CORONA WATCH--I have to warn you, don’t read this if you’re already panicked, stressed out, or anxious. It’s one of the most depressing things I think I’ve ever written, and I’m not exactly known for writing cheery missives.
Here’s a bitter truth: Covid is exploding out of control in America. Today was the worst day so far: the daily rate is reaching 70,000 a day. That’s getting perilously close to 100K per day — the number north of which a society will simply begin ceasing to function in basic ways, systems from healthcare to employment to banking breaking down, juddering apart, coming done, stalling and plummeting into freefall.
So. Let’s cut to the chase.
How bad is the wave of death that Donald Trump and his Army of American Idiots have unleashed on America going to be? The answers are staggering. When you do the numbers, what results is too horrific to be believed. And yet there it is, in black and white. The fatal, lethal calculus of a pandemic left to spiral explosively out of control, by an Idiot-in-Chief who encourages people to get the virus, fighting for it — and an Idiot Army who cheers it all on, believing him.
Let’s do the simple math together.
Right about now, America has 3.3 million cases. The American population of 330 million. The prevalence of Coronavirus is therefore almost exactly 1% of the American population. Just 1% of the population so far. That means the vast, vast number of infections and deaths are yet to come.
How many? To answer that, we need to calculate a mortality rate. 136,000 people have died, from about 3.3 million infected. What’s the rate? The mortality rate of Coronavirus in America so far is about 4.5 percent.
4.5 percent. I emphasize it for a reason. The mortality rate of the seasonal flu is far, far less. About 0.1%. Coronavirus in America has a mortality rate about fifty times higher than the flu. Coronavirus isn’t the flu. It is exactly what all the warnings have said: a deadly pandemic.
And yet there’s Trump, still telling people it’s no big deal. Trump’s displayed not just a stunning lack of leadership — but a kind of indifference, and then a certain malice. He began by denying a pandemic was breaking out — which he’s still doing. Just today he said something to the effect of: “Everything’s fine, and it will go away soon. No biggie!” Nothing could be further from the truth. Coronavirus is a deadly and lethal disease, which is now spiraling explosively out of control in America.
Because Trump has an army of American Idiots who take their cues from him. Which is why gruesome phenomena are emerging — like teenagers in Red States who go to Covid parties, hoping to get infected…do…and die. That is because Coronavirus is not the flu. At a mortality rate of 5%, even healthy teenagers will…die. And that’s not to mention the long-term effects, which appear to range from chronic to severe to debilitating, like lung scarring and nerve damage. But I digress.
Let me summarize where we are so far.
Coronavirus has a mortality rate of about 4.5%, which is about fifty times that of the flu. And it’s infected just 1% of the American population so far. The vast, vast majority of infections — and deaths — are yet to come.
(Skip the next three paragraphs if you just want to get to the point. Now, in any sane country, that wouldn’t be the case. A peak would have been produced — because a peak is a thing we make, with policies at the convergence of science and common sense. We lock down, we test, trace, and track, we isolate and quarantine. A global model for best practices has emerged, thanks to countries like New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam — note that even poor countries are on the list — which are the world’s success stories.
All a country has to do right about now is apply the global model template of best practices. The virus will recede. A peak will be created. But left to it’s own devices, a virus like Covid will not produce a peak. Unless it is Ebola, something that kills nearly everyone it touches, a virus like this, left alone will simply result in a plateau. Think of smallpox — a virus that crossed the line into human beings long ago. There was no “peak” — just a long, terrible plateau, which lasted millennia. Until, at last, a vaccine was found.
I say all that so that you understand why this is a wave of death Donald Trump and his Idiot Army have unleashed. A peak is something that we create — we think of “peaks” of disease now, waves cresting and falling, precisely because we live in modern times, with a good understanding of disease, and how to stop it. But if we don’t apply that understanding — if we give the disease free reign, or worse, encourage its spread, like Trump has done and still does, then the result isn’t a peak. It’s a tidal wave of death with no end, the terrible and strange humpback shape of America’s Coronavirus outbreak. There’s a rapid rise to a plateau…and no peak. And then another rapid rise to a new plateau. That stairstep pattern is a virus exploding, in fits and starts, across a while society.)
No peak is what happens when a President won’t do the obvious and sensible thing: apply the template of global best practices, so as to contain a pandemic — and instead seems to be on the virus’s side.
That is why Covid is spinning out control now. America is one of the very few countries across the world that still doesn’t have a national strategy to beat the virus. Without a national strategy, it can’t be beaten. The globe’s experience shows us that very clearly. All the countries that beat Covid fastest and best had swift, decisive national strategies.
But worse, Trump doesn’t seem like he’ll ever have a national strategy. Let me say that again. Ever. How long is “ever”? Well, at least six months. Or maybe four more years. Even six months is terrible, because this is the crucial time during which the pandemic is going…viral. Four years of no national strategy?
How many death warrants is Trump signing?
Let’s go back to the math, because now we’re in a position to think properly about it. This is the part, I have to warn you, where things get genuinely scary.
Covid in America has a mortality rate of 4.5%. So far, it’s infected just 1% of the American population.
What happens when it hits 10%? How many deaths does such a mortality rate mean? 1.5 million. At the current mortality rate, if 10% of the America population get infected, up to 1.5 million will die.
Now, it’s important to say these aren’t exact figures. We’re just trying to get a handle on what kind of magnitudes are to be expected, a set of upper bounds. And the answer is: absolutely staggering and nightmarish ones. 1.5 million dead at 10% of the population infected? What the? And yet the numbers speak for themselves.
Let’s keep going.
Now, no disease — or at least very, very few — reach a prevalence of 100%. The Spanish Flu, for example, infected about 30% of the population, as a rough estimate, before it burned out.
What happens if 30% of the American population gets infected with Covid? At the current mortality rate of 4.5%, that means 4.5 million people will die.
Maybe, right about now, you’re scoffing, in denial. “That’s absurd!” I don’t blame you. Denial is one way we deal with fright — and the numbers above are frightening. But like I said, they don’t lie. Go ahead and think them over carefully yourself. Sure, we can fine-tune here and there, but that isn’t going to change the magnitudes we’re talking about. It might subtract a million here, and million there, but you’re still left with…millions. Dead.
Here is the point. The orders of magnitude we’re talking about if Coronavirus keeps spinning out of control are so immense that they’re staggering. We’re talking now about millions of people dying. Yes, really. We’re about four months into a pandemic that’s only infected 1% of the population so far — and already 135,000 are dead. It shouldn’t be too hard to see that the magnitude of mass death that’s on the cards now is so great as to be genuinely get mind-boggling, impossible to process, greater than World Wars, up there with history’s greatest disasters.
Covid is being allowed to go on basically unchecked, with no national strategy, no plan, no leadership, without which it simply can’t be beaten. Because a game of whack-a-mole emerges, the virus goes permanent, and the number of infected keep rising, faster and faster.
It’s taken about four months to get to 1% of the population. How long will it take to get to 2%?
Today was America’s highest caseload of Covid ever: almost 70,000 people were infected. At that rate, you hit another percent of the population in about another six weeks. The first percent took four months. The second, maybe two. The third, one. That’s what a pandemic is. The number of infections doubles, faster and faster.
And so does the number of deaths.
At this juncture, you might interject: “But the mortality rate will fall as more people are infected! Won’t it?” You’re probably thinking something you’re too polite to say out loud, because it’s an ugly thought. But these are ugly times. “It’s killed off the elderly, sick, frail, weak — and so the mortality rate has to go down, right?”
If anything, the mortality rate in America will go up. Why? Because hospitals and clinics are going to be overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses swamped. It will simply run out of capacity — as it already is in those Red States which are now the world’s worst Covid epicenters.
When the healthcare systems hits its capacity, the mortality rate will rise, faster and faster.
Right now, if you get sick, you’re probably lucky enough to get oxygen, a ventilator, fluids, checks, supporting treatment — healthcare, in other words. But as the pandemic keeps on doubling, faster and faster, you won’t be. And when they don’t have those basics necessary to fight off the virus — which remember, isn’t the flu, but a lethal disease — then many, many people are going to die who might have survived.
The mortality rate is going to rise as Covid continues to spin out of control in America. You might have noticed that in this essay so far I’ve said “America’s mortality rate.” There’s a reason for that. Other countries have lower — much lower — ones. Why? Because they have more functional healthcare systems. Germany’s world-beating mortality rate is low because it’s healthcare system is accessible to all, and it had the most spare capacity in Europe. Translation: infected people quickly got oxygen, ventilators, fluids, treatments, observations…healthcare.
America barely has a functional healthcare system to begin with — and so it’s been eminently vulnerable to Covid. It has one of the world’s highest mortality rates precisely because it had a lack of decent, accessible, functional healthcare from the outset. Now, it’s true that it can invest in one — but not fast enough that it can suddenly have spare capacity to treat millions of infected people.
Hence, in America, where you were lucky to get healthcare before there was a pandemic, what that meant was that the mortality rate ended up being one of the highest in the world.
And what that means now is that as a pandemic spins out of control and becomes endemic, the mortality rate — already one of the highest in the world — is almost undoubtedly going to rise.
How far will it rise? We can do that calculation, too. During the peak of Europe’s pandemic, Italy and Spain had mortality rates that were double what America’s currently is.
They were so high because hospitals and clinics simply ran out of capacity. There weren’t enough beds, ventilators, oxygen, to go around. The virus produced a huge, sudden wave of death in those societies, for precisely that reason — and that is why they locked down so quickly and decisively, unlike America, where lockdown still meant “You can go to the bar at 50% capacity.” Because they took action, though, the virus was contained, and a peak was produced.
If America’s mortality rate doubles — because the healthcare systems runs out of capacity as the pandemic spins out of control, what kinds of numbers are we talking? Just double the ones above. 1.5 million dead at 10% infected becomes 3 million dead. 4.5 million dead at 33% infected becomes 9 million.
The magnitudes we’re talking about are genuinely surreal, incredible, shocking, nightmarish. They’re upper bounds, as I’ve said before. I’m not saying that “ten million people will die.” But I am saying that if the virus keeps spinning out of control, that’s a kind of upper bound on how many could.
That number wouldn’t happen overnight. It would happen over four years of another Trump Presidency, during which he kept on doing what he’s doing right now, this very day. Telling his Idiot Army Covid is the flu, that it’s going to be just fine, that there’s nothing to worry about. Never crafting a national strategy, without which the virus can’t be beaten. Letting it spin completely out of control, rampaging through society.
It would take years to reach those kinds of numbers. The terrifying part, though, is that is now a very real possibility. Those are the stakes of this lunatic staying in office. Millions dead. Maybe tens of millions.
Now — again — I’m not saying that 10 million people are definitely going to die. Or am I? That’s very much the point. There’s now a haze of uncertainty about just how off-the-charts catastrophic this is going to be. The question isn’t whether it’s going to be off-the-charts catastrophic, but how much so. That uncertainty is more properly called risk. And we might say that Trump’s fatal negligence, recklessness, and irresponsibility has created the biggest risk to public health — not to mention the economy, democracy, and a functioning society — in modern American history. So no, 10 million people won’t die — probably. But a million? 2 million? Nobody can really say yet. But the risk is lethally real.
I told you this would be a depressing, maybe terrifying read. It’s certainly felt that way to write. But now you know.
If these numbers are starting to seem like something out of a nightmare, that’s because…they are.
It’s been a nightmare, my friends. This is now the culmination, the coup de grace. This is how social collapses end. In the gruesome, surreal, shocking spectacle of mass death, on a scale too great to be believed. That is what we — those of us who’ve lived all through authoritarianism, its stupidity, folly, violence, brutality, before — have been trying to warn you of, all this time. And still are.
He made America great again, in one way, at last. This is Donald Trump’s wave of death. It might just be one of the greatest modern history has yet seen.
(Unmair Haque posts at E&CO … where this piece originated.)