Daily COVID-19 Briefing: 3/23/20

  1. W.H.O. says the pandemic is accelerating, countries urged to do more
    The Director General of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) urged world leaders to be more aggressive in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that relying solely on defensive measures such as social distancing and requiring people to stay home will not stop the epidemic. He said the “pandemic is accelerating” noting that “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” Yes, we now living in a world where things multiply, rather than add. Around the globe, COVID-19 is now in nearly every country on earth. The U.K. announces a three-week nationwide lockdown as cases there top 6,650 and 335 deaths. An IOC official said the 2020 Olympics will be postponed.
  2. Warm weather is not likely to save us
    Spring has sprung, so will this coronavirus thing go away? The best answer is probably not. We do see big seasonality effects of other respiratory viruses, some of which go more dormant in warmer months. The reasons are more complicated than you might imagine. However, a novel virus taking it’s first trip around the globe is not likely to demonstrate as strong a seasonal dip. On the plus side, we do see a slower pace to the pandemic in the southern hemisphere (Brazil has only 1,924 cases for example). However, the pace on new cases has been strong within and between countries in warmer areas. For more information, read the article by Katherine Wu in the Smithsonian.
  3. Italy may be our future
    Italy passes China for the most deaths with 6,077. More than 2,000 Italians have died of the virus in the last four days alone. What does it mean? Is Italy a special case? Did something go wrong in their response? The staggering toll Italy now faces is not the result of bad luck, population aging, or lack of response. Italy was aggressive about ordering a nation-wide lockdown. It remains to be seen how the Italian story will play out elsewhere. But it is dangerous for the rest of the world to assume that Italy is an outlier, a special case that won’t happen elsewhere. The same transmission dynamics taking place in Italy are happening in most countries; the big difference is that Italy just happened earlier. There is a time-lag at work here. Take a look at the figure below. It provides an apples-to-apples comparison of the epidemic curves in Italy and the U.S. corrected for the time lag. It shows not only that the U.S. is following a quite similar pattern, but also that aggressive actions taken by the Italian government (which have not been enacted here) may have flattened-the-curve in that country. The rise in cases has yet to peak in Italy and is unlikely to do so until April or May.
Accessed online at https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/3/20/21179040/coronavirus-us-italy-not-overreacting on 3/23/20
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