The Math on WuFlu

 

I’m finding myself in a shrinking minority with respect to my view of the WuFlu.  To me, it still appears to be an irrational panic.  Heather MacDonald still seems to be on my side, at least as of yesterday (article here).  But even the Daily Wire guys have been convinced that there is something serious to fear, other than fear itself.  By Monday, MacDonald and I may be the only skeptics left standing.  (I would find her to be good company in such an event.)

I’ve done a bit of digging into the facts, and I still can’t understand the cause for alarm.  I would particularly value the input of our Ricochet docs and other medical professionals, as I certainly realize that I could be wrong.

I.  The Severity of the Symptoms

In round numbers, based on the Chinese experience thus far, it appears that about 80% of WuFlu cases are mild, about 15% are “serious,” and about 5% are “critical.”  The main problem with the WuFlu seems to be pneumonia. My impression is that “serious” cases might require hospitalization and oxygen treatment, while “critical” cases might require ICU treatment such as intubation.  My source is here, from the same Worldometer site that our friend Rodin is relying upon for his daily posts.  These estimates are based on information from China through Feb. 11.

Even these figures seem too high to me.  Rodin’s daily post today (here) generally shows lower rates of serious/critical cases than the 20% combined figure noted above.  In Italy, it is less than 10% (1,518 serious/critical out of 17,750 active).  In South Korea, it is less than 1% (59 serious/critical out of 7,300 active).  In the US, it is less than 0.5% (10 serious/critical out of 2,395 active).

My suspicion is that the rates of serious or critical illness is much lower, and that the rates appear high because very few people have been tested.  This makes sense, as I would expect that initial testing would be limited to people exhibiting WuFlu symptoms.  South Korea seems to have done the most extensive testing to date, and its very low rate of serious/critical cases is consistent with the hypothesis that wider testing will show a higher prevalence of the WuFlu, with the vast majority of cases being so mild as to be almost unnoticeable.

II.  The Math on the Hospital Bed Crisis

I’ve seen news reports that the WuFlu has overwhelmed the health care system, in Italy in particular.  Here is an article from The Atlantic on Wednesday, March 11, stating:

Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

This NYT article from Thursday, March 12 similarly claims, in its headline:

We don’t have enough ventilators and I.C.U. beds if there’s a significant surge of new cases. As with Italy, the health system could become overwhelmed.

I know that I’m just a country lawyer, though I did once study math through the graduate level, with a focus on probability, statistics, and mathematical modeling.  But it doesn’t take grad-level math to question these figures.  It takes middle-school algebra.

The NYT article linked above says that Italy has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (and the US has only 2.8 beds per 1,000 people).  Italy has a population of about 60 million, so this implies about 192,000 hospital beds.

As noted above, the number of serious or critical WuFlu cases reported in Italy, according to Rodin’s post today, is 1,518.  That is 0.79% of the number of hospital beds in Italy.

Think about that.  We’re supposed to believe that an influx of about 1,500 new patients has overwhelmed the medical system of a nation that has 192,000 hospital beds.

Put this in perspective.  Let’s round up the Italian number to 1% — that is, assume that the number of serious or critical WuFlu cases in Italy is equal to 1% of the country’s hospital beds.  Imagine that you run a hospital with 200 beds.  This means that you can expect two (2) extra patients as a result of WuFlu.  Are people seriously suggesting that a 200-bed hospital will be “overwhelmed” if it has to take in an additional two patients?

You all can believe anything you like.  I’m staying in the skeptic camp with Heather MacDonald, at least for the moment.

Now let’s apply these figures to the US.  Recall that, according to the NYT article linked above, the US has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people.  With a population of 327 million, that’s about 915,000 beds.

How many serious or critical cases are there in the US?  Ten (10), according to Rodin’s post today.  But let’s assume that the WuFlu spread rapidly in the US over the next month.  How rapidly?  Well, China has had 80,000 cases over several months, so let’s make the extreme assumption that the US has 100,000 new cases over the next month — a vastly faster spread than in China.  And let’s use the Chinese figures for serious and critical cases, rather than the much lower figures from South Korea (more than 20 times lower).

So if the US has 100,000 new cases over the next month, 15% will be serious (15,000) and 5% will be critical (5,000), for a total of 20,000.  This would be about 13 times the number of serious or critical cases currently existing in Italy.

20,000 new cases in the US would represent about 2.2% of the hospital beds in the country.  A hypothetical hospital with 200 beds would have to take in about 4 new patients over the next month.

Is the medical profession seriously maintaining that their capabilities are so marginal, their ability to adapt so limited, as to be unable to cope with an increase in their patient load of about 2%?

I fully understand the graph about the capacity of the health system.  Here is one example:

I do not dispute this graph in theory.  I dispute the dashed red line about the “healthcare system capacity.”  Based on my calculations above, the dashed red line is nowhere near as low as indicated.  It is far, far higher — literally off the chart, in this graph.

As noted above, I don’t just understand mathematical modeling.  I am a lawyer.  I know how to mislead — in my case, I endeavor not to mislead myself, but I am ever vigilant about how my opposition can mislead.  This is precisely the way that one can generate a panic — with a graph that is correct in theory, with just one small misleading element.

I see no evidence whatsoever of any serious danger that the WuFlu will overwhelm our healthcare system capacity, even with no protective measures.

Another way to mislead, incidentally, is to assume that the number of cases will continue to grow exponentially.  The very early stages seem exponential, but the number of cases eventually follows an S-curve.  Continuing to project an exponential growth rate — say for an entire month — is contrary to the facts, and will lead to a vast overestimate of the number of cases that we can expect.

 

III.  Expanding capacity

The calculations above assume that we have no ability to increase our capacity to handle patients needing hospitalization.  Obviously, we have such capacity.  I haven’t looked into the precise figures, but my recollection from the hospitalization of family and friends over the years is that most hospital rooms are either single or double occupancy.  In a crisis, it does not seem, to me, that it would be difficult to add an additional bed in each room.  This would probably increase the availability of hospital beds by 30-40%.

This would be enough to hospitalize every American needing it, even if the number of cases increased to about 900,000, and even assuming the very high, 20% rate of serious or critical cases based on reporting from China, and not the rate of about 1% in South Korea and 10% in Italy.

This suggests that we could handle, without too much trouble, the health care needs of Americans even if the WuFlu spreads 10 or 20 times faster in the US than it has spread in China.

And we haven’t even talked about setting up emergency medical facilities.  You know, schools are closing.  Why not set up temporary hospitals in school gyms or auditoriums?  How hard could it be?  Bring in about 100 beds and some oxygen masks.  Have 4 nurses or orderlies monitor the patients, administering oxygen when necessary.  They could check each patient every 30 minutes or so.  If there aren’t enough pulse oximeters for each patient, have the nurse carry it around.  Patients who need critical care could be sent to a hospital.

As I understand it, even the serious WuFlu cases are essentially moderate-grade pneumonia.  Patients may need an oxygen mask, but they won’t immediately die without it.  They can take the mask off to eat, or to go to the bathroom.  They can basically lie there, in relative comfort with an oxygen mask, and watch TV.  Except that they can’t watch March Madness.

IV.  About That March Madness

Actually, perhaps these hypothetical WuFlu patients will be able to watch March Madness.  Because, it seems to me, the term is being redefined. 

I was expecting to watch March Madness on CBS Sports and ESPN.  It was going to involve a bunch of college basketball players.  Now, I seem to be watching a different kind of March Madness on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.  It involves a bunch of talking heads, politicians, and medical experts telling me that we’re all going to die unless we shut down the world.  I find this extremely unlikely.

I would appreciate any corrections to my analysis.

If I turn out to be correct, I am going to prepare a huge plate of crow for everyone who disagreed.  :)

 

 

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  1. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: Another way to mislead, incidentally, is to assume that the number of cases will continue to grow exponentially. … Continuing to project an exponential growth rate — say for an entire month — is contrary to the facts, and will lead to a vast overestimate of the number of cases that we can expect.

    I suspect there is a whole lot of narrative bustin’ in here. 

    • #1
  2. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    You seem to be assuming that hospital beds are evenly distributed across a country and/or are available to a sick person no matter where the bed is located.   Put another way, short of a mass migration of beds, what good does 10 hospital beds in Naples do for two sick people in Milan?

    • #2
  3. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Thanks for a fascinating post. But I am not sure what you are skeptical about. You say, “But even the Daily Wire guys have been convinced that there is something serious to fear, other than fear itself.” I parse that to mean that your claim is that there is nothing serious to fear. I wonder what you mean there by “serious.” Do you mean this is not a serious problem? So I am left wondering.

    Do you doubt that the attempt to slow down the spread of this new and lethal virus is worth it? Do you think the danger to the vulnerable populations is being exaggerated? (How many deaths DO you expect?) As for health care capacity, your image of folks attempting to turn schools into hospitals doesn’t reassure ME that steps ought not to be taken now to minimize that possibility.

    I certainly agree that panic mongering is not helpful and I pray to God you are right, of course. (I respect Heather MacDonald a lot, so I’m off the see what she says.) But I am not convinced that there is nothing serious to worry about. 

     

    • #3
  4. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    I don’t know if I’m a skeptic, though I welcome information  that allows me to think “oh, it will be all right!” 

    To what do you attribute the excess anxiety? Why would, for example, Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General describe a serious situation if one doesn’t actually exist? (Or at least, if the risk isn’t substantial?)

    • #4
  5. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Who and what to believe? I do not know. I have read and heard for several weeks that the last pandemic, the H1-N1 virus during the Obama administration killed about 20,000 Americans and wasn’t declared an emergency until 6 months in and 1000 dead. Then I read some guy quoting the CDC stats about how great a job Obama did and how incompetent the Trump administration is. I do know one thing. I have been around for 72 years and lived through many national health scares, including Polio. I don’t know how many pandemics have occurred during that time. I have never witnessed our nation going through this sort of hyperbolic reaction. Yesterday there were one or maybe more newspeople who were ushered away from the President’s State of Emergency news conference. Apparently the reporters were being tested for high temperature before being allowed in the room. Boy did they holler. When it happens to them–when all their yelling and screaming and accusations come back to inconvenience the reporters– Katie bar the door. Excellent post @arizonapatriot. I wasn’t checking all of your math, but the one consistent theme flowing through all conversations is that this is ultimately a flu or a really bad cold. It is deadly to very few of us. This is not like Ebola, which was like a gruesome horror movie. So, God Bless us all and keep us safe. 

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    Thanks for a fascinating post. But I am not sure what you are skeptical about. You say, “But even the Daily Wire guys have been convinced that there is something serious to fear, other than fear itself.” I parse that to mean that your claim is that there is nothing serious to fear. I wonder what you mean there by “serious.” Do you mean this is not a serious problem? So I am left wondering.

    Do you doubt that the attempt to slow down the spread of this new and lethal virus is worth it? Do you think the danger to the vulnerable populations is being exaggerated? (How many deaths DO you expect?) As for health care capacity, your image of folks attempting to turn schools into hospitals doesn’t reassure ME that steps ought not to be taken now to minimize that possibility.

    I certainly agree that panic mongering is not helpful and I pray to God you are right, of course. (I respect Heather MacDonald a lot, so I’m off the see what she says.) But I am not convinced that there is nothing serious to worry about.

    I think we would have been better off doing nothing rather than enacting the big pork bill that Trump and the Democrats are ramming through. Of course, those aren’t the only choices.  

    • #6
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I don’t know if I’m a skeptic, though I welcome information that allows me to think “oh, it will be all right!”

    To what do you attribute the excess anxiety? Why would, for example, Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General describe a serious situation if one doesn’t actually exist? (Or at least, if the risk isn’t substantial?)

    Sure they would. They’re in the politics business. I don’t think they’re completely wrong, but I take it all with a grain of salt.

    • #7
  8. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Now that Europe has been declared to be the epicenter of the current pandemic, I would love to see Johns Hopkins/Worldometer aggregate the data for Europe the way they did for China. 

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Now that Europe has been declared to be the epicenter of the current pandemic, I would love to see Johns Hopkins/Worldometer aggregate the data for Europe the way they did for China.

    Good idea.

    • #9
  10. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    I’m a little concerned with your emergency hospital scenario.  Where do the beds come from?  Where do the trained people to staff a pop up 100 critical patient hospital come from?

    Now, our emergency services spend lots of time worrying about medical supplies.  There are emergency stockpiles that are inventoried and managed closely, and we are looking at them daily.  However, emergency services are configured to deal with everyday business and can be ramped up but probably not to the level you think.  Dealing with a truly overwhelming deadly disease (which this does not appear to be) would require triage to a level that would disturb most people.  

    • #10
  11. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Interesting you’ve come up with some numbers.

    From a just submitted article by a group of Harvard & Johns Hopkins medical & public health pros:

    Methods:

    • We described the intensive care unit (ICU) and inpatient bed needs for confirmed COVID-19 patients in two Chinese cities (Wuhan and Guangzhou) from January 10 to February 29, 2020, and compared the timing of disease control measures in relation to the timing of SARS-CoV-2 community spread.*
    • We estimated the peak ICU bed needs in US cities if a Wuhan-like outbreak occurs.

    Results:

    • In Wuhan, strict disease control measures were implemented six weeks after sustained local transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
    • Between January 10 and February 29, COVID-19 patients accounted for an average of 637 ICU patients and 3,454 serious inpatients on each day.
    • During the epidemic peak, 19,425 patients (24.5 per 10,000 adults) were hospitalized, 9,689 (12.2 per 10,000 adults) were considered to be in serious condition, and 2,087 patients (2.6 per 10,000 adults) needed critical care per day.
    • In Guangzhou, strict disease control measures were implemented within one week of case importation.
    • Between January 24 and February 29, COVID-19 accounted for an average of 9 ICU patients and 20 inpatients on each day.
    • During the epidemic peak, 15 patients were in critical condition, and 38 were classified as serious.
    • If a Wuhan-like outbreak were to happen in a US city, the need for healthcare resources may be higher in cities with a higher prevalence of vulnerable populations.

    Conclusion:

    • Even after the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients continued to rise, exceeding local hospitalization and ICU capacities for at least a month.
    • Plans are urgently needed to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 outbreaks on the local healthcare system in US cities.
    • #11
  12. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    I think you make a critical error in your starting assumptions when you write:

    But let’s assume that the WuFlu spread rapidly in the US over the next month. How rapidly? Well, China has had 80,000 cases over several months, so let’s make the extreme assumption that the US has 100,000 new cases over the next month — a vastly faster spread than in China.

    In reality, the China cases almost all occurred within 6 weeks and the reason they are not substantially higher is that China took draconian steps to stop its spread and incur severe economic cost in the short term.  It is noteworthy they took these steps, since in the past the government has always prioritized economic growth over the safety and health of its citizens.

    At this point we simply do not know the upper bound for the number of potential cases.  The world is currently running a number of parallel comparative experiments regarding potential case growth, effectiveness of various control measures, and the ability and capacity of various healthcare systems to perform under these conditions.

    We are having to make decisions based upon imperfect, evolving data.

     

    • #12
  13. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I don’t know if I’m a skeptic, though I welcome information that allows me to think “oh, it will be all right!”

    To what do you attribute the excess anxiety? Why would, for example, Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General describe a serious situation if one doesn’t actually exist? (Or at least, if the risk isn’t substantial?)

    Never let a crisis go to waste.  The Democrats aren’t the only malefactors.

    • #13
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    You seem to be assuming that hospital beds are evenly distributed across a country and/or are available to a sick person no matter where the bed is located. Put another way, short of a mass migration of beds, what good does 10 hospital beds in Naples do for two sick people in Milan?

    This is what I thought, too. Even if there are enough beds in Italy, that doesn’t help Milan if they are at capacity.

    • #14
  15. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: If I turn out to be correct, I am going to prepare a huge plate of crow for everyone who disagreed. :)

    We’ve been disagreeing on other threads about how seriously to take this. I would love for you to be right. And in honor of Pi Day, if you’re right, I will trade you a pie for my plate of crow.

    • #15
  16. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    Snirtler (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: If I turn out to be correct, I am going to prepare a huge plate of crow for everyone who disagreed. :)

    We’ve been disagreeing on other threads about how seriously to take this. I would love for you to be right. And in honor of Pi Day, if you’re right, I will trade you a pie for my plate of crow.

    Let me second that.  I disagree with the analysis but hope you are right.  So pie from me to.

    • #16
  17. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    We have also include the opening of hospital beds after people die in the calculation. I know that’s morbid…

    But the other thing that occurred to me, staying on morbid for a bit, is that if as many old people die as the worse case scenario predicts, the whole problem with Social Security will be solved! 
    See, we can only have so many problems at one time! That’s the good news. 

    • #17
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    You seem to be assuming that hospital beds are evenly distributed across a country and/or are available to a sick person no matter where the bed is located. Put another way, short of a mass migration of beds, what good does 10 hospital beds in Naples do for two sick people in Milan?

    These are good points, though it’s not as if Italy is some huge place.  It’s about the size of Arizona.

    The news is panicking about the WuFlu having overwhelmed the medical system “in Italy.”  If they mean “in Milan,” then they should say so.  Of course, if it’s just a local problem in Milan, then it doesn’t seem like such a catastrophe, does it?  I mean, don’t the Italians have ambulances and vans?  Can’t they just transport the few infected people to Turin, or Venice, or Florence, or Bologna, or Rome?

    • #18
  19. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Missing important number: occupancy rate. Of the 190,000 900,000 US hospital beds, how many are occupied now?

    • #19
  20. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    But I am not convinced that there is nothing serious to worry about. 

    I don’t think that the post was suggesting that nothing serious is going on.  The question is whether it is serious enough that we shut down world commerce. I am struck by the fact that in all other cases where I’ve been asked to prepare for an emergency (hurricanes, snow storms) I felt some sense of apprehension, but I feel absolutely none right now.  From what I have seen, I have no more to worry about with this illness than any other serious illness.  I don’t walk out my door every morning thinking that I might catch the corona virus and if they hadn’t cancelled the symphony tonight, I would have gone without fear.  I understand that is not the case with immunocompromised individuals, including the elderly.  These are vulnerable populations and I am concerned for them, like I was all the time when caring for my loved ones.  Pneumonia is always serious. 

    I have lived through severe flu outbreaks where the local health system is overwhelmed, but we still didn’t shut down the world.  I’ve heard the statistic that 300,000 were hospitalized during the swine flu and I don’t recall the level of panic I’m seeing.  Was it because they were spread out?

    How many deaths did we prevent taking these measures?  Dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions?  It seems to me based on the numbers so far that it will likely be thousands worldwide.  Some said we might have a million deaths in the US but I am just not seeing those numbers and hope I never do. 

    It is a difficult question to ask, and no one wants to say it out loud, but how many deaths do we tolerate before we shut the world down?  Right now, it is at about 5000 on a planet with 7 billion humans.  China has 3000 deaths with a population of 1 billion.  

    I honestly don’t know the answer, and no one else does either.  I don’t know what I would do if I were the head of a University or the NBA, particularly once the dominos started to fall.  But I remain puzzled as to why this level of response to this virus. 

    • #20
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    Thanks for a fascinating post. But I am not sure what you are skeptical about. You say, “But even the Daily Wire guys have been convinced that there is something serious to fear, other than fear itself.” I parse that to mean that your claim is that there is nothing serious to fear. I wonder what you mean there by “serious.” Do you mean this is not a serious problem? So I am left wondering.

    Do you doubt that the attempt to slow down the spread of this new and lethal virus is worth it? Do you think the danger to the vulnerable populations is being exaggerated? (How many deaths DO you expect?) As for health care capacity, your image of folks attempting to turn schools into hospitals doesn’t reassure ME that steps ought not to be taken now to minimize that possibility.

    I certainly agree that panic mongering is not helpful and I pray to God you are right, of course. (I respect Heather MacDonald a lot, so I’m off the see what she says.) But I am not convinced that there is nothing serious to worry about.

     

    Yes, I think that there is nothing serious to fear.  The numbers that I see look similar to a typical flu season, perhaps a bit worse than most.  Obviously, there are some deaths, but that’s true with a typical flu.

    I think that the panic is built into your questions.  You call it a “new and lethal virus.” But it’s not very lethal, and I think that the danger is substantially overstated.  Heather MacDonald’s column (linked in the OP) asks the question “compared to what?”  If this new WuFlu is comparable to typical flus — or to the prior SARS and MERS scares — then we are seriously overreacting.

    My main concern is the enormous economic and personal effect of the severe restrictions that are being imposed.  I expect them to get worse, as the panic continues.  I have no idea what the economic impact could be, as it depends on how significant the various shut-downs affect our economy.  If an overreaction shuts down just 10% of our economy, the cost would be around $170 billion per month.

    That’s a recession.  That will cause a rash of bankruptcies and foreclosures.  Or, if government fills the gap, it will pass these costs along to future generations of taxpayers.

    [Cont’d]

    • #21
  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Then there are the personal effects.  I worry about the kids who won’t get an education while the schools are closed.  I am annoyed that my son did not get to participate in his high school robotics competition.  I am annoyed that a bunch of college basketball players will not get to experience the NCAA tournament.  These are only two examples.  There will be hundreds of millions of people who will miss out on important events, important experiences, perhaps unnecessarily.

    Think of the economic impact of the cancellation of the NCAA tournament alone.  How many people won’t get paid, because they were going to be working at the games, collecting tickets or selling concessions or cleaning the stands?  How many restaurants and hotels will lose revenue?  How many of their employees will miss their paychecks, because their employers had no need for them to work?

    For that matter, my church is cancelled, tomorrow and next week.  So I don’t get to see my friends.  A small thing, perhaps, but multiply it by a population of over 300 million.

    If this is unnecessary, as I suspect, then the cost is extremely high.

    • #22
  23. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Franco (View Comment):

    We have also include the opening of hospital beds after people die in the calculation. I know that’s morbid…

    But the other thing that occurred to me, staying on morbid for a bit, is that if as many old people die as the worse case scenario predicts, the whole problem with Social Security will be solved!
    See, we can only have so many problems at one time! That’s the good news.

    I ain’t planning on dying, so you’re stuck with paying me for another 8 or 10 years anyway.

    • #23
  24. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I don’t know if I’m a skeptic, though I welcome information that allows me to think “oh, it will be all right!”

    To what do you attribute the excess anxiety? Why would, for example, Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General describe a serious situation if one doesn’t actually exist? (Or at least, if the risk isn’t substantial?)

    These are good questions.

    Imagine that you are Dr. Fauci.  I do believe that his is a very smart guy, and a good guy.  But what are his incentives?  If he says that this is no big deal, and he turns out to be a bit wrong, his reputation is ruined.  If he overstates the danger, and the WuFlu turns out to be no big deal, then: (1) he will be able to argue that the costly precautions that he recommended helped prevent the problem (which may or may not be true), and (2) the news cycle will move on anyway.

    Again, it’s not that he’s a bad guy.  I think that he’s a good guy.  But he faces certain incentives, and they all mitigate in favor of overstating the danger and taking costly, but unnecessary, precautions.

    • #24
  25. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    One glaring problem with your analysis:  You are counting generic hospital beds.  An acute case needs an ICU (intensive care) bed, plus staffing.  Those are two very different things.

    • #25
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Do you think the danger to the vulnerable populations is being exaggerated? (How many deaths DO you expect?)

    I didn’t answer this specific question.  It is very difficult to do so, given the available information.  Let’s look at the data that we have from other countries.

    China:  Worldometer page here.  Total reported cases 80,824, deaths 3,189.  If you look at the “bell curve” graph of new cases, it appears to have peaked about 3 weeks in (from the first reports on Jan. 23), and has now declined to a negligible number.  I should add that I do not trust the information coming out of China.

    South Korea:  Worldometer page here.  Total reported cases 8,086, deaths 72.  If you look at the “bell curve” graph of new cases, it appears to have peaked about 2 weeks in (from the first report on Feb. 19), and has now declined significantly (about 110 new cases daily, down from a peak of 850).

    Italy:  Worldometer page here.  Total reported cases 21,157, deaths 1,441.  If you look at the “bell curve” graph of new cases, it’s hard to tell whether it has peaked.  We’re about 3 weeks in (from the first report on Feb. 22), so if it follows the same pattern as S. Korea, it should be at the peak right now.

    US:  Worldometer page here.  Total reported cases 2,499, deaths 55.  If you look at the “bell curve” graph of new cases, we’re about 10 days in from the first consistent reports of cases (there were a couple of earlier days with reported cases, on Feb. 21 and 24, but then little or nothing until March 2)

    My suspicion is that the spread will be slower in the US, because it is a bigger country (than Italy or S. Korea).

    Estimating the number of US cases and deaths is speculative at this point.  If I had to guess, I would say that we’ll have about 100,000 to 150,000 cases over the next 2-3 months, with a death rate of 2-3%.  That translates into between 2,000 and 4,500 deaths. 

    To put this in perspective, the estimated number of deaths from the flu (per the CDC, here) has ranged from 12,000 to 61,000 per year over the past 10 years.

    The vast majority of those who die in the US from the WuFlu will be the elderly and infirm, chiefly people vulnerable to opportunistic infections, and likely to have died of something else in the near future (like the regular flu).

    Even if you assume that my estimate is low by a factor of ten, the projected effect of the WuFlu will be similar to the effect of a typical flu season.

     

    • #26
  27. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    Locke On (View Comment):

    One glaring problem with your analysis: You are counting generic hospital beds. An acute case needs an ICU (intensive care) bed, plus staffing. Those are two very different things.

    And enough ventilators. A scenario where only the young can be intubated is a terrible prospect.

    • #27
  28. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Franco (View Comment):

    We have also include the opening of hospital beds after people die in the calculation. I know that’s morbid…

    But the other thing that occurred to me, staying on morbid for a bit, is that if as many old people die as the worse case scenario predicts, the whole problem with Social Security will be solved!
    See, we can only have so many problems at one time! That’s the good news.

    I laughed when I saw this because I’ve been commenting on the Trust Fund and the payroll tax and I had the same thought you did. You see, if what you pose happens, the lobby that prevents Social Security reform is crippled.

    • #28
  29. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Imagine that you are Dr. Fauci. I do believe that his is a very smart guy, and a good guy. But what are his incentives? If he says that this is no big deal, and he turns out to be a bit wrong, his reputation is ruined. If he overstates the danger, and the WuFlu turns out to be no big deal, then: (1) he will be able to argue that the costly precautions that he recommended helped prevent the problem (which may or may not be true)

    Yes, this is the way “costs avoided” oftentimes is utilized. You can only price what happened. Pricing what didn’t happen is always conjecture. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid it, only that the cost cannot be calculated with precision because it is a counterfactual that relies on a believing certain assumptions which may or may not be accurate.

    • #29
  30. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Rodin (View Comment):
    Yes, this is the way “costs avoided” oftentimes is utilized. You can only price what happened. Pricing what didn’t happen is always conjecture.

    My whole professional life is based on pricing things that haven’t happened yet, sometimes with as little info as we have about the Wuflu.

    • #30