A new study from the renowned Imperial College in the U.K. has dramatically revised upward the possible number of Europeans infected with the COVID-19 Coronavirus. It estimates that on March 30, 2020, 15% of Spaniards and 9.8% of Italians were infected. If correct, the actual death rate may be as low as 0.15% – or 25 times smaller than the initial reports. In the U.S., too, the real number of stealth-infected people is almost certainly much higher because the immune system of those who are asymptomatically infected kills the virus in days – and such people will test negative.
When the Coronavirus outbreak first occurred in China, the world paid little attention because the communist regime was lying about the severity of the illness and its rapid spread. It covered up the real numbers and told the global community there was no reason to close national borders. Consequently, the virus could spread undetected across the globe and become a pandemic.
People started dying in large numbers, and the initial death rate was reported as 3.5% of confirmed cases. When President Donald Trump said that this estimate was probably much too high, he was pounded by the media for being unscientific and ignoring the experts.
As the scientific community has learned more about the spread of the virus, it is slowly coming to the same conclusion as Trump. It turns out that COVID-19 is no ordinary virus. Unlike most others, it manifests a split behavior. To most, it is harmless, whereas to a small proportion, it is deadly. Comprehensive tests onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship showed that 58% of infected passengers had no symptoms. A recent study in Iceland came to a similar conclusion.
The Imperial College Study
Based on how rapidly the virus spreads, it is possible to model the number of people who are infected, including those who show no symptoms or are already immune. Imperial College has done this. Due to a lack of reliable data, its numbers are still highly uncertain. Spain, for instance, is the most severely affected country in Europe, with between 3.7% and 41% of the population infected on March 28, with a mean estimate of 15%.
There were only 73,235 confirmed cases in Spain on that day – just 0.16% of the population. Imperial College’s lowest estimate is a whopping 24 times higher. The scientific community is concluding that most people never know that they are infected.
New York City
If we use the numbers from the Imperial College study to the most affected place in America, New York City, we get an astounding result. Somewhere between 4.7% and 51% with a mean of 19% in the metropolitan area are infected with COVID-19.
The reason why isolation is not slowing the spread so well in New York appears to be that many are living with partners and family members who already have the virus. The good news is that the city is close to herd immunity. With a daily growth rate of around 10%, the epidemic will burn itself out in a matter of weeks.
We can also use the study to estimate how many people will die in total in New York: between 4,000 and 40,000, with a mean of 10,000.
Reopening the Economy
If this scenario pans out, governments should update their mitigation strategies. The shutdown of the entire economy may not be the best option. The large number of people who are now immune to the disease can safely go back to work without fear of becoming sick or infecting others. To save the economy, testing and identifying them is, therefore, rapidly floating to the top of the priority list.
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