From: Iowan in MD/DC
We've tossed around the seasonal flu numbers, usually focusing on around 40k.
The University of Washington came out with an estimate of 80k coronavirus deaths a few days ago.
On Sunday, Dr. Fauci offered a qualified 100k to 200k, noting that there are higher and lower estimates and that he's never seen a case where higher estimates come true. Of course, the press ran with that, AP offering headlines of "200k", followed by quite a few other outlets. Only a couple included the Doctor's qualifying comments. The press is absolutely terrible. Giving a smidgeon of truth but never the whole truth and in the process thereby offering a majestic distortion that bears no resemblance to the truth. General Sherman was absolutely right about the press.
Meantime, a world (and some forumites) are rattled by estimates that are considerably dampened compared to the apocalyptic numbers that were being floated two and three weeks ago.
And looking at the raw date, its still difficult to see how we get from where we are to anything like 100k to 200k mortality in the USA or any of the massive numbers once proposed worldwide.
Today, 264 deaths in the USA. Yesterday it was 501. We are most certainly not in the declining state. We are in the increasing stage. But mortality numbers are not going through the roof. Active cases are, but that appears to be more as a result of big increases in testing. The outbreak is mature enough in the US that we should be seeing huge numbers of death and massive increases each day.
How do we get from 264 or 500 to 200k when even the pessimistic folks are predicting a peak "in the second week of April"?
What's going on? What am I missing?
[CDC website says ~34.2K for 2018-19 seasonal flu death toll. An April 2019 UMN.edu page had it at 34K-52K.]
Because it's exponential (I know you know this, but it's really hard to internalize what exactly that means). We (as a country) haven't even reached the peak of the deaths curve yet, and roughly 2/3 of the area under the curve (the total number of deaths, in other words; also this is basically calculus, class) falls within 1 standard deviation of the midpoint on a standard bell curve.
I wouldn't be shocked if we hit 200K over perhaps a year or so, but honestly I don't think this is really "real" yet for much of the country. I think for many folks and many areas, it's still only half real. Given Fauci's update today, I think it's realistic to expect somewhere in the range of 100-150K over the next 3-6 months, and that's with our social shutdown. If we ease up on that, the number of deaths rises dramatically.
An analogy I read the other week for thinking about the exponential rate and how our brains work follows, but the example was for doubling every day rather than doubling every 3rd day. It still holds, it's just a bit slower. Imagine you have a pond and the amount of the surface covered by the algae doubles every day. Aroundabouts the time the algae covers half, or perhaps only 1/4, of the pond, you decide that the problem is serious enough that you've got to act on it. But then the next day, the algae completely covers the pond. (The pond in this example would be analogous to our peak deaths per day).
Basically, we're still on the ramp up to the peak even just on the number of cases (with deaths lagging perhaps 2 weeks or more behind?), just in NYC and the other cities with large numbers of cases now. Nevermind other parts of the country that are only just "getting started" on their number of cases.
We could really use more testing, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.