The worst of the pandemic is yet to come

Click to enlarge. Chart Updated 3/18/2020

[Updated 3/18/2020]  The chart in the upper left shows the spread of the coronavirus in Italy.  Others show that France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the USA are on track to follow in Italy’s footsteps.  So far the virus is spreading more slowly in Canada Sweden and the UK.  

Nobody can know for sure what will happen, and France and Germany are somewhat better prepared for a health emergency than the UK or the USA, but I don’t see anything in place that would save any of these countries from Italy’s crisis.  And of course the situation in Italy may become much worse that it already is.

Unless things change, COVID-19 will not be the last or the worst pandemic.  People and governments need to concentrate for now on dealing with the emergency, but afterwards we need to think about why we were caught by surprise, and why our globalized economic system can enable infection to spread from a single source, possibly a live-animal meat market in China, to every corner of the globe in a matter of months.

I include myself among the complacent.  I have a certain limited intellectual understanding of the crisis, but I don’t feel it in my bones.  As the saying goes, I lack the courage to believe what I know.


The incompetence pandemic by Matthew Karnitsching for POLITICO.  Mainly about Europe.

Conceit and Contagion: How the Virus Shocked Europe by Bruno Maçães for Quillette.

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2 Responses to “The worst of the pandemic is yet to come”

  1. whungerford Says:

    A previous post suggested that measures to slow the spread of a virus would reduce the peak number of cases without affecting the total number of cases long term. Yet China appears to have stopped the spread of this virus all but dead in its tracks. If the former idea is right, the later would seem impossible.


  2. philebersole Says:

    The Chinese government has taken more drastic measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus than the U.S. government, and most other governments, are capable of.

    In Chinese cities, you can’t enter any public facility, such as a restaurant or grocery store, without having your temperature taken. If you are running a fever, you are whisked off to a facility where you are tested for the coronavirus. If you test positive, you are kept in isolation until the acute phase of the disease passes.

    The Chinese have done other remarkable things, such as building 1,000-bed hospitals overnight.

    The Chinese have had remarkable success. What we don’t know is whether this will hold when they end their lockdowns and allow their economy to return to normal, as they will have to do sooner or later.

    I don’t know if any other government on the planet is capable of doing what the Chinese are going.

    Certainly the U.S. government is not. Our government does not have this capability to regulate citizen behavior as the Chinese government does (overall, that is a good thing, but not in this case).

    We do not have the capability to carry out mass testing. Our hospitals and health care system do not have the capability to care for all the potential patients. We can flatten the curve, but we may not be able to flatten it enough.

    There is a lot that could have been done without being as drastic as the Chinese. The smaller nations of the Far East have succeeded in limiting the spread of the disease without mass individual quarantine—by acting quickly, forbidding mass gatherings and imposing mass testing.

    I don’t want to exaggerate the peril. Only a small percentage of us will die of the disease. i don’t want to minimize it, either. That small percentage could be more than a million people.


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