Not Your Demographic

Assertions so counter intuitive and nonsensical - they must be true!

Cogent insights by Benjamin Scherrey

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Well we've made it through March and the results are pretty much the same as yesterday. Our new total for incidents is 184,770 (+24,240), down to an increase of only 15.1% over the previous day (another new low record). Deaths have totaled 3,746 (+807) which is an increase of 27.46% (+6.4% rate of growth) over the previous day. Again, the increase in the rate of death was expected and we have hit the 2.03% over all mortality rate that we projected. Let's hope it stays around there and then continues to fall again soon.

But where did we start as a nation? My data starts on Mar 04 where we have no known deaths and 118 confirmed cases. First deaths showed up on Mar 11 when we broke 1000 cases and had 27 deaths, the majority of these coming from the unfortunate situation in Washington state where the nursing homes were hit hard and fast. From there, hotspots developed in 6 major cities and that accounts for more than 80% of the results we have today. Our rates of growth for incidents and deaths peaked on Mar 19 at 51.64% and 42.86% respectively and therefore have fallen by 36.54% and 15.40%. The news today is the government projections of 100k - 240k deaths over the next two weeks. The nation-wide granularity projections of my model support this likelihood. There should be a total of 100,000 deaths by April 16 and 240,000 deaths by April 20. To hit these numbers means that there would be 1,365,000 and 1,779,000 confirmed symptomatic cases respectively to attain this quantity of mortalities.

For this eventuality to manifest requires one or two scenarios - 1) the current hotspots remain pretty much hot and are not seriously altered due to availability of treatments or quarantine, and/or 2) serious new hotspots develop around the rest of the country with the same power curves as what we've seen with the existing hotspots. These are both fairly pessimistic scenarios which means the government advisers do not believe the current treatments are going to be effective or generally available in enough quantity to suppress the spread of the pandemic and that our current isolation plans across the states are also not going to do much more than slow the progress of the pandemic. My question is why do they believe this? Is it just being conservative? Do they have data that's not public? Frankly, the perspective I get from my initial overviews is not so pessimistic as this so it's hard to say. One thing that does give me some optimism is that I think the biggest hotspot, NYC, is already flattening. The following paper (again thanks to Andrew Koenig for the reference) matches the data that I've seen and also shows that Mar 19 was the inflection point where the exponential growth cut back as I've been pointing out here. If true - it would give evidence that scenario #1 is unlikely to be true. Of course New Orleans might decide to take it up all by itself, unfortunately. Can read the paper here: The Coronavirus Epidemic Curve is Already Flattening in New York City

What concerns me is what I do know is that our rates of testing have not yet bumped up much above the 100,000 daily level. California hasn't been able to process more than ~2000 per day which is just absurd. Logistics is hard at scale and I had hoped that we'd have this improved by the end of this month. Everything always seems to be coming "in two weeks". Without widespread testing that includes people who are not necessarily showing symptoms there's no way the government can actually get a clear picture of what's going on. For me to have any more insights I need to complete my new model that can track things at a county & state level rather than just national totals. Given my current work schedule it's unlikely I will get much more progress until this weekend.

April's going to be a busy busy month. If we all do our part I think we'll have a much better outcome than the government is currently projecting. Stay well.

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