thousand cases with 193 cases in Maryland, where I live, and over 11 thousand in New York. If the growth rate is unabated then in 5 days there will be almost 400 cases in Maryland and over 50 thousand in the US. The case-fatality rate for Covid-19 is still not fully known but let’s suppose it is 1% and let’s say 5% of those infected need hospital care. This means that 5 days from now there will be an extra 20 patients in Maryland and 2500 patients in the US. New York will be have an extra thousand patients. Many of these patients will need ventilators and most hospitals only have a few. It is easy to see that it will not take too long until every ventilator in the state and US will be in use. Also, with the shortage of protective gear, some of the hospital staff will contract the virus and add to the problem. As conditions in hospitals deteriorate, the virus will spread to non-covid-19 patients. This is where northern Italy is now and the US is about 10 days behind them. This is the scenario that has been presented to the policy makers and they have chosen to take what may seem like extreme social distancing measures now. We may not be able to stop this virus but if we can slow the doubling time, which is related to how many people are infected by a person with the virus, then we can give the health care system a chance to catch up.
One thought on “How many Covid-19 cases are too many ?”
There are numerous sites ranging from NYT’s to AAAS which are collecting this data and predictions; you may have seen these but here are 2 more https://necsi.edu (first link) and https://infomullet.com . they seem to have similar data and projections as above.
(i’m impressed at how fast these people can get and do data analyses, and write a paper –but some of us are pedestrians so fast cars bypass us.)
I hear reports on the radio that china has already ‘contained it’, and there are different reports about Taiwan, Russia, India, and north korea (and i have no way to judge their veracity any more than i have to judge the math models or data they are based on–except they appear to be mostly ‘common sense’ (SIR model or variants). Some areas have almost no data because they don’t have test kits. In this area we are told if you suspect you may have it , unless you are really ill, don’t go to a hospital for a test–just self-quarantine. I’ve had some sort of flue since september (which is not unusual for me–happens every year) so i just self-quarantine (which includes going into fairly isolated areas of local parks where i see either no people or a few who are fairly far away –eg 1/8th of a mile—and who do not see me.)
UK i heard decided to try to develop ‘herd immunity’ (eg close schools) rather than quarantine—but they may have changed that policy. (I heard scotland has closed schools.)
Radio also has a fair number of ‘conspiracy theories’ on it. (These vary from saying it was engineered by USA, Russia, or China, for all sorts of different reasons, or its ‘fake news’ being used to take US economy (or China’s ) into a depression. I tend to accept as ‘most probable’ the conventional view that this is just due to human-animal interactions. )
(It was interesting that since i couldn’t sleep I heard Francis Collins of NIH on ‘Focus on the Family’ (FoF) radio show last night—he even led a long prayer asking us to trust jesus to get us through the coronavirus crisis , and he discussed with the FoF people whether there is any conflict between science and religion (specifically fundamentalist protestant religion) . Both he and the FoF people said there was none.
(My impression is there may be when it comes to issues like abortion, sexual orientation, theory of evolution, and more. If you switch the radio dial, you get a catholic radio station, whcih agrees with FoF on most issues except for their version of christianity. switch a couple more and you will get Sputnik radio (russia today) and WOL-am (‘black talk radio’) and they have their own views–good sources for the conspiracy theories.)
since i can’t do the biological science, i just follow the social or media ecology. e.g. https;//arxiv.org/abs/2003.00923 (many papers like that). .