COVID-19: Milder than We Thought

The latest numbers from the state and hospital-association COVID-19 dashboards suggest that the coronavirus in Virginia still is retreating. The seven-day moving average of test-positive cases for COVID-19 tests continues to fall, hitting a new low of 5.8%.

Meanwhile, two measures of intensive hospital utilization have hit new lows. The number of COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Units fell t0 219 yesterday, down from a high of 469 in early April, while the number on ventilators declined to 99, from a high of 302 in mid-April.

New research from the federal Centers for Disease Control suggest that only one in ten COVID-19 cases have been identified through testing, so the number of confirmed cases, which stands at 60,570, is likely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If the national rate holds true here, more than 600,000 Virginians have contracted the virus. In other words, about 7% of the population has been infected. The bad news is that the virus still has a long way to run.

Here’s the good news: If that 600,000 figure holds up, and if the Virginia Department of Health’s 6,071 figure for the number of hospitalizations is reasonably accurate, it means that only 1% of the population that gets the disease ends up hospitalized for it. Given the 1,700 Virginia deaths so far, it also means that only three out of 1,000 who get the disease die from it.

Bacon’s bottom line: COVID-19 is definitely worse than the run-of-the-mill flu, but not orders-of-magnitude worse. It does not justify shutting down the economy. Governor Ralph Northam has loosened up his emergency restrictions to some degree, but continues to hamstring businesses and schools with excessive regulation, as Steve Haner, Jim Sherlock and Kerry Dougherty have vividly demonstrated in this blog.

Northam has said that he is basing his decisions on the science and the numbers, yet I see no indication of any science or numbers behind many of his directives.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the optimal balance between saving lives and salvaging the economy involves three simple things: (1) prohibit large indoor gatherings with the potential to become super-spreader events, (2) focus testing and contact-tracing resources on preventing and containing outbreaks, particularly in long-term care facilities, and (3) urging — not mandating, but urging — everyone to wear masks when interacting with the public indoors.

That’s it. That’s all we’ll need. We’ll get 90% of the life-saving benefit of the lockdown with only 10% of the economic pain. OK, OK, I’m pulling those percentages out of a hat. The precise numbers don’t matter. What matters is the principle: optimizing the trade-off. And those three things will do it.


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23 responses to “COVID-19: Milder than We Thought

  1. Maybe consider a FOIA on emails, notes, models, reports, etc. pertaining to the reason/justification for the executive branches decisions?

  2. I can’t believe you wrote this given what is going on in other states!

    Does what is happening to the other states strike you as “milder than we thought”?

    • Please Larry, one more time; this is a blog devoted entirely to Virginia in isolation of reality. So, if the directions to your house don’t say, “Now, turn off the paved road…”, or you do not consider a family reunion as an opportunity to meet girls, please confine your comments, as we do our blog posts, to facts as they apply roughly in the vicinity of Richmond.

      2000 dead in Virginia is not enough reason to blink. So what if the other 49 lose 198,000. And BTW, nothing Northam did helped in this underperformance. It was due to the monuments.

  3. That “only one-in-ten cases is actually diagnosed” has been clear for two or three months. It has also been clear that those at great risk of dying are aged, and/or in many cases suffering from known pre-existing conditions. In fact, yesterday the CDC seemed to drop back on age as a determinant of risk and doubled down on the co-morbid conditions (adding pregnancy as a risk factor for serious but not fatal illness). A recent national story about a 17 year old fatality included sufficient video to peg her BMI well in the 30s….The stuff they said ten years ago would kill you? They got it right….

    People will do what they will do. People are going to beaches, crowding into or around bars, holding street riots, etc. It would take an army to stop them. The lock down approach could only last for a while. Those of us who know we’re at risk need to continue to be careful.

    • Over 70 million adults in U.S. are obese (35 million men and 35 million women). 99 million are overweight (45 million women and 54 million men). NHANES 2016 statistics showed that about 39.6% of American adults were obese.

      • CDC was saying a 40 BMI was the sign of risk, and lowered that yesterday to 30. So yes, those are the people at high risk. BMI of 30 or higher is technically “obese.”

        That’s why closing the gyms was infuriating. Telling everybody to sit home on their couches eating take out. 😉
        If the government was serious about people’s health, it would ban cigarettes and vape products, and go around workplaces taking out the Coke and candy machines…..But Noooo. 😉

  4. 40% of the population for that ONE comorbidity risk?

    when you add in the others.. ??? what percent of the population?

  5. Then there’s this, which argues that COVID-19 “deaths” may be overstated by as much as 25%.

    “The case definition [of a COVID-19 death] is very simplistic. It means that at the time of death it was a COVID-positive diagnosis. So that means if you were in hospice and had already been given, you know, a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death. It means that if, technically, even if you died of a clear alternate cause but you had COVID at the same time it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone that’s listed as a COVID death doesn’t mean that that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.”

    • I suspect it is the same with seasonal flu. People die with it but not many of it. It is the flu plus other issues, as with COVID. Only a small % of COVID death certificates list just that as the cause. On the other hand, there are recent deaths where COVID may have contributed but is not recognized and is not on the death certificate.

    • Even if I get run over and killed by a truck while I am covid-positive?

      • Might want to get at least one other view than just Powerline… I’d not call them credible media…

        basically what this argument is – that the virus is not deadly except to old folks and those with comorbidities and it ought not be be adversely affecting our economy, our schools, our sports, our amusement parks, etc, etc…

        It’s a viewpoint for sure but is it a valid one?

        Not in the polls but then those that make this argument claim that the media has essentially brainwashed everyone so the polls are not valid either.

        You have to make several steps to get there but folks do.

  6. A sensible comment from SteveH: “Those of us who know we’re at risk need to continue to be careful.” Here is a useful elaboration on that theme: things that, on the sliding scale of risk, matter more or matter less:

    But Jim, I take issue with your reference above to Kerry Dougherty. You say there’s something “Steve Haner, Jim Sherlock and Kerry Dougherty have vividly demonstrated in this blog.” IMHO, you demean SH and JS by association. KD demonstrates nothing more than how to write with maximum snark and minimum information content. Her snide characterizations based on the evidence of “everybody knows” don’t stake out facts anyone can respond to and don’t persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with her — to the contrary, her waspishness belittles intelligent, fact-based discourse itself, which is something we get entirely too much of from the W.H. and the Fox “commentariat” these days. The strength of this blog has been the broad mix of views here, generally sincerely if respectfully offered and politely if combatively received. K.D. does not even try to fit that model.

  7. According to the CDC, from Feb 1 through June 20 it has recorded 1.23 million death certificates, about 110,000 of them mentioning COVID among the causes. CDC says that is 106% of the expected number of deaths for the period, based on previous years. There have been weeks, in April, where that hit 140%, but it was only a couple of weeks at that level. It has been going down.

    The numbers are still accumulating, even for those weeks, but the reality is everybody dies of something, and we have not seen the kind of decimation of the population some warned about. Excess deaths of 6% over that period is not even as many as the 110,000 blamed on COVID, so clearly some of those people would have died in that period anyway! Granted for a few weeks there the excess deaths were grim. But if the infection is now hitting dumb young people, they will get sick but few will die. Why all the attention to 110,000 COVID-involved deaths and not 1.1 million unrelated?

    (Yeah, yeah, if we hadn’t wrecked the economy it would have been a million COVID deaths…..poppycock. I will accept that but for the mitigations, the hospitals would have been overwhelmed, as a few were.)

    • So you have to ask yourself why Florida, Texas, Arizona are “overrating” to the virus-spread if most folks don’t actually die from it, right?

      Those are all GOP governors. have they all lost their minds and overreacted?


      • No, they have hot spots and they are taking steps to deal with the hot spots, and in a couple of places, the hospitals are getting hit. Even flu peaks in different places at different times. But cases are growing in select, specific areas where the population has decided to behave as if there is no danger. Right here in VA there are still active outbreaks in nursing homes, and in the case of today’s report, more than half of the deaths came from them. I was actually pleasantly surprised Northam did not hold us at Phase 2.

        • re: ” But cases are growing in select, specific areas where the population has decided to behave as if there is no danger”

          but you are saying that it’s overblown yourself, no?

          Aren’t you essentially agreeing with those who say there is no real danger, it’s just a flu and most will not die from it?

          FYI – Florida has what, 9000 cases… is that “hot spots”?

          On Friday, officials in Texas and Florida states took action to limit the spread among younger age groups. Mr. Abbott closed bars throughout Texas, except for delivery and takeout, and limited restaurants to 50% capacity. In Florida, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation banned alcohol consumption in bars across the state.

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