It drives me nuts when the Chicago papers print stories plastered with headlines like “As cases surge…,” “Number of deaths continue to rise…,” and then they insist on engaging a morbid coronavirus death countdown.
Then the Sun-Times ran the masthead, “Mayor’s ‘Red Alarm;’ 72 percent of corona deaths in city are African-American; Lightfoot vows to bridge gap.” Yikes! That makes it sound like she wants to increase the number of Caucasian deaths to bring those racial numbers in line!”
Some editor really blew that one!
But the truth is, Illinois cases are NOT surging, they’re leveling off!
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the coronavirus has a R0 (R-naught) of 2.3, which means, left unchecked, every sufferer will infect 2.3 more people. To put that in perspective the average flu R0 is just 1.3. So, if we take the average COVID-19 incubation period of six days by looking back to March 31, our 938 cases could’ve snowballed into 2,158 new April 6 cases – more than double the actual 1006 number.
As for the mortality rate, if you consider the mounting evidence that up to 50 percent of virus carriers are asymptomatic with no reason to be tested, with no social distancing effort, the April 6 daily case total could’ve easily topped 4,000.
So, no! The disease is NOT “surging.”
And speaking of asymptomatic folks, if they really do exist – and I believe they do, their added numbers would cut the Illinois mortality rate in half to 1.25 percent, or 1 in 75. To put that in perspective, the odd of dying of a chronic respiratory disease over the course of your lifetime are 1 in 26.
I know this is a small solace to people who’ve lost loved ones, but those are pretty good survival odds. So, the papers persistence in blaring this relatively small death toll only serves to unnecessarily terrify people at a time when chronic fear makes them more susceptible to the disease.
We all know what the Sun-Times really meant by “bridge the gap.” Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Health Commissioner want to swiftly determine the cause of an abundantly clear racial death disparity. But when Chicago’s already addressing that troublesome imbalance, those headlines do nothing but sow yet more fear.
The truth is, between 97.5 and 98.75 percent of Illinoisans survive the disease, and 99 percent of those who’ve perished had some sort of serious preexisting condition.
Though it’s beyond gratifying to see how many of you have come to understand this critical difference, but for those steadfast doubters, I’ll say it again! The true measure of a pandemic is the rate at which the disease spreads, not the number of new or total cases.
Think about it! New cases can be immensely affected by:
- The number of tests performed or not performed
- The test return lag time
- Improved testing accuracy and/or return time
- The testing patterns – who’s being tested
- The point where we sit on the coronavirus curve
Ah! But the percentage daily case increase, particularly when it’s part of a discernable trend, is a much better measure of what’s to come.
To wit, going back to our earlier reports, The First Ward was among the first news sources to predict that Illinois was getting a handle on the disease. Considering that base 2.3 R0, any day that coronavirus cases haven’t doubled or, God forbid, skyrocketed 230 percent, is a good day!
Now we’re starting to see those larger “compound interest” dividends we talked about in those much earlier columns!
With all that out of the way, let’s get back to our table:
Date Cases % Increase N Cases N Tested Prevalence Deaths
3/19 422 46.5 134 1 in 14
3/20 585 37 163 1 in 12
3/21 753 29 296 1 in 7
3/22 1,049 39 896 1 in 2
3/23 1,285 28 236 1 in 8
3/24 1,535 22.5 250 1 in 8
3/25 1,855 21.5 320 1 in 6
3/26 2,538 37 683 1 in 6
3/27 3,026 19 488 1 in 8
3/28 3,491 15.4 465 1 in 8
3/29 4,596 31.6 1,105 1 in 4 65
3/30 5,056 10 460 2,684 1 in 6 72
3/31 5,994 18.5 938 4,779 1 in 5 90
4/1 6,980 16.5 986 5,159 1 in 5 141
4/2 7,695 10.2 715 3,272 1 in 4.6 157
4/3 8,904 15.7 1,209 4,392 1 in 3.6 210
4/4 10,357 16 1,456 5,533 1 in 4 243
4/5 11,256 8.6 899 5,402 1 in 6 274
4/6 12,262 9 1,006 3,959 1 in 4 307
The Illinois testing total is now 62,942 and our mortality rate ticked up again, this time to 2.5 percent. The prevalence is bouncing around a bit, but with the disease decelerating and a non-standardized testing methodology (to say the least!), it’s not the best indicator right now.
The best indicator continues to be our daily percentage case increase which came in at a second lowest 9 percent. To some degree, it’s a result of a 27 percent decline in yesterday’s testing, but anytime you get two single-digit days in a row, it’s a very good thing.
Again, starting with our 288 March 18 total cases, had our 2.3 R0 been allowed to run rampant, all 13 million Illinoisans would now have the disease – not just a mere 12, 262. Even if we applied a much more flu-like 1.3 R0, without social distancing, we’d have 42,000 COVID-19 cases at this point.
That’s a bit of a mathematical reduction, but it still works, and that massive disparity between what is and what might have been illustrates just how well we’ve flattened the curve.
What I’m trying to say is, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! All the people who really know this stuff are drastically downgrading their previous plague prognostications. Of course, complacency will put us right back at that 2.3 R0, so Let’s keep up the good work!