The media has been issuing ominous warnings about the resurgence of new cases of COVID-19 in many states. In fact, new cases are at record highs in at least a dozen states.
NPR published a list of states where new cases (as of Monday 11:59 pm, June 22) were higher than they’d been two weeks ago. Topping the list was Oklahoma, which has seen a 268% jump in new cases. Next up are Florida and Texas with increases of 184% and 154%, respectively. The list can be viewed here.
“So what,” says the Issues & Insights editorial board.
In early March, when various plans of dealing with the coronavirus were being debated, the choices were shown to us via a curve. Two extremes were presented to us. In the first scenario, we could go on with business as usual and the curve would nearly immediately turn upward and would peak quickly. It would also fall as fast as it rose. The obvious disadvantage to this choice is that the hospitals would be crushed trying to provide care for such a huge influx of patients at one time.
The second option, and the one the U.S. ultimately chose, was to shut down the economy and self-quarantine, the goal being to flatten the curve. The benefit to this plan was that our hospitals and health care professionals would not be overwhelmed.
And, as we moved through it, we were told that scientists would have more time to find an effective therapy to fight the virus and to ramp up testing.
The number of lives lost was said to be approximately the same under the two plans, but the deaths would be accelerated under the first scenario.
We were also told that once we began to reopen the economy, the number of cases would increase.
The I & I editors looked at the situation in Georgia, a state which began to reopen in late April. Gov. Brian Kemp was widely criticized for opening his state too early. At the time, WRCB TV reported that one epidemiological model predicted: “the number of COVID-19 deaths per day in Georgia will jump from 32 people dying on May 1 to a projected 63 people dying per day by August 4.”
The number of daily deaths in the state had already peaked on April 16 at 57 and has been steadily declining ever since. The state recorded a total of 37 deaths all last week, and zero on Sunday.
The same trend is happening nationally, which has seen the growth rate in the total number of cases steadily outstrip the growth in COVID-19 deaths for many weeks now.
So far this month, in fact, the number of new cases on June 21 was 16% higher than on June 1, but the daily number of deaths was 63% lower.
Here’s the interesting part. One of the site’s contributors, Michael Fumento, explains why the spike in new cases won’t lead to a subsequent spike in deaths.
“Death rates are higher at the start of an outbreak for the simple reason that the disease claims the low-hanging fruit first. This, he says, is known as Farr’s Law,” says Fumento. (Please scroll down for a description of Farr’s Law.)
The editors write:
The latest CDC data show that those aged 65 and older account for 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. But that age group makes up only 16% of the population. At the other end of the spectrum, those under age 35 comprise 45% of the population but account for a tiny0.8% of COVID-19 deaths.
Not only has the disease already claimed many of the most vulnerable in this country, there are also millions who now have antibodies.
The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been.
Why don’t we hear explanations like this from the mainstream media? Because if they had their way, the economy would remain shut down through Election Day.
Farr’s law was formulated by Dr. William Farr when he made the observation that epidemic events rise and fall in a roughly symmetrical pattern. The time-evolution behavior could be captured by a single mathematical formula that could be approximated by a bell-shaped curve.
In 1840, Farr submitted a letter to the Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages in England. In that letter, he applied mathematics to the records of deaths during a recent smallpox epidemic, proposing that:
“If the latent cause of epidemics cannot be discovered, the mode in which it operates may be investigated. The laws of its action may be determined by observation, as well as the circumstances in which epidemics arise, or by which they may be controlled.”
He showed that during the smallpox epidemic, a plot of the number of deaths per quarter followed a roughly bell-shaped or “normal curve”, and that recent epidemics of other diseases had followed a similar pattern.