The code to do the plots yourself is here, a post which should be read for all the caveats, explanations, and so on. The original coronavirus post is here, which talks about panics, planning and the effectiveness of quarantines—which are on the increase.
Today, some updates and cautions. The first is that the easy access to social media has spurred things along, people racing off in all directions. I can’t help thinking people want to believe the worst. Any possible good news, or positive interpretation, is received with mild hostility.
Here’s the weirdest one:
The Coronavirus Chronicles keep getting weirder and weirder.
You've probably heard about the sudden outbreak of the virus in South Korea. Well, did you also know that this is, in large part, to thank to an actual death cult? It's called #Shincheonji, and it's super scary.
— Sam (@Spainkiller) February 24, 2020
Gist: South Korean faux-Christian death cult seeks to bring about the apocalypse via viruses. I didn’t know these guys, but I do know South Koreans love themselves some funky religion. My experience is with the Dahn Yoga cult, which is neither here nor there as far as fevers go.
Loyal reader Mark points us to this Barron’s article: China’s Coronavirus Figures Don’t Add Up. ‘This Never Happens With Real Data.’.
I had it at one time, but the article disappeared behind a pay wall. Anyway, if memory serves, it featured a statistician complaining that the sort of naive model we’re using fit too well, which made him suspicious.
Recall in the previous post I said that if China wanted to cheat, it would have to use a model in the same genre as ours to produce good-looking fake numbers. Maybe they have, and maybe they haven’t.
Problem with looking at the cumulative numbers, pictured next, is that they’re automatically smoother than the daily new cases and deaths, which are much rougher. Meaning the cumulative model can give the false appearance of accuracy.
These numbers are as of about 8 PM EST 24, February. These are the reported numbers; if they’re wrong, I’m wrong.
About that: many assume China is lying because, well, they’re China. This isn’t a bad reason to suspect their reports, but it’s not conclusive. We have this in their favor: the numbers outside of China are behaving as if China was reporting accurate numbers. Here’s the daily data, with the fudge factor applied to the first three weeks (see the code page for more).
About that death peak, see below.
Yes, the virus is peaking and spreading in areas outside China. Which is exactly what we would expect after the infection spreads beyond the hot spot. Be careful looking at percentage increase reports, which tend to exaggerate or are used to frighten (see the original post on this).
Recall what happened with SARS. Peaked in China, then spread out, causing infections to peak well after the original peak. Also, and worse, the death rate was higher outside China. Canada, for instance, had a large number of cases, relative to everywhere else, and a death rate of 17%!
The explanation is obvious: cases spread less easily outside the hotspot, only sicker people get it, and they die easier. Gruesome, but that’s the way it is.
Now this new virus is about 10 times higher in case numbers and deaths, so far, so it is more worrisome than SARS. The good news is that these approximations look to be holding. The peak in China is over.
Again I say, Beware of Percent and Raw Number Increases! Here’s the headline: Iran announces 50 dead in Qom coronavirus outbreak. Sounds scary, but here’s the sub-headline: “Tehran says deaths date back to February 13, though first cases were only announced days later; Kuwait, Bahrain announce first cases in people entering from Iran”.
Holding back numbers for two weeks and then reporting them all at once makes it appear worse than it is. The death numbers pop up. Here’s the simple estimate of mortality rate, which will be likely under the true rate (see second post):
This is starting to increase because new cases are slowing down. The trick is to guess where it peaks, which will be the true mortality rate. 3-6%?
Yes, Chinese goods are likely to become scarcer. How scarce, nobody knows. But do recall the cases are on the decrease in China, so people will be going back to work in a week or so—if we believe the numbers. And, yes, the stock market here took a big hit.
Take Bloomberg and The Guardian, for instance, both of which just reported that about two-thirds of the planet could become infected by coronavirus. That hypothetical number came from an epidemiologist in Hong Kong.
Here’s the truth: Any projection about what coronavirus is going to do in the future is little better than wide-eyed speculation. Previous coronavirus outbreaks followed very different trajectories.
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) appeared suddenly in 2002 and soon disappeared. Ten years later, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) emerged and stuck around. A handful of cases still occur each year.
Given how far the Wuhan coronavirus has spread already, it is reasonable to conclude that it might continue, especially in poor countries with inadequate healthcare. But it’s also equally valid to conclude that China will get the outbreak under control and the virus will stop dead in its tracks inside wealthy countries. Or, the virus could become seasonal, like influenza.
Flu? As of 15 February the CDC says: “CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from flu.”
In the USA alone.
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