Just last week, we posted an article that suggested the US is making progress in the war against COVID-19. Now there are clear signs that we have reached the peak of the infection and now are on the backside of the pandemic in the US. The following graph shows new daily COVID-19 cases (brown squares) that shows a broad peak around April 7th. The blue diamonds show a broad peak in the daily death count occurring now, 5 days later, around April 12th. You can see that the death count lags the case count by about 5 days as deaths occur on average about 5 days after diagnosis. You can also see that the best estimate for the true mortality rate is 5.5% (as the death count is plotted against the right vertical axis that is just 5.5% of the left vertical axis). This is much higher than the coincident mortality rate of 2.3% that is usually quoted in the media.
This broad peaking in the case count and the death count does not mean the danger is over by any means for the US. This does not mean that we can reopen the country soon, but it does mean that we may reach the peak resource usage requirement by month-end and achieve some measure of control over this virus. Peak resource usage will correspond to a top in the active case graph below — i.e., cumulative cases to date minus deaths and cures, or resolved cases. Because we had multiple hotspots already before the government acted strongly, and because we still lack a national lockdown policy we are not likely to track the near-ideal curve of the South Koreans but more like the flattened, slowly declining curve like the Italians.
This means that it would be far too early to talk about re-opening the country on May 1st. In fact, we had suggested before that the strategic way to open is to make sure that we have tested the country widely for newly infected cases, track all their contacts, and strictly quarantine them all before any consideration of reopening the country or even lifting the social distancing and congregation recommendations of <10 people. In the interim, if tests for antibodies in those already infected prove reliable, we can let those people resume normal activities first. This whole process could take another month and a half before we can consider a general re-opening of the country by June 1st.
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