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.
Hey everybody, now it’s so important to STAY HOME and keep our distance from others. Join me and post a video or photo with a sign like this, with #IStayHomeFor, telling who you are staying home for, & tag 6 friends. Let's work together to stay home and keep each other safe. pic.twitter.com/ybv63bE42t
— Kevin Bacon (@kevinbacon) March 18, 2020