Just a couple of weeks ago, we were told that the best-case scenario for the U.S. would be 70 million people infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the worst case would be 140 million. In a country of 325 million people, that would mean from a little more than 20% to around 45%. With a mortality rate estimated near 3% at the time, that would equate to anywhere from 2 million to 4.2 million dead.
Those were scary numbers. And were wildly inaccurate.
Even when the numbers were thrown around by the New York Times in the second week of March, they acknowledged that the forecasts were from February and wouldn’t hold if we did anything to stop the spread of the virus. Clearly, we have.
Now, Dr. Deborah Birx is nailing this down. At the federal government’s daily briefing she said:
“Models are models. When people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary, but we don’t have data that matches that based on our experience.”
The media should not “make the implication that when they need a hospital bed it’s not going to be there, or a ventilator, it’s not going to be there, we don’t have evidence of that.”
She went on to cite the dramatic change by the Imperial College of London in its estimate of the number of dead in the U.K. from the virus. For weeks Neil Ferguson of the college has been repeating the estimate of 500,000 dead, and then yesterday he updated that number to at most 20,000, and probably much less.
“I’m sure you have seen the recent report out of the U.K. about them adjusting completely their needs. This is really quite important. If you remember, that was the report that says there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the United States. They’ve adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment.”
In a nation that has brought much of its commerce to a standstill, threatening the livelihood of tens of millions of people, we’re all looking at these adjustments and trying to understand them. This could be the largest overreaction in the history of government.