A good question I saw and responded to is “Hardly anyone is sick, and hardly anyone has died. Why is everyone all panicky about CV19? What’s missing?”
TLDR: It spreads exponentially, and while you have no symptoms. Listen to the experts if you don’t understand. Don’t be a party to manslaughter.
NARRATIVE: The missing part is that it’s an exponential spread. It’s like the old puzzle, there’s one lily pad on a pond, and every day, each lily pad becomes two. It takes 30 days to cover the pond. When is the pond half covered? 29 days.
Today, the absolute numbers look very mild right now, and that’s what we like. We want them to stay mild, but any action we take will not have an effect for 12 days. Also, number reporting lags by 1 day. 13 days before the end looks like just any other day in paradise. We’re not doubling every day. We’re doubling every 2.2 days.
For the US, we are 10 days from overloading hospital capacity, and 14 days from overloading even reserve, crappy capacity. When we overload the hospital capacity, the death rate quadruples. That’s why it became such a panic.
Luckily, the declaration of pandemic was on the 11th, which just started to show up in the numbers yesterday. We’ll know by late Thursday if the declaration of national emergency made an impact. The goal is to keep the number of people in the hospital below the threshold where a lot of extra people die. Right now, that looks so far off, but if we didn’t drastically slow the spread, that would start to look grim for the worst survivable cases around April 5, and by April 15 would be just letting the really sick asphyxiate. I say “didn’t” rather than “don’t” because the time to take action has already passed.
It’s easy to ignore when 85% of the people infected simply are not counted, and when only 10% of the counted people are at risk of dying from a hospital overload. However, that amounts to 2-5 million people in the US potentially dying from this. With that many, chances are one of them would be a close friend or family member. If it happens to you, then you would definitely care, and you would not care that it was because a bunch of people didn’t understand exponential math.
The panic is because a bunch of us care even when it’s not someone close to us, or we can see that it could happen to us. There are a lot of asymptomatic carriers, spreading the disease. So “I feel fine, I don’t need to quarantine” has already lead to deaths, and will lead to many more deaths.
It wouldn’t be God’s Will, or bad luck. It would be a willful choice of people to ignore the experts because the non-experts didn’t understand, and therefore decided the experts were not actually experts. Reckless action leading to the death of others is called manslaughter, and negligent action leading to death is called negligent homicide. Purposefully infecting someone would be called murder.
Lag times per Feb 7 study in JAMA from Wang et al:
Median time from first symptom to dyspnea was 5.0 days
to hospital admission was 7.0 days
to acute respiratory distress syndrome was 8.0 days.
For survivors, the median hospital stay was 10 days.
Lag times per Jan 22 report by China National health:
Median days from first symptom to death were 14 (range 6-41)
70 year old or above (11.5 [range 6-19] days)
below 70 year old (20 [range 10-41] days.
The average is 12 days to show up in the stats, and 20 days start to finish, so that’s what most stats focus on. Policy changes consistently take 12 days to show up in the stats. I’m not sure where that first started, but you can look at the raw numbers and see it. It is self evident.