Some statistics about the possible growth of virus cases

If you want to see how the number coronavirus is growing in various countries, researchers at Johns Hopkins provide the data. Kevin Drum has used this data to create graphs of the growth of cases for some western countries. All of them show an initial exponential growth that then flattens out into linear, but still steep, growth.

He has also prepared a graph (graphs and charts are kind of his thing) to see what we can learn about where the numbers affected by the virus is headed in the US based on the experience of other countries. He says that the US is closely tracking the growth of cases in Italy except that we are about nine days behind which means that if the pattern holds, in nine days we will be where Italy is today. As of yesterday, Italy has had 35,713 cases. Police in the country have also charged 40,000 people for violating the national lockdown rules, including two priests for officiating at funerals which have been banned.

He says that if the current pattern holds up, it is not good news.

I’m trying to do my best to show the trend we’re on so that we have a better idea of where we’re going to end up. That should help us plan for the most likely case. But if this scares you, that’s a bonus: you should be scared.

Let me say that again: you should be scared, and the growth rate in my charts should help you get there. We have 4,000 confirmed cases right now. If this doubles ever 5.5 days, we’ll have gone through 13 doublings by June 1. That’s about 32 million cases and it’s only ten weeks away. Do you think that in ten weeks we can seriously reduce the doubling rate? I don’t. Do you think our hospital system is anywhere close to being able to handle millions of cases? Do you think maybe we should create a crash program to build more hospital capacity? I do. And by crash, I mean (a) starting now, (b) funded with infinite dollars, and (c) construction running 24/7.

Epidemiologists and modelers are aware of this danger and this is what the calls for ‘flattening the curve’ by social distancing are trying to achieve, to make the doubling rate much slower and to shift the growth to a more manageable linear rate with a shallower slope so that the medical resources can cope. This has to be done while the rate of growth is still low, which is why people should not ignore these recommendations just because nothing dire seems to be happening in their vicinity.

On a positive note, China’s Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is and was the epicenter of the first major outbreak that killed thousands, yesterday reported no new cases at all while China as a whole reported just 34 cases, all of them being travelers who had returned from abroad. There were no cases of domestic transmission. If the Chinese government is to be believed, the growth can be slowed and stopped.

Kevin Bacon adds his own to the chorus of voices on how to slow down the growth by staying home, because if anyone is aware of how we are all interconnected, it is Bacon.


  1. says

    But that’s predicated on China telling the truth. Before the silence there were rumours of outbreaks in China’s prisons, and poor control within the country. In February, a released prison inmate who was infected left for Beijing and mingled with the populace. Who knows how many she infected?

    Unverifiable independent news says North Korea is hoarding food and resources for the privileged, leaving the majority to fend for themselves. Starvation is now as great a threat to the average North Korean as the virus.

  2. Trickster Goddess says

    This website has live stats on Corvid-19 cases worldwide.

    So far today, Italy has added more than 5,300 new cases bringing the total to over 41,000 with 3,400 deaths, 400 of which happened today.

  3. Who Cares says

    If the Chinese are telling the truth then their approach will still not work world wide.
    To many countries cannot get that total lock down needed to do so. And more don’t want to since it’ll damage the economy so they end up dragging their heels until it is too late.

    So I expect that before they manage to develop a vaccine we’ll hit the threshold (around 60%) above which herd immunity kicks in (that is someone having the virus only capable of infecting on average less then 1 other person). At which point there will be about 100 million dead people.

  4. lorn says

    I would spend less time building new hospitals and more time getting those things that make hospitals special, oxygen, respirators, trained personnel into existing buildings.

    We could start with the numerous and huge, but empty or barely occupied, malls. Most metropolitan areas have 20-30% of available office space unoccupied. Any physical modifications need to be quick and dirty. Cloth screens between beds, oxygen lines strung across ceilings. The good news is most of that commercial space in recently built and has fire sprinklers.

    Use the available, untrained, and now unemployed, population. Train each person on just one to three, depending on how fast they learn, tasks. If you have one for sweep and mop. and another for bedpans and changing sheets, and another for two for patient ‘transfers’ (moving from wheelchair to bed, etc) you might be able to free up trained people. Teach one to reliably and accurately take pulse, temperature, and blood pressure and how to document it in the chart. Think of it as an assembly line. Simple jobs done repetitively to keep people alive.

    For critical cases part-out the process. If there is no respirator you get people to reliably and steadily use an Ambu bag. If you need to change to another person in fifteen minutes so be it. We have a lot of people.

    Get teams sewing masks and gowns. Install hand wash stations along the makeshift wards. great if they get plumbed in but we have people who can haul water, both ways, if there isn’t time. Pretty much everything you see in a modern ICU can be approximated with raw manpower.

    Focus on getting the majority of the trained professionals into the vicinity of the most critical cases. Sprinkle well trained professionals around to supervise less critical cases.

    For the vast majority of cases it is going to be all about hygiene and monitoring. Keeping people fed and hydrated. Clean sheets and checking oxygen saturation levels. For most cases you really don’t even need an IV unless they start getting dehydrated. This is going to be, for perhaps 70% of those sick enough to be in a medical setting, medicine right out of WW1. And it stays at that way until they get worse. As I understand it almost half sick enough to be there get better with support, monitoring, nutrition, clean sheets and sleep.

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