Saturday, April 25, 2020

How is the US doing with it's COVID-19 Response?

I've seen a lot of ways to compare the US to other countries when seeing how bad it is here compared to other countries.

Many of the comparisons just take the raw number of infections, or deaths which may be useful early on, but as the pandemic continues that becomes less useful.

There is limited availability of testing in many countries, so there are many people who have Covid-19 that haven't been tested.  At some point in the future there will be enough testing, but right now,  the number of infections a poor metric because it significantly under counts infections and due to different levels of testing in different countries, makes comparisons not very useful.  A better metric seems to be death rate.  That too is under reported since some people die without being tested and without going to the hospital, but I think it is more accurate than infections.

The population of the countries is important.  Is it useful to compare the the United States with a population of around 330 million to Sweden with a population of 10.2 million?  Sweden has roughly the population of North Carolina.  I think you have to take that into account and a good way is to do the comparison per million of population.

The pandemic started at different times in different countries, and initially is an exponential curve, so a country with was first infected in February will have a very different number of infections or deaths than one that was first infected in March.  This makes comparisons strictly by date less useful.  Many comparisons I see start at when a country has some number of infections (or deaths).  Very early on the rates of change jump around a lot (if you go from one death to two deaths you double the number of deaths, but you can't have partial deaths).  I've seen a lot of charts start at 100 examples and I think that makes a reasonable place to begin.

Given this, I think a good metric for comparison is the deaths per million by country since 100 deaths were reported.  I couldn't find this chart anywhere, but fortunately, Johns Hopkins University is releasing the raw data they use.  This lets me make my own charts and update them whenever I want.

Here is the chart I made on April 24th.  I didn't include every country, mostly ones that have been in the news.  You can see that South Korea has done very well, just like the news reports say.  They currently have 4.72 deaths per million. Hubei, China, where this started, has really leveled out.

The next group is the US (dark blue on the graph) and Germany (black),  For a while they were neck and neck, but in the past week Germany has done a good job at slowing the death rate while the US has been going up at the same rate for the past few weeks.

The rest of Europe seems to be all following a similar path, and all have a much higher death rate than the United States.  Spain (yellow) is the worst, but France (green) and Italy (orange) aren't far behind.

In the past few weeks Sweden has been held up as an example of a country that has not done stay-at-home orders but still has it under control.  This chart tells a different story.  Sweden (in light blue) is right there with the rest of Europe and deaths are growing faster than the US.  This isn't something I'd want us to emulate.  One oddity of the data you can see is every weekend the death rate flattens out, this has been happening for 3 weeks straight, so it seems like they don't report on weekends.  I'd expect a big jump on Mondays as they catch up then a slower rise for the rest of the week, but I'm not seeing that.

It looks like the US is doing pretty well compared to other countries.  Certainly there are a few other countries doing better, such as Germany and South Korea,
 but there are many more countries doing worse.

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