Be wary of reports that the new Imperial College modeling on Coronavirus has downgraded the threat. With headlines like these (below), you could be forgiven for thinking Coronavirus posed less of a problem. The updated model talked of UK deaths being “only” 20,000, not 500,000, but because they were modeling two totally different scenarios. The update assumed that drastic action had started.
The headlines could have said “Draconian Shutdown could save 480,000 lives”.
If Ferguson has any confidence now that the virus will peak a lot sooner — in mid-April — and the UK will not crash their hospital ICU bed supply, it’s only because the country is finally taking serious action and because “the UK should have the testing capacity “within a few weeks” to copy what South Korea has done and aggressively test and trace the general population.
The full Imperial College report by Neil Ferguson’s team doesn’t suggest anything like these headlines imply. Ferguson himself has responded on twitter that the transmission of the virus is slightly faster than they thought, but the lethality is the same.
He now thinks the Ro (rate of infection) is over 3, up from 2.5.
David Adam, New Scientist
and like this:
By Amanda Prestgiacomo, Daily Wire
Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt its curve.
However, after just one day of ordered lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson is presenting drastically downgraded estimates, revealing that far more people likely have the virus than his team figured.
Now, the epidemiologist predicts, hospitals will be just fine taking on COVID-19 patients and estimates 20,000 or far fewer people will die from the virus itself or from its agitation of other ailments, as reported by New Scientist Wednesday.
Given these results, the only approaches that can avert health system failure in the coming months are likely to be the intensive social distancing measures currently being implemented in many of the most affected countries, preferably combined with high levels of testing. These approaches are likely to have the largest impact when implemented early
Let me be clear. This virus has a lethality substantially in excess of “seasonal” flu. Yes, up to half of those infected might not show symptoms. But that is accounted for in our estimates and always was. There is no credible data supporting the idea that 90% are asymptomatic.
There are people who really struggle with making decisions based on incomplete evidence.
Horowitz: Man who spooked the world with coronavirus model walks back his prediction
Before we cause irreparable harm to our lives, liberty, and economy, shouldn’t we first study the nature of the virus, how many people really have it, when it started, and what really works in containing it?
Before we allow the exponential curve to overrun our hospitals, kill patients, doctors and nurses, shouldn’t we make a decision while we still can? If it turns out that our hospitals are protected for some reason from the fate in Italy, Iran and Spain, we can always restart the whole economy after our unplanned three week holiday (h/t TdeF for that analogy).
These are the questions some of us have already been asking, but our voices were silenced because of the Imperial College of London’s study that said this would kill 2.2 million people in the U.S. and 500,000 in the U.K. Now, the author of that study himself has essentially recanted his projection, whether he admits it or not.
Yada, yada, claims of silencing is only corroborating evidence if there is actual data that the virus is not much of a threat. I’ve seen many claims of vast asymptomatic spread but no data to support that. Testing on the Diamond Princess, in Vo, and South Korea still suggest mortality rates of 0.5 – 1% are likely in situations where we don’t run out of Hospitals. Asymptomatic incidence was 50% on the Diamond Princess and most people were tested — though until we get antibody tests en masse we won’t really know who got a short asymptomatic case that resolved even before it could be tested. We would love to have that data, but we have to decide without it.
Walker et al (March 26, 2020) The Global Impact of COVID-19 and Strategies for Mitigation and Suppression,
WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling, MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics, Imperial College London (2020) doi:
March 16th, 2020, Earlier Imperial College Report
Coronavirus Background: ☀ The Demographics ☀ The Ro is 2 – 3 and exponential curves are steep. How Coronavirus kills: why the number of ICU units matters so much. ☀ Illness progression ☀Singapore: calculations of how fast the ICU beds may run out. ☀ We should have stopped all flights so much earlier. ☀ American Samoa avoided Flu Deaths with quarantine in 1918. ☀ Vo, the Italian town that stopped the virus. ☀ Delay = Death, statistics show mortality rates rise tenfold if hospitals are overwhelmed. ☀