Oct 302020

The latest figures from the United States are scarier than ever. It appears Dr. Fauci was right when he predicted that the daily number of new cases will reach 100,000; according to the World-o-meter data that I’ve been following, there have been 101,461 new cases in the US today.

Does this mean that the United States officially qualifies as a “shithole country” with regards to how it manages the pandemic?

Not so fast.

Per capita, these figures mean 306 new cases per million people in the past 24 hours.

But look. Here’s my country of birth, Hungary. They were doing well until they weren’t. In the past 24 hours, they produced 3,286 infections. For a country with only 9.65 million people, that’s a lot. So much, in fact, that at 340 cases per million people, they are actually ahead of the United States. (What a relief: America is not number one.)

And wait! Before you jump to the conclusion that Mr. Orban’s illiberal populism is to blame, look at France. In the past 24 hours, they produced a staggering 49,215 new infections. Granted, that’s less than half the number of new cases in the US. But they only have less than one fifth the population! So per capita, their figures translate into a truly whopping 754 new cases per million people.

So perhaps it’s not politics, after all.

None of that excuses Mr. Trump as he mocks experts and holds “super spreader” campaign events. Perhaps 306 is less than 340 or 754, but it is still a lot of people. And as a result, around a thousand Americans die every day who could otherwise have lived. Clearly, the country could do a better job.

Canada, too. Perhaps our statistics look better than American statistics, but there is no room for complacency. This second wave is hitting us hard, much harder than the spring outbreak, and there is no sign of it ending anytime soon. On the national level, the rate of new infections is below 100 per million people, but it’s much higher in hotspots. Today’s breaking news: The province of Manitoba registered 350 cases per million, exceeding the US average.

A vaccine may or may not be coming soon. Even if it does, it will likely be imperfect, offering limited immunity. And it will take months for a mass vaccination program to reach the requisite level for vaccine-induced “herd immunity”. Long story short, the end is not yet in sight. This is likely going to get worse, perhaps a lot worse, before it gets better.

But it’s not politics, people. Wear those damn masks. Wash your hands. Keep away from other people. Resist the temptation to visit grandma on her birthday or hold a large Christmas family dinner. For crying out loud, this is not some backdoor to communism. You are not a lesser human, a less manly man if you wear a mask and keep your “social distance”. This is centuries-old science, which is how human society was able to cope with past epidemics. Ignore it and you may be directly responsible for infecting, perhaps crippling, even killing your loved ones.

 Posted by at 9:55 pm

  3 Responses to “Terrible but puzzling numbers”

  1. Seems to me that comparing such figures (per capita) are fairly meaningless, as the number of tests per capita is not equal. You would need to adjust for this value, too. And even then, it’s going to be biased based on *who* is tested. And from where. I just don’t think you can easily say one country is worse than another without a much more rigorous analysis. But even so, the wearing (or not) of masks has become an ideological issue in the USA; it’s about reaffirming your position on something, rather than logical and common-sense behavioural change to reduce infection transmission. You can go on and on about how wearing masks is the right thing to do, but the people who won’t/don’t will not be swayed by any such arguments. As I said, ideological.

  2. A valid point, but perhaps the comparison is not as meaningless as you suggest. The number of tests conducted is not that dissimilar (431 tests per thousand people in the US, 242 in France, 109 in Hungary, 258 here in Canada) and if anything, it makes the differences appear even more puzzling. Then there are the death statistics, which do not depend on the number of tests, and which show similar disparity: 2.98 deaths per million people in the past 24 hours in the US, 8.35 in France, 6.73 in Hungary, 0.95 in Canada.

    So yes, I recognize that this is no rigorous analysis (hey, it’s a blog post!) But I don’t think the comparison is “fairly meaningless”.

    As to the mask business being ideological… Yes, that is precisely my point. It boggles my mind. This level of ideological self-deception wasn’t even common among committed communists behind the former Iron Curtain.

  3. […] was less than three weeks ago that I blogged about a terrifying milestone: the number of new COVID-19 cases reached 100,000 a day in the great […]