Tony’s Coronavirus Notes – different speeds?

Sunday, 26 July 2020

The New York Times had a story on Arizona’s Covid-19 story, which is effectively ‘a large-scale version of a clinical trial.’ Like assorted other states Arizona opened up too early, the cases, the hospitalisations and the deaths have shot through the roof, but now they seem to be levelling out, they’ve stabilized. ‘We’ve stabilized at 95 miles an hour, and that is not the speed that we want to be going,’ said Dr Joshua LaBaer at Arizona State University. ‘Ideally, we don’t want this car moving at all.’

Absolutely true, ideally you want the Covid-19 car parked by the side of the road, going nowhere. In some place around the world the curve is still climbing steeply, in some (unfortunately not so many) it’s going down steeply. In a lot of places – like Arizona – the Covid-19 case numbers seem to have stabilized, but the car is not stationary and parked, it’s still moving. Some examples, using Arizona’s daily case increase as 95mph.

54mph – the USA – so the USA as a whole nation is travelling much slower than Arizona, but still at high speed.

36mph – Qatar – the tiny and very wealthy Gulf Arab state has the worst numbers in the world for cases per M, but the daily new case rate has been falling steadily for nearly two months. It’s down to 20% of what it was at its peak, but that peak was so high that today it’s still cruising along at 36mph

32mph – Chile – the Latin American nation should have been one of the best cases on the continent, instead it’s been about the worst. In fact it’s clearly worse than Brazil on a per capita basis, Chile is a much smaller country. For over a month, however, the daily case rate figures have been steadily falling although it’s still running at 30% of the peak number and that was so large that Chile is still cruising along at the suburban speed limit, not looking for a parking spot yet.

▲  citibikes on the move in Manhattan

11mph – New York State – if Italy was the European horror story then early in the pandemic New York was the US state equivalent. Now it’s doing relatively well when many other US states are not. Doing OK, however, doesn’t mean it’s parked by the sidewalk. From its scary peak the case rate has gone down for over three months, but for the last month it’s been gently cruising along at over 10mph, good bicycle spinning speed, not about-to-pull-up-by-the-curb speed.

4mph – Sweden – with rather more planning and control Sweden took the USA route, ie carry on with life as if the pandemic wasn’t happening. The result was terrible, amongst the worst figures in Europe and certainly by far the worst in the Scandinavian region. But then a month ago the daily case rate started to steadily fall and today it’s less than 20% of its peak, despite which Sweden is still driving slowly looking for a parking spot.

1mph – Italy – early in the pandemic Italy was the worst case situation anywhere in the world, then it reached it’s terrible peak almost four months ago and steadily fell. A perfect downhill ski slope, no nasty moguls, no surprise spikes, but now it has levelled out and has been crawling along at about 1 mph for nearly two months. Not quite as slow as New Zealand’s nearly stationary speed, and indeed pretty slow, but still moving.

0mph – New Zealand – mathematically, particularly compared to Arizona, it’s stationary although in fact a case pops up every day or so, usually from a kiwi arriving back home. So New Zealand’s Covid-19 car is not quite a case of parked, locked, walk away, it’s barely crawling along the roadside, but still moving.