16 June 2020

Even As COVID Cases Remain Steady, COVID Deaths Drop. The Atlantic's Derek Thompson Explains

Curious stats and theories from Derek Thompson at the Atlantic.

In the last 30 days, COVID cases per capita have remained steady but deaths per capita have fallen by 50%.

Thompson offers a few theories.

1. We're getting better at treating COVID.

2. Policy is more focused on protecting the vulnerable in places like nursing homes.

3. Knowing that the elderly are more vulnerable than the young, the elderly are generally not taking as many risks and not getting sick as often while the young are taking more risks and are the ones who make up a greater percentage of the new cases. If 100 people at random (let's say 33 young and 33  middle aged and 33 elderly and 1 person who would not tell us their age) get COVID, 5 might die. If 100 mostly young people (let's say 55 young and 35 middle aged and 10 elderly) get COVID, 2 might die. Bars filled with young people sharing COVID result in fewer deaths than COVID spreading through rest homes filled with old people.

Data from Florida supports Thompson's third theory: back in early April, people over 50 and under 50 were equally likely to get COVID. More recently, about 75% of the new cases have been among those under 50.

This is good news in that we are figuring out who most needs to protect themselves through physical isolation. It also suggests that 2020 is going to be a very long year for older people for whom shelter-in-place is still the right choice even in a world where things are gradually opening up.

His twitter thread on this is linked here.

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