COVID-19: Day 107: I am concerned

Warning: Discussing death is difficult, and if you feel you will be offended by this discussion, please don’t read any further.

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In the last couple of posts (1, 2), I have explained that it is possible to predict the number of people who will die from COVID-19 in a week’s time by looking at the number of cases confirmed today.

Day 107 of 2020

Slide1

The above graph shows various statistics plotted versus the day of the year.

  • the blue curve shows the daily published number of COVID-19 cases.
  • the red curve shows the daily number of COVID-19 deaths in hospital.
  • the black dotted line shows the predicted number of deaths based on 20% case mortality after 6 days.

With more data, I have revised my estimate of mortality (deaths ÷ cases) down from 25% to 20%, but the estimated time-to-death has shortened from 7 days to 6 days.

As the graph above shows, there has been no fall in the number of cases diagnosed and so the last 4 weeks of data lead us to expect that there will be no fall in the death rate – over 800 people each day – for at least another week.

Concerning

This is very concerning and indicates that whatever we are doing now is failing to eliminate the virus from circulation.

If I were in charge – I would want to know why the number of cases is not falling. If I didn’t know, I would recommend even more stringent lock down measures.

Why? Because by day 130, (4th May) I think our collective tolerance and forbearance will become severely strained. If the end is not in sight, and if that curve remains flat, then as the combined costs  (economic, social, personal, and medical) grow, I fear there may be social unrest and an already appalling situation will become uncontrollable.

The final toll

Slide2

The above graph shows various statistics plotted versus the day of the year.

  • the blue curve shows the running total of COVID-19 cases.
  • the red curve shows the running total COVID-19 deaths in hospital.
  • the black dotted line shows the predicted number of deaths based on 20% case mortality after 6 days.

At day 107, there have been 14,576 confirmed UK COVID-19 deaths. If today’s cases become death statistics in 6 days as they have for the last 4 weeks, then the total number of deaths will exceed 20,000 before the daily death rate has even begun to fall.

Earlier on in the crisis, it looked like the death toll could be kept well under 20,000. But that now looks impossible.

Until the number of daily cases begins to fall, it will be impossible to estimate how long our current ‘lockdown’ will need to last, and how great a cost we will all have to pay.

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As I mentioned, discussing death is difficult, and if you have been offended by this discussion, I apologise. The reason I have written this is that I feel it is important that we all try to understand what is happening.

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11 Responses to “COVID-19: Day 107: I am concerned”

  1. edhui Says:

    Maybe people should be wearing masks…
    Seriously, our mayor has been lobbying for this, so many countries are suggesting or mandating it; there is published data for and no published data against. We have to start from the obvious hypothesis that a virus will find it more difficult to navigate between one respiratory system to another through two masks than through no masks. Once you make sure people practice good hygiene, safeguard medical PPE, and maintain social distance, politicians should have to explain why they’re NOT recommending masks, not waiting for ‘proof’ that they are a good thing.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Justified or not, I think masks will become commonplace. I find it…interesting …. that 2 months ago covering one’s face in public was seen as part of an ‘alien’ culture, and that 1 month from now it may become compulsory!

  2. abc Says:

    A friend of mine, who is also doing data analysis as you do, has also wondered why there has been no significant change in infectiousness. We have been in lockdown for ~3 weeks; if you are infectious for ~2 weeks, then we should have already seen a change, which we have not. So, either the lockdown is not working or most of the population was already infected well before the lockdown started.

    As for making even more stringent restrictions, I do not think they would be effective. Also, what else can you do? Forbid people to go shopping for food? That would be a good spark for social unrest.
    The only two good things that I can think of are:
    1) increase the test capability as much as possible;
    2) infection tracking.
    The 2nd means loss of privacy, but most of us already share quite a lot on social media and they already trace us, either we know it or not.
    If I had to choose between loss of privacy and further loss of liberty/freedom, I would prefer the former, especially considering that it is assumed that our data are used only for our own well-being and not for anything else and not shared with 3rd parties.

    • edhui Says:

      There has been a significant effect of the lockdown, hasn’t there? Without lockdown, the exponential increase would have continued unabated. What we’re seeing is the failure to slow down absolute infection altogether, which is a different ambition. Remember that even with lockdown working brilliantly, you wouldn’t see a cessation of infection, because so many of the infected 3 weeks ago were first in the household. You’d expect those to infect their household, which would then feed into the death figures now. Then all the asymptomatic non-mask wearers walking around…

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      I too would have expected a fall in new cases, and I am puzzled why it has not occurred. I agree with Ed that we have avoided the calamity of true population-scale deaths. But if we have genuinely restricted interactions between pools of infected individuals then the ‘new cases’ data should be showing a fall.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      And I agree. I don’t know how much more restrictive things could be.

  3. H Stiles (@HStiles1) Says:

    The question is where are people who are dying being infected – surely that should be possible to work out in a lockdown situation? Are victims, who I understand are mostly over 60, with an underlying medical condition, being infected at home? Surely they are not people going for walks in the Peak district or sitting on park benches? Work back from them, see where the holes are, & plug the holes. I suspect carers, NHS staff are transmitting to those people. But they will have been infected I suppose in the first week of the lockdown…?

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      I think that is an excellent question. Even if you could only trace 10% of new cases – or even less – that would surely give clues about the primary means of transmission.

  4. COVID-19: Day 108: Still concerned | Protons for Breakfast Blog Says:

    […] Making sense of science « COVID-19: Day 107: I am concerned […]

  5. COVID-19: Day 111:Getting better, but too slowly. | Protons for Breakfast Blog Says:

    […] my previous posts (1, 2, 3), I have been predicting the number of hospital deaths one week ahead of time by reasoning that […]

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