In addition to looking at Washington/King County, I thought I’d dig into what’s happening in some other states. From these we might learn how they’re doing and also examine how their different approach to the pandemic has worked.
The statistical story of New York is the story of New York City. Governor Cuomo spent some time pressuring Mayer De Blasio that there was a crisis coming and he should shut down; de Blasio resisted this and waited until it was too late to really institute a shutdown.
Alas, this has led to a tragic outcome. Part of the problem was a lack of testing…as we’ll see again and again, this is the original sin of the crisis.
Significant testing didn’t ramp up until March 18, and the horrifying data that flooded in drove the government to shut things down immediately.
The result is tragically predictable. Under the covers, cases had been exploding starting March 6, and the shutdown came into a terrifying growth curve over 40% per day – doubling 2-3 times a week.
New York’s other – and primary – sin has been that it’s a monstrous city . Most of the time, being a huge city has huge social and economic advantages. But in a plague, cities are horrific charnel houses, their density creating an ideal medium for bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
Have you been to Manhattan? The lifestyle involves getting up in the morning, riding a crowded elevator to the street level and walking on a crowded sidewalk to a crowded subway platform to wait for a crowded subway car to take to you another crowded platform to walk on another crowded street to another crowded elevator to get to a crowded cubical farm. Corona heaven!
Another – more important factor working against cities is the medical resources available to them. New York’s hospital system is equipped for a normal time, but this surge will swamp it. Medium sized cities have a much better ratio of medical beds to people, but NY simply isn’t equipped for this kind of surge.
The result of being allowed to spread unchecked for several weeks in NYC eventually showed up in the next figure – deaths. If we assume it takes on average 2-3 weeks to die from COVID-19, we can see this perfectly play out – the huge increase in deaths up to a peak of 600/day was all generated before de Blasio instituted his stay at home order.
Now, finally, we are seeing evidence that stay-at-home has had an effect on April 5, with a plateau in deaths. The next week should certainly kick off a real improvement in the situation, but imagine if these measures had been made even a week earlier?
Human reasoning and politics are not up to handling pandemics well. Let’s hope other mayors and governors learn from the lesson here and shut down early – it can save thousands of lives.