The panic surrounding the Corona pandemic is real, not imagined. But the source of the panic comes from ignorance rather than the alleged lethality of Corona. I understand why the average person with no medical training or background will hear the various shrill media reports and assume that everyone who tests positive will soon be on death’s door.
But that is not the truth. The data that is being reported so fat shows that only 12% of those who tested positive were admitted to a hospital in New York. And only 20% of that number were admitted subsequently to an ICU.
While that number is not astronomical, it still creates significant problem because ICU beds represent only a small fraction of the Hospital beds available. Take the Bronx Care Hospital Center as an example. It has a total of 415 beds, but only 26 ICU beds and 11 Coronary Care beds (the Coronary Care beds can be used as ICU beds). In other words, only 9% of the beds have the infrastructure and the nursing staff to support ventilators. If we use that number as a benchmark, NYC has a total of 2139 ICU beds.
The real problem is the lack of nurses qualified and trained to work in an ICU environment. You can deploy 5000 ventilators but there are not enough nurses and Respiratory Therapy techs available to operate and maintain these machines. Respiratory Therapy techs are unsung heroes because they are the ones who actually make the machines run. The tubes connecting the patient to the vent must be checked every hour and changed out every shift. It is this human factor that is at the breaking point even if only 3000 ICU beds are needed in New York City. Ford or Boeing cannot mass produce these professionals.
I think there is a widespread belief that the U.S. Government–the CDC in particular–has a good grasp on the number of infections and patients. But that does not appear to be true if the same methodology being used to count Influenza is being used for Corona.
You may be shocked to learn that the CDC is NOT, I want to repeat that, NOT counting and then reporting the actual numbers of people who contract influenza or pneumonia during the current 2019/2020 Flu season.
Because influenza surveillance does not capture all cases of flu that occur in the U.S., CDC provides these estimated ranges to better reflect the larger burden of influenza. These estimates are calculated based on CDC’s weekly influenza surveillance data and are preliminary.
In other words, the US Government numbers on who is infected with the flu and who is hospitalized and who dies is just an ESTIMATE based on a statistical methodology.
This raises some valid concerns about the numbers kicking around on the Corona virus. Is the CDC using a different methodology? Are they actually counting tests that turn out positive?
The numbers tell an important story. A positive test for Corona does not mean that the person is deathly ill and must be admitted immediately to a hospital. As I noted above, the data being reported by New York showed that only 12% who tested positive were being admitted to the hospital.
Is that number holding true for all states? Is it true for other countries? When you look at the WHO data on various diseases you will discover that WHO is relying on statistical models as well for its projections.
The raw numbers for Corona, when compared to other infectious diseases, raises some legitimate questions about the disproportionate global panic.
As of 10pm edt on April 1, 2020 there are 935,817 “cases” (i.e., people who have tested positive). The key number is the number of deaths–47,208.
How does that stack up with other infectious diseases?
Influenza–the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated the annual mortality burden of influenza to be 250 000 to 500 000 all-cause deaths globally.
Tuberculosis–1.3 million deaths per year (see here).
Why is it that we can live normal lives with diseases such as Influenza, Tuberculosis and Malaria swirling around us but go into complete shutdown over Corona?
It does not make sense. Life is not risk free. We learn to live with risk. We need to learn to live with Corona as well.