Since March 9th when we posted our first story on COVID-19 and made our call for quick and decisive action to stop the virus in the US, the story has worsened considerably. The US now leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases with over 85,000 — surpassing China, Italy, and Spain. Worse, there is no sign that the US pace of infection is slowing anytime soon whereas China’s infection has been under control for several weeks and they are letting workers go back to work in all areas of China outside Wuhan. China’s risk from the pandemic is not over because with the virus spreading globally they need to be ever vigilant about re-infections. But their early draconian travel bans and their thorough testing, tracking and treatment of all potential infectees have allowed them to suppress the pandemic.
The virus is continuing to grow exponentially in the US with a doubling time of about 3 days (see figure above where day 0 is Jan 11th when the world got the genetic code for the novel coronavirus and could begin to attack the enemy). In the meantime, the President is still hoping to remove currently lax travel restrictions by Easter. This wishful thinking is criticized by all respected scientists. With the confirmed case count heading past 100,000 by tomorrow this is not the time to ease up on the fight, but the time to institute strong domestic travel restrictions and wider testing. The first 100,000 confirmed cases in the US achieved tomorrow will have taken 66 days, the next 100,000 could be confirmed in 4 more days by month-end — all with the US still under-testing!
For NY state residents who are at the new epicenter of this global pandemic, the risk is especially acute. The infection rate is 2 per 1000 NY residents so if you contact just 5 persons per day (the current congregation guidance limit) your chance of getting infected is 1%. In certain parts of NYC (e.g. Westchester County) the infection rate is even higher at 6 per thousand. Over the course of the next few weeks as the infection continues to rage each person’s chance of getting infected will be increasingly higher.
NYC is not the only hot spot in the US: Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit are all above the level of infection when China quarantined Wuhan. This means we are weeks behind where China was able to limit their death count to 3,300. In fact, the death toll in the US will be much higher: with a case count of 85k+ and an estimated mortality rate of 4.7% — 4000 deaths are already baked into the US. forecast. Further, with the infection progressing exponentially the final death count will be much higher.
22 governors in the US have already instituted some sort of travel restrictions, and their residents will be better off for it in the long run. For those less fortunate in Florida and Pennsylvania, the most infected states without a state-level travel ban, they will have to wait for their governors or President Trump to wake up and recommend national travel restrictions rather than remove the weak ones currently in place. A national travel ban coordinated by the President makes the most sense since the risk of re-infection will always be high if a few states decide not to impose travel bans.
It’s not too late yet. This could all be over in a couple of months if Trump and the government take decisive action regarding wider testing and travel restrictions now. If not, maybe herd immunity will end this after a few hundred thousand Americans die.