Four days ago, Italy’s coronavirus death rate hit double-digits. Today, it hit 11%, as it continues to climb.
As of Sunday evening, Italy had reported 10,779 deaths related to COVID-19 illness, with 756 new deaths reported Sunday. That was substantially less than the number of deaths reported Friday and Saturday, but still one of the highest daily numbers of the past week. There have been a total of 97,689 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy, placing the nation’s death rate at 11.0%.
As I’ve said on multiple occasions, this is not a scientific death rate; rather, it is a simple calculation of the number of deaths vs. the number of confirmed cases of the virus. We know that the actual number of people infected in Italy is greater than 97,689; there are cases that haven’t been unconfirmed due to inadequate testing and mild illness that has gone unreported. Still, the same can be said of every nation, so measuring deaths against confirmed cases can still provide a good baseline for how severe the outbreak is in any given locale.
And Italy continues to struggle. Big-time.
That remains important because Italy is a lesson to us all — a lesson of what can happen if we don’t heed the advice that’s being given us by the experts who have studied infectious diseases all their adult lives and know what it takes to turn back pandemics.
Everywhere this disease is at its worst, it’s because people acted too late — or not at all. Italian officials actually encouraged the nation’s citizens to go about life as normal in the early days of the outbreak there. In Spain, where the death rate (with the same disclaimer as above) is at 8.5% and climbing, officials likewise didn’t act quickly enough.
In the United States, the hope was that we did act quickly enough. We had a big head-start on Europe. And, yet, things have surged out of control in New York — particularly in New York City. The Empire State reported 237 new deaths on Sunday — the most in a single 24-hour period thus far — and now sits on 59,313 confirmed cases of the virus and 965 deaths. That’s a death rate of 1.6%, which is climbing. It’s almost certain that New York will never see a double-digit death rate like Italy, but this virus is also nowhere near its peak there; thousands more will die in New York before the outbreak subsides, and there isn’t exactly a lot that state and local authorities can do about it.
Astoundingly, New York has 305 confirmed cases of coronavirus for every 100,000 residents. That’s more than double the rate of infection in the next-hardest-hit state … which just happens to be New Jersey, with 151 cases per 100,000 residents.
To put those numbers in perspective, Tennessee — where Gov. Bill Lee has been widely criticized for supposedly not doing enough to slow the disease’s spread — has only 23 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. That’s an infection rate that’s just about 7.5% the rate of New York’s. (Even in Nashville/Davidson County, the epicenter of Tennessee’s outbreak, there have only been 56 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents — only a little more than one-sixth the rate of infection in New York.)
Meanwhile, New York isn’t the only place in America where the coronavirus outbreak is raging. With the health care system in NYC on the brink of being overwhelmed and a ventilator shortage potentially looming, Louisiana is also struggling. There, where the outbreak is being blamed on Mardi Gras, there have “only” been 3,540 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but for whatever reason the virus is packing a particularly strong punch. There have been 151 deaths in Lousiana — 4.3% of infections have ended in death. Dr. Dylan West, a physician treating ICU patients at Baton Rouge General Medical Center (and an East Tennessee native), tweeted Saturday that he has intubated as many young adults as elderly adults in the past week.
I wrote last night that NYC is the new Italy. It is. But we cannot be fooled into thinking that NYC is somehow different from the rest of America. My uneducated opinion is that we aren’t going to see the virus spread in Middle America — particularly in the rural areas — with the dizzying speed that it has spread in the Big Apple. But the worst of this is still ahead. Even President Donald Trump acknowledged that in his press briefing on Sunday, when he said the U.S. would be doing well to hold the number of fatalities down to 100,000. That followed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s projection earlier in the day that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die if the proper actions aren’t taken.
To put that into perspective, only 2,400 Americans have died thus far.
Long days and weeks are ahead before this nation can turn its attention to healing its economy.