Covid-19 trends for the US and UK are not encouraging

I have been keeping tabs on this excellent site that tells you the growth over time of confirmed covid-19 cases in each country. You can pick which countries you want to display using the menu at the bottom right. It is plotted so that the x-axis gives the total cumulative number of cases while the y-axis gives the number of new cases over the previous seven days. (You can also choose to plot deaths.) The graph is log-log so that a straight upward line means the growth of cases is exponential, with the steepness of the slope intercept indicating the doubling time for the number of cases. It is obviously not good to be lying on that straight line or on a line that curves upward. What you want to see is the curve turning down sharply. (You can also choose to have the data displayed on a linear scale but that is not so helpful when one is dealing with a huge variation in numbers country by country.)

What the data shows is that China, South Korea, and Hong Kong are among the countries where the curve turns down sharply. Even Italy, France, and Germany have started to turn down fairly sharply. But in the case of the US and UK, while the graphs have deviated downwards from the straight line, they are still largely flat, meaning that the numbers are increasing rapidly at a fairly steady rate, even if not exponentially. That is not good, especially since there are moves to relax the restrictions on physical distancing.

Someone has started what he calls the Trump Death Clock that keeps steadily ticking up, that estimates the number of deaths due to the delays by Trump in recognizing the danger and taking meaningful steps. It is a very crude measure, though.

The Trump Death Clock provides a bald tally of lives that it claims were needlessly lost to Covid-19 that ticks upwards in real time. At the time of reporting this article, it stood at 39,435 – laying responsibility for almost 40,000 American lives at the White House door.

The figure is in turn based upon the authoritative running tally of total deaths from Covid-19 compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. From its daily read-out of coronavirus fatalities, Jarecki’s team has created the Trump Death Clock through a simple mathematical calculation of 60% of total deaths from the disease in the US.

The 60% ratio used in the death clock was drawn from a study by two prominent epidemiologists, Britta Jewell of Imperial College, London, and Nicholas Jewell, a professor of biostatistics at UC Berkeley. Writing in the New York Times in April, they posited the theory that if Trump had introduced the White House social distancing guidelines not on 16 March but a week earlier on 9 March, a 60% reduction in the expected final death count could have resulted given the exponential spread of the virus.

There are plans to make a physical clock that keeps ticking upwards and placing it in a very visible public place. [UPDATE: A billboard has gone up in Times Square in New York City.]

Meanwhile Trump continues to flail, one day announcing that he was discontinuing the work of the coronavirus task force to focus on reopening the country and then, following a predictable outcry, saying that he would keep it in place.

Then treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin gets into a Twitter spat with Axl Rose,the frontman for the rock band Guns N’ Roses, that does not go well for him, with Mnuchin’s attacks on the other’s patriotism backfiring.

Honestly, doesn’t Mnuchin have more important things to deal with at a time like this than responding to Twitter attacks by random people? These people are so thin-skinned.


  1. xohjoh2n says

    But in the case of the US and UK, while the graphs have deviated downwards from the straight line, they are still largely flat, meaning that the numbers are increasing rapidly at a fairly steady rate, even if not exponentially.

    Hmm. Whilst I do like that graph because it brings out some meaning that wouldn’t be so obvious from the raw data, I think looking at it alone hides to a certain extent other aspects of the data.

    Here is the UK gov’s own daily updated page (graphs are at the bottom):

    (I’ve been checking both pages most days.) What I take from that is:

    1. There is a very strong weekly pattern to the data: Sunday and Monday figures are consistently low compared to the rest of the week. (This is almost certainly an artifact of how the data is gathered and collated.)
    2. We essentially peaked around about mid-April.
    3. Since then we’ve been seeing an essentially linear decrease in both cases and deaths. If this pattern were to continue then I’d expect us to reach zero in a little over 2 weeks.

    Maintaining the current trend of course requires that we do no worse than we have been so far -- for example by not easing the lockdown just yet. Given announced policy that might be unlikely…

    And of course the ramp up and down there indicate that the lockdown hasn’t been 100% effective. With perfect isolation I think you’d expect the numbers to rumble on for a bit, but then you’d get a precipitous drop: of cases after about 2 weeks, and of deaths after about 3. So clearly we haven’t managed that. Whether that is down to people who simply cannot effectively isolate (essential workers, including healthcare staff, who simply cannot avoid mingling with a part of the population every day; or care home residents who have little choice but be in close daily contact with a larger number of people than most) or a large number of people who are ignoring the lockdown rules, I don’t know.

    But whether you see that kind of trend or the precipitous drop is ultimately the result of a policy decision. Whether you throw everything you have at getting the numbers down like China/SK, or like us you instead try to depress the numbers to manageable levels but try to keep going a certain amount of normal activity. You can take the view that that policy is the wrong policy, and that choosing that policy indicates a failure of leadership, but I don’t think you can say that the current UK numbers indicate a failure of the policy itself, they are exactly what it was intended to achieve. So from the point of view of someone supporting that policy I guess they would say the trend is indeed encouraging. (And from the opposite point of view: at least the current trend is in the right direction, even if it’s not decreasing as fast as you’d like.)

  2. says

    It’s looking really bad. Second wave coming soon. 60,000 gomers went out of state to Georgia to visit restaurants, etc., and will be bringing c-19 back with them.

    If you look at the national and state by state charts they are still going up. That is NOT THE TIME to re-open. Although they are saying 20% of New Yorkers have been exposed, which means that herd immunity effects will push down the growth curves too. Herd immunity starts to kick in around 17% if I am recalling correctly. What Georgia is doing is setting up herd immunity in the jackass population.

    I also saw a report that 90% of the c-19 sufferers who wind up in intensive care are obese, have high blood pressure, or are diabetic (which is interesting since those are all co-morbid). That result is not being reported widely. Why not? Ask Tush Limbaugh and Alex Jones!

  3. bill.schempp says

    Not that it is relevant to the discussion in the posting but since the ‘excellent site’, which I have been following as well, is a log-log plot of dN/dt vs N, the slope of exponential growth is always 1.0. It is the intercept that determines the doubling time.

  4. Mano Singham says


    Of course you are right. I don’t know what I was thinking! Thanks for pointing out the error that I have corrected.

  5. says

    What the data shows is that China, South Korea, and Hong Kong are among the countries where the curve turns down sharply.

    The same can be said about Czechia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland, Slovenia, etc. countries about whose existence people tend to forget.

    There are a lot of countries that have done a pretty good job at reducing coronavirus infections.

  6. says

    One country that few talk about is Ecuador. Since April 27 over 1000 have died, and they don’t have the resources to take care of the dead, never mind the sick. Their economy is hamstrung by debt to the IMF and China.

    Yesterday was a “good” day, only 878 new cases and 36 deaths. If Ecuador had the US’s population, they would have over 600,000 infected and more deaths than the UK.

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