THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Why Covid-19 Could Be the Deadly Pandemic That Changes Everything

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Cat Ellis
February 25, 2020

It has been almost three months since the Wuhan coronavirus, now known officially as COVID-19, emerged in Wuhan, China. This novel coronavirus is the latest candidate to be the next major pandemic. We’ve learned a lot about COVID-19 in that time, and unfortunately, there is still so much we don’t know.

One thing that has becoming impossible to ignore, however, is that this not a drill.

Like all outbreaks, it’s impossible to know for sure if any particular one will become the next deadly, global pandemic until it either happens or doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is shaping into what appears to be the one that folks will be reading about in a hundred years in the same way we look back in history at the Spanish flu.

What We Thought We Knew

When the first cluster of 41 patients was identified in early December 2019 in Wuhan, China, early data suggested that the virus was only of real concern to the elderly, infirm, and those with comorbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease.

These would be standard expectations of a viral respiratory illness, similar to the flu. However, further inspection of that cluster only showed about half with serious illness fit that profile, meaning the other half who sought hospital care were younger, presumably healthier adults.

This novel coronavirus also had an early reported case fatality rate of about 2%, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). A mortality rate of 2% is concerning, but not all that alarming. It’s a little higher than the typical influenza case fatality rate. But, it wasn’t close to the case fatality rate of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus that can be fatal to humans and has a case fatality rate of 34.4%.

As January progressed, we began seeing a handful of cases trickling into the United States and other countries. The first US case of the novel coronavirus was a young man who had returned from a trip to Wuhan. On January 21, 2020, the New York Times reported that he was a man in his thirties experiencing mild pneumonia.

More cases popped up from travelers, for business or education, in the US. But, on January 30, 2020, just a little over a week from the first patient to test positive for the Wuhan coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the United States had it’s first person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Cause for Concern Grows

What was not known from the beginning was the rate of transmission and what percentage of people who become infected will become seriously or critically ill.

Worldometers breaks down the number of total active cases into mild and serious/critical categories. As of February 24, 2020, about 82% have a mild illness, and about 18% have a serious/critical illness requiring hospitalization. This is up from a rate of approximately 13% serious/critical cases just a few weeks ago.

Could this mean that the virus is mutating to become more dangerous? Possibly. But it could also just mean that as more data is collected, this additional data gives us a clearer picture of the real case fatality rate. Remember that the data we’ve received from China all along has been questionable. As the virus spreads to countries with more transparency, what we thought we knew is bound to change.

The same source cites the rate of transmission at between 2 to 3, meaning if there were a room with 10 people, and a person infected with this virus entered the room, you could reasonably expect 2 to 3 people to also become infected. For perspective, that is also 2 to 3 times as contagious as the flu.

The Worldometers coronavirus tracker, which is in line with several other coronavirus trackers from Johns Hopkins, BNO News, and Visa List, also lists the results of closed cases, i.e. cases with an actual outcome. Of the known outcomes, 91% recovered and 9% were fatal. What this means is that out of all the confirmed COVID-19 cases, about 18% will lead to serious or critical illness requiring hospital-level care and that 9% of that subset will die.

The Rest…HERE

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