When engineers and scientists want to study an object, the first step is often to study it as a “black body”, apply an impulse to it and study how the body reacts. One such “opportunity” is just now happening, the Coronavirus COVID-19 and how we, as a people react to it.
The flu season started innocently enough, but there was an increase in the number of healthcare visits for flue like symptoms, already when the flu season started in week 39 (October). At this time nobody had even heard of COVID-19
The healthcare workers expected a higher flu season than average, but nobody expected this. On Dec 31 the Chinese government officially acknowledged that this virus could spread from human to human, but was still insisting it was largely contained to the live animal market in Wuhan. But Wuhan is a large regional hub, with lots of people, even international visitors were coming and going. No tests had been developed yet for the Coronavirus, so who is to say when the outbreak started. Certainly not the Chinese, they had successfully silenced a whistleblower, and he later died of the disease. We may never know the onset, and how many had spread the virus internationally before December 31. The silence of the Chinese government was a medical malpractice of worldwide importance. After Christmas the flu symptoms seem to have abated, but after President Trump issued the travel ban for foreigners who have recently been in China, people got nervous and the healthcare visits took off again. The question is, how much did the increased healthcare visits help or hurt? This chart shows the pneumonia cases, since this is usually how people die, not from the flu but from the following pneumonia.
Yes, there seems to be a negative correlation between health care visits and pneumonia deaths. More early attention to flu like symptoms and early intervention leads to fewer pneumonia deaths. Not really surprising, but earlier intervention seems even more important than I thought.
But what was really stunning is the effect the intervention to “flatten the curve”, that is to slow the spread of the virus by 6 feet of separation “better six feet apart than six feet under“, telling everybody in the country to stay home if they do not have an absolutely essential job, don’t cough into open air, wash your hands with soap and don’t touch your face, had. Enough people seem to have obeyed. Did it make a difference? Check out the total deaths per week:
The number of deaths in the whole country shrank by twenty thousand per Week! This is remarkable. Will it continue, will changing hygiene and social separation continue, or will we return back to where we were before?
Time will tell, but there is much hope.
The reverse is just as good: