The United States Numbers are Not Comforting (Even Compared to Italy)
On March 6th, I wrote about why testing for the coronavirus was crucial to the United States chance of keeping this small problem from becoming a big problem.
South Korea was the example of the goal, the amount of testing needed to head off this virus’ attack. Now, they have tested 290,000 citizens, and more than that, their testing, combined with swift, strict measures of social distancing, their new case numbers have started to drop daily.
I knew that we were nowhere near South Korea’s testing, and my fears, starting early in the month, was that we were more likely to follow Italy’s dire pattern, not South Korea’s optimistic one.
Looking back on Italy’s numbers, I determined about a week ago that we were more or less 10 days behind Italy as far as official confirmed cases went. My estimate is that their numbers from February 28th (889 cases) align with ours on March 9th (749). Each day, I followed their numbers and our numbers closely, watching as we stayed within a few hundred confirmed cases.
This, even knowing that our confirmed cases were only the most severe, and not a true representation of the cases in our country.
Even up until March 15th, our confirmed case numbers, while close, were consistently lower than Italy’s on the equivalent day.
On Monday this week, it switched.
— The United States is finally getting the testing going, and on March 6th, Italy’s numbers were 4,636… on March 16th, the US had 4,713.
— Again, yesterday, even though Italy’s numbers on March 7th were 5,883 confirmed cases, the US went up to 6,455 confirmed cases.
Following the pattern of Italy’s increases in COVID-19 cases, I expected today we would be somewhere near Italy’s 7,375 on March 8th.
Last I checked, according to the website http://coronavirus.1point3acres.com the United States had 9,440 confirmed cases as of today, March 18th.
Reality check for any uninformed- Italy’s hospital and healthcare systems are unable to handle the load.
The doctors here are now having to literally choose who lives and who dies.
They are treating cases in hallways and field hospitals. They are running out of protective care for doctors.
Worse, because of lack of testing and forcing social distancing early, their numbers are still increasing. Their slope is still going up, unlike South Korea that was able to have their cases start to go down.
The reason this should concern Americans is simple- we have less hospital beds per person than Italy.
The United States currently has 2.9 hospital beds for every 1,000 people in our country. Which is normally enough.
Italy, which is overwhelmed, has 3.4 hospital beds for every 1,000 people.
France, which has a huge ratio in comparison with 6.5 hospital beds per 1,000 is also reporting that their hospitals are filling up. Their current case numbers are similar to the U.S. official numbers, and they also expect it to get worse.
This is simple math.
Countries with a higher ratio of hospital beds are getting overwhelmed.
The United States would not be able to handle the load if we stayed exactly parallel with Italy.
But instead we are currently trending worse. Basically, we skipped a day, and are now only 9 days away from their current numbers, and our hospital situation is likely to be a more drastic one when we get there.
We physically don’t have the capacity for the numbers that are projected to need these beds in the next week and a half.
Meanwhile, our testing continues to be far below other nations. On January 20th, the United States had our first case. In a few days, that will be two months that have passed for us to get this virus controlled. We have still only tested approximately 60,000 people so far, so the number of people who have it out of our 330 million is likely much higher, and we don’t even know a good estimate yet.
As a reminder, South Korea tested more than than in the first week. Their reward is obvious, their numbers are going down. That 60,000 from the US is the total in the last two months. We have still only tested .01818% of our population.
The untested coronavirus cases continue to be the biggest problem, as these people don’t know that they are dangerous, and might not believe they need to avoid others. We are still doing damage control from the earlier statements about the regular flu, and about the media causing a panic, and sadly, many Americans won’t take it seriously unless they are told, emphatically, that they personally have COVID-19.
But they won’t know that unless they are tested, which continues to only be those with severe and obvious symptoms.
Italy, as a nation, is looking back, trying to figure out what they would have done differently.
The lockdown should have been wider and stricter earlier, Palù believes, rather than just focusing on the 11 communities initially placed in the red zone, and it should be tighter now. “We should have done more diagnostic tests.”
Americans who continue to go out, hang out, have parties, and relax in big groups are making things worse here, day after day.
No one wants their freedom limited, but the fact that Italy’s COVID-19 case numbers are increasing even when on the whole country is on lockdown has brought them to the point of giving strict fines to people who are caught out when they don’t need to be.
It all comes down to the hospitals, ventilators and health care workers.
This will crash on our nation, and soon.
An expert on infectious disease warned this:
He said many patients spend three weeks or more in the hospital, so bed space will become an issue for some health care facilities as early as this weekend.
What’s the point?
The bottom line here is simple.
If this is a competition for what country handles a pandemic best- the United States will not win. Not even close.
Despite having a head’s up from China, despite the “heroic” move to close the border to China, despite seeing Italy’s suffering, the United States has failed, across the board, to get ready for this or cut it off early.
The testing that could have made a difference early on is rolling out too late, now that it is spread from coast to coast, in every state, with abundant community spread. This will not be stopped by isolating cases anymore.
That time is past.
The only way we can slow down this train is through drastic measures, and full country support. It will not be stopped.
Everyone, young and old, needs to stay home, stay away from others, stay away from friends, family, coworkers, etc. This is a coast to coast battle to keep the numbers down.
Because when the beds run out, the ventilators run out,and the health care workers run out- and they will- the death count will rise.
And that is what we need to focus on keeping low, even at the cost of our social lives.