Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.

Coronavirus Math: The Number I’m Watching

How are different countries coping? What is the current case fatality rate?

11 May May 2020
recovered dead total closed cases case fatality rate
Diamond Princess cruise ship 651 13 664 2%
Austria 13991 618 14609 4%
Australia 6179 97 6276 2%
Belgium 13697 8707 22404 39%
Canada 32096 4870 36966 13%
France 56217 26380 82597 32%
Germany 145600 7569 153169 5%
Hong Kong 985 4 989 0.4%
Israel 11548 254 11802 2%
Italy 105186 30560 135746 23%
Japan 8127 624 8751 7%
Netherlands n/a 5440 n/a n/a
Norway 32 219 251 87%
Singapore 2721 20 2741 1%
South Korea 9632 256 9888 3%
Spain 176439 26621 203060 13%
Sweden 4971 3225 8196 39%
Switzerland 26600 1833 28433 6%
Taiwan 368 7 375 2%
Thailand 2796 56 2852 2%
UK n/a 31855 n/a n/a
USA 256336 80787 337123 24%

Commentary added May 11th, 2020:
This chart will no longer be updated. Over the 10 weeks I’ve tracked data associated with this severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it has become clear our information is incomplete and its quality is suspect. On the other hand, analytical resources have expanded considerably from those early days. Amid this fog of war, deaths per million and tests per million, may be our most useful numbers. These are readily available at the Worldometers website and updated daily,

While matters are improving in affluent countries that have been hotspots, as of this writing the virus appears to be gaining momentum in Mexico, South America, and elsewhere.

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Updated commentary, published March 24th, 2020:
In the span of seven weeks, the share of global reported coronavirus cases in China and Iran went from 99% to 23%. Theoretically, this means the overall quality of our data should be improving. But all of the numbers available to us are crude indicators – a snapshot at a particular moment in time, in a quickly changing environment, subject to endless shortcomings such as how much testing any country is doing, how much testing is financially possible, the nature of each country’s reporting mechanisms, how deaths get attributed in one locale vs another, and so forth.

For the past 3 weeks, the above table has been updated each morning. Going forward, it will be updated once a week – on Monday mornings. Here’s an overview of what’s happened so far:

On the 1st of February 2020, there were 12,027 reported coronavirus cases in the world
99% were in China (11,860)

On the 15th of February, there were 67,106 reported cases
99% were in China (66,493)

On the 1st of March, there were 88,377 reported cases
90% were in China (79,828)

On the 15th of March, there were 169,333 reported cases
56% were in China (48% or 80,849) or Iran (8% or 13,938)

A mere week later, on the 22nd of March, there were 353,759 reported cases
Only 30% were in China (23% or 81,093) or Iran (7% or 23,049)

At the moment, China still has the highest total (81,000) but Italy is catching up fast (64,000).

Italy, America, Spain, and Germany have all surpassed Iran. France is about to do so.

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Commentary below published 4 March 2020:

Infectious diseases have case fatality (CF) rates. What percentage of patients who’ve been medically diagnosed with the disease die? What percentage recovers?

The SARS coronavirus killed 774 people in 2003, the vast majority of whom lived in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The SARS case fatality rate was 9.6%. The MERS coronavirus has killed 858 people, most of whom lived in Saudi Arabia. Its case fatality rate stands at 34.4%.

A week ago, COVID-19 had been confirmed in 40 countries. It has now spread to 80, having claimed twice as many lives as SARS and MERS combined. In many parts of the world, this disease is just getting started.

Two weeks ago, Italy had 3 cases and 0 deaths. Now it has 2,502 cases and 79 deaths.

Two weeks ago, South Korea had 31 cases and 0 deaths. Now it has 5,186 cases and 34 deaths.

The constantly-updated Worldometers.info web page indicates that the global case fatality rate, calculated from ‘closed cases,’ is currently 6%. At the beginning of February it was 42%. Matters appear to be improving dramatically. As we learn more about a new disease, we get better at saving people’s lives.

But there’s a big problem with our data. China and Iran are nations in which information is tightly controlled by the government, and freedom of the press is non-existent. Numbers from these nations are inherently unreliable. Yet they have dominated our data set, swamping everything else. It’s important to know what’s going on elsewhere, to track the case fatality rate other countries are experiencing.

These are early days, and some of the numbers are going to wobble dramatically for a while. Each morning, I’ll update the table at the top of this page by 8:30 am Toronto/NYC time. (Archive.org currently takes multiple snapshots of the Worldometers coronavirus page each day. My numbers will come from the final snapshot the previous day.)

So bookmark this page, lovely person, and come back soon :-)

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MORE INFO:

  • SARS stands for: Severe Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a coronaavirus
  • The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says SARS was contracted by 8,096 people during 2003. 774 died. The case fatality rate was 9.6%.
  • The CDC says SARS spread to 29 countries. According to Wikipedia, 93% of the deaths were in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
  • MERS stands for: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have been 2,506 cases of MERS since 2012, including 862 people who’ve died. Case fatality rate: 34.4%.
  • The WHO says MERS spread to 27 countries. According to Wikipedia, 86% of the deaths were in Saudi Arabia.
  • Two weeks ago (on February 20th), journalist Pauline Macaraeg noted that while the WHO has been telling us COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be “as deadly as other coronaviruses,”  it had “already infected and killed more people than SARS and MERS combined.”
  • 774 SARS deaths + 862 MERS deaths = 1,636. As of May 11th, more than 284,000 people have died from COVID-19.

 

Neither the WHO nor the CDC behaved in a trustworthy manner 10 years ago, after UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti following a devastating earthquake. Two books document those events. (For the record, I’m not personally acquainted with any of the individuals involved.)

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster is written by Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press journalist stationed in Haiti when the earthquake occurred.

Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti tells the story of Renaud Piarroux, a French physician who investigated the outbreak. Written by his medical colleague, it shows the WHO failing one moral test after another.

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
Jonathan Katz
Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti
Ralph Frerichs

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