How Bad is this Pandemic?

I’ve been really down since all of this started, like many people. This pandemic is bad. But part of my anxiety comes from not knowing how bad the pandemic is- that makes it difficult to plan for the future, and allows my imagination to go to some dark places regarding all of this.

That anxiety is compounded by the fact that different authorities are presenting wildly different information. I don’t mean discrepancies between this death toll count and that one; that’s understandable, and the numbers are still in the same ballpark.

I mean things like Vice President Pence saying that the pandemic may be largely behind us by summer, while Dr. Igsby of Johns Hopkins University is saying we could see between 58,000-110,000 Americans die in the next month. This is the same timeframe. Both of these statements cannot be true.

What does the data say? I’m not a doctor, but I think I know how to read a chart. First, I went back and checked the date that Connecticut’s stay-at-home order went into effect, which was March 23rd. There were 415 cases and ten deaths in CT as of that date. As of Sunday, 04/26, Connecticut stands at 25,269 cases and 1,924 deaths.

Below are charts to illustrate the rise in both cases and deaths in Connecticut over the last month. Remember, all these tests and deaths happened after the quarantine started here (many of the exposures may have happened before):

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CT. Source:
Deaths from COVID-19 in CT. Source:

At first, I was confused by these charts, because I keep hearing on the news that we may be “turning a corner” or that “the worst is behind us.” But I realized that flattening the curve means exactly that- you flatten the curve, but the curve continues to rise.

For comparison, here are the confirmed cases and deaths for two other states that have been in the news a great deal. Here’s New York:

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NY. Source:
Deaths from COVID-19 in NY. Source:

And here’s Georgia:

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in GA. Source:
Deaths from COVID-19 in GA. Source:

Again, all of these increases happened during quarantines and social distancing.

The story is the same nationally. I checked the number of Americans who had died from COVID-19 on March 23, thanks to Yale’s School of Medicine. There were 40,000 infections and 473 deaths on that day. According to the CDC, yesterday we stood at over 900,000 confirmed cases and over 50,000 deaths. That’s 50,000 people killed in a little bit over a month:

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Source:
Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Source:

Like i said, I’m not a doctor. But these charts show me a consistent increase in the number of cases and deaths over the last month, even with social distancing. Where in this data is the support for opening? Again, I’m only looking at charts, but they don’t seem ambiguous or confusing. If I had to guess who will be closer to being right about what things are going to look like in June, I think Dr. Igsby’s statements are closer to what the charts say than Vice President Pence.

Which begs the question: why are elected officials telling us things are going to be better? I think that’s the most depressing thing out of all of this, because more people are going to die. That’s a fact, even if we did everything perfectly. The far-from-perfect way things are going now assures that the number of people who die will be higher than it needs to be.

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