Author: Jonathan Kay

COVID-19 Science Update for March 29th: Keep Your Voice Down

This article constitutes the March 29th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. The data, as originally assembled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indicated 3,461 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, up slightly from Saturday’s newly reported deaths (3,318). As has been the case throughout mid- and late March, the new deaths were concentrated largely in Italy (887), Spain (832), the United States (411), and France (299). Taken together, these four countries accounted for about 70 percent of all newly reported global deaths—about average for the past three weeks. In the United States, about half of all cases are located in and around New York. As the New York Times reports, the city’s emergency-response services are becoming overwhelmed, and health care workers are beginning to be faced with the sort of live-or-die decisions that Italian doctors have been required to make. As discussed …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 28th: Bergamo’s Decimation, More SSEs, and the Case for Masks

This article constitutes the March 28th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. As reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Saturday morning, the data indicated 3,418 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally. However, this figure embeds what I confirmed was an erroneous report for Argentina, artificially inflating deaths by 100. Correcting this would put the actual number of deaths at 3,318, which is still a substantial increase over Friday’s reported deaths, which were 2,684. As has been the case over the last three weeks, the highest number of dead were in France (299), Italy (971), Spain (769), and the United States (411), and these countries accounted for over 70 percent of total global deaths reported yesterday. This figure has remained above 65 percent for 18 of the last 19 days. The case of Italy is particularly alarming. Italy recorded its 1,000th …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 27th: Super-Spreaders and the Need for New Prediction Models

This article constitutes the March 27th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com.   According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. There were 2,681 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, compared to 2,423 reported on yesterday. This was largely due to increased death tallies in France (365 new deaths, up from 231 the day before), Italy (660, down from 685 reported on Thursday and 743 reported on Wednesday), Spain (655, down from 738), and the United States (246, virtually unchanged from Thursday’s report of 249, with the New York City area remaining the pandemic’s American epicenter). On Wednesday, I mentioned that just four countries—France, Italy, Spain, and the United States—represented 78 percent of that day’s newly reported global COVID-19 deaths. In yesterday’s reports, it was 79 percent. In today’s reports, it is 72 percent. This figure has remained above 65 percent for 17 of the last 18 days. In these four countries, the annualized …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 26th: Five Trends Shaping Medium-Term Policy

This article constitutes the March 26th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections to jon@quillette.com. Until today, these updates have begun with a rundown of the latest global data for COVID-19 published at Our World in Data (OWD). As of this writing on Thursday morning, however, the March 26th numbers have not yet been published at OWD. (However, for those interested, there do seem to be recent updates at the website of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, whose reports have formed the statistical basis for OWD daily tallies since March 18th.) So I will skip the daily rundown of new numbers and proceed directly to the thematic focus of today’s update: a broad-stroke, point-form summary of some of the policies that, even at this early stage, seem likely to inform our global response to COVID-19. Until now, the focus was almost exclusively on the short-term response to the pandemic. But now that social and economic lockdowns in affected countries have somewhat dampened the exponential spread of …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 25th: Understanding Models

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 25th, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable developments and analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. The number of newly reported deaths increased yesterday. There were 2,200 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities, compared to 1,764 reported on Tuesday, 1,660 on Monday, and 1,690 on Sunday. This was largely due to increased death tallies in France (240 new deaths, up from 186 the day before), Italy (743, up from, in reverse order, 601, 649, and 795), Spain (514, up from 462) and the United States (211, up from 119). The Netherlands had an unsettling jump to 63 new deaths (up from 34 on Tuesday). And some bad news in Sweden, which I discussed yesterday as being a European outlier due to its liberal approach …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 24th: Counting Cases and Deaths

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 24th, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable developments and analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. There were 1,764 new deaths reported globally over the last day. This represents an increase from the previous day’s jump, which was 1,660, and Sunday’s reported jump, which was 1,690. France had its deadliest day yet, with 186 deaths. The United States had 119 deaths, down from 131. Crucially, Italy had its second day in a row of declining death count—601 versus Monday’s 649 and Sunday’s 795. (Italy also had its second straight day of decline in new cases reported: 4,789, down from 5,560 and 6,557 on Monday and Sunday respectively.) Spain’s daily tally jumped to 462, up from 394 on Monday. If these trends continue, …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 23rd: The Wealth Paradox

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 23rd, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Let me start off with some good news: For the first time in a week, the daily number of new global confirmed COVID-19 deaths has dropped—from 1,690 to 1,660. That’s a small drop, but it’s important. Since I began doing these updates informally on my Facebook page, there has always been at least one country, every day, that has reported a horrifying surge in daily death rates. (The last time that the daily death rate dropped was March 16th — 17th, and even that seemed to have resulted from the previous day’s anomalous doubling of global daily fatalities, fed by an order-of-magnitude increase in …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 22nd: Grim Omens in the U.S.

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 22nd, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Since March 21, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Yesterday’s global tally of total confirmed cases was 305,275. This represents a daily jump of 34,047, up from the previous daily jump of 28,891. This includes: Another 6.5K cases in Italy (a slight increase from the previous daily jump); A worrying 4.9K case jump in Spain (up from the previous daily jump, which was 2.8K); And a big 7.1K increase in the United States, the biggest U.S. jump to date. These three countries account for more than half of all new cases. If you add in France (1.8K) and Germany (3.3K), you get more than two thirds of global cases. There were 1,690 new deaths reported globally. …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 21st: What Is Germany Doing Right?

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 21st, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Beginning today, these updates will be published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Yesterday’s global tally of confirmed new cases to date was 271,364. This represents a daily jump of 28,891. The previous daily jumps were, proceeding backwards, 29K, 19K, 15K, 12K, and 14K. As has been the case in recent days, the lion’s share of new cases came from just these five countries, which accounted for 74 percent of all new global confirmed cases yesterday: France (1.6K new cases, as compared to 1.9K, 1.4K, and 1.1K in the days previous) Germany (4.2K new cases, as compared to 5.9K, 1K, and 1.1K in the days previous) Italy (6K new cases, following on almost equally massive jumps of 5.3K and 4.2K) …

An Optimist’s Case for COVID-19 Lockdown, Our Safest and Quickest Path Back to Normalcy

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19—the acute respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus—a pandemic. And almost everywhere you look, the data appear to show a frightening exponential rise in new cases. As I write this, on March 17th, the latest available reports show that confirmed cases have doubled in Italy over the last five days. In Spain, the most recent doubling period has been just three days. In France, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, the UK, and Netherlands, the figures are four, three, three, five, three, and four respectively. When these facts are presented in graph form, the vertiginous lines suggest a world feverishly coughing its way into apocalypse. But assuming that governments act responsibly, and absent some horrifying SARS-CoV-2 mutation, there will be no apocalypse. Stock markets and economies will suffer greatly. But even this damage can be mitigated through decisive action. The more aggressively that our leaders act to suppress the spread of COVID-19, the more quickly the crisis will pass, and the sooner we will all be able to …