Maybe - just maybe - we are better off looking to places that haven't politicized a disease.
The response in other nations overwhelmingly suggests that we ought to be taking this seriously. Even if the United States were hopelessly compromised by partisan gamesmanship, fake news, or political and financial manipulation, the rest of the world is still accessible for us to study – and they just might have something important to offer.
- The WHO has just declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
- 14 nations have closed schools; 300 million kids are out of school.
- In Italy, Switzerland, England, France, Germany, soccer matches have been cancelled or played without spectators - and if you know anything about soccer in those countries, that’s a big deal.
- Riyadh introduced a ban on Saudi citizens, residents and foreigners hoping to visit Mecca and Medina for the Umrah pilgrimage. If you know anything about Islam, that’s a big deal.
- Hong Kong Disney is closed.
- The Cherry Blossom festival in Tokyo is off.
- All of Italy is under quarantine. The Coliseum in Rome is closed.
- Northern Ireland is cancelling all its parades, including the St. Patrick's Day parade, at the cost of millions of euros to their economy.
- The biggest tech events of the year are being cancelled to the tune of $1 billion dollars in economic loss.
- Israel is placing anyone arriving from overseas into quarantine for 14 days.
- Germany, in spite of its remarkably low morbidity rate, "has recently scrapped several huge fairs, including ITB, the world's largest tourism event, industrial show Hannover Messe and the Leipzig Book Fair, the world's second largest," as well as asking people to work from home and stop taking public transportation.
We have at least two other coronaviruses on record, and they were not good.
- MERS (2,499 cases, 861 deaths) had an over 30% mortality rate.
- SARS (8,437 cases, 813 deaths) had a 10% mortality rate.
- COVID-19 (126,000 cases, 4,613 deaths as of today) currently has a speculated mortality rate between 1% and 3%. That's a LOT better than 30% and 10%, but it's already hit a lot more people than MERS or SARS. There's a lot of regional variation - even within China it fluctuates between 5.8 and 0.7 percent. The low numbers are probably due to early diagnosis and treatment (see Germany's 0.2% mortality rate); the high numbers have a lot to do with age and pre-existing conditions (see Italy's 5%).
So, how does it compare to the flu?
- COVID-19 has a mortality rate between 1% and 3%, as opposed to the common flu, which has a .1% rate. If as many people get COVID-19 as get the flu, deaths multiply x10 at minimum.
- It has a median incubation period of 5 days, with outliers running as high as 14 days. The flu's incubation period is 1-4 days, with an average of 2 days. People have a lot more time to unknowingly spread COVID-19.
- 10-15% of COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, as opposed to 1% of flu patients. The length of hospital stay for those who died in ICU in China was 28 days on average — three days in hospital and 25 days in ICU.
- If COVID-19 spreads in the US as the trajectories around the world suggest, hospitals will be at max capacity by early May. If - if - COVID-19 hits as many people as the common flu has, the death toll will be devastating, and our hospitals overwhelmed.
This is why around the world, it’s being taken seriously. Early and thorough intervention seems to be helping quite a bit if for no other reason than keeping hospitals below max capacity, which allows for more thorough treatment.