I spent most of yesterday trying to understand where things are headed. A friend in the Bay Area sent me a link to this, and Andrea helped me track down this site. Together, the two offer guidance on not just where we are, but where things are going. It doesn’t look good.
Where we are. If you want to see where we are, I’ve been using this dashboard, courtesy of John’s Hopkins in the US.
These growth curves here are helpful to contextualize the above numbers by country.
Where we’re headed. More importantly though is what the above numbers portend to future days, weeks and months. This sums it up in a single graph (I’ve highlighted Spain, where I am presently, and the US, where I am from):
You can see how closely Spain tracks Italy, and how closely the US is tracking both, albeit 16 days behind Italy. The assumptions, which are key to understanding how to change the rate of growth, suggest that if the US waits to delay lockdown until they reach the same number of cases per 10’000 inhabitants as Italy (around 1 per 10’000), it will see ~33k confirmed cases in ~9 days, Wednesday 25-March, up from ~3.7k cases as of 4:33am EST this morning. Of course, these are confirmed cases, meaning the ones severe enough to seek testing in the first place, and likely to need more intensive medical treatment.
Based on a simple but illustrative model here, you can see what those hospitalizations mean for the health system in the US. Very soon, the number of beds needed will exceed beds available, by a factor of 6-to-1 in a little over 30 days. This is why there is so much talk about “flattening” the curve, so peak cases requiring medical treatment fall under levels of maximum capacity (as illustrated in the teal line in the below graph – existing capacity – versus the orange line of expected demand for hospitalization).
As for Europe (and the US), it will get much worse before it gets better.
The US won’t blunt the curve like South Korea did, at least not from the top at the national government level. The current focus on testing is, at best, weeks too late. In a less interconnected world, local and state actions would help. But we are interconnected, greatly so, meaning any chance for significant impact lies at the individual and family level. So please stay inside: every person makes a difference, and your actions will impact those around you, for better or worse. Very soon we may all reveal our best or worst selves, as individuals, families and as nations. If so, let us hope we like what we become.