How many people actually have Covid-19?

No one knows, but it’s certain that official counts will be under reporting actual cases. By how much?

“2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people”

The current official total in the US is 75,000 cases (and 1,070 deaths).

Official counts of cases of Covid-19 have been questioned around the world. The limited number of tests done and the narrow criteria for getting a test here in New Zealand naturally raises questions about the true numbers.

The only thing we can be certain of is that actual numbers are greater than official numbers, at least of cases (questions have also been raised about death counts in some countries).

Reuters: How many Americans have coronavirus? New Reuters poll might offer a hint

The official count of coronavirus infections in the United States sits at about 70,000 cases, but a chronic shortage of tests means only a fraction of the people infected are being counted. So how can we know how many Americans actually might have the disease?

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in the past several days could offer what one behavioral health expert called a “fascinating” hint of the possible numbers.

In the nationwide poll, 2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people.

Diagnosed by whom? That is likely to be various and of varying reliability.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if the answers are a result of misinformed self-diagnoses, untested professional diagnoses or test-confirmed infections. But Carnegie Mellon University professor Baruch Fischhoff, who studies risk perception and analysis, said that the poll results shouldn’t be viewed as merely a collective neurotic reaction to the pandemic.

Given the shortage of coronavirus test kits, it may well be a broadly accurate estimate of the extent of the infection across the United States, he said. “It may be the best available data,” he said.

A further 2.4% of those polled said they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

And in an illustration of the degrees of separation with the deadly virus, a further 2.6% said they knew someone who has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive.

While accuracy of these results can be questioned, there is a rise from a similar poll that at least suggests significant under counting in official numbers.

The poll, which surveyed 4,428 adults between March 18 and 24, shows a dramatic increase in those saying they have tested positive for the virus from a similar poll conducted just a few days earlier.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,115 Americans conducted March 16 and 17, about 1% said they were infected.

The second poll was just after the first, but was for a longer period and polled four times as many people.

Still, the poll results may fill some gaps in knowledge in the face of limited testing.

For example, Fischhoff said, on March 15, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine estimated there were about 100,000 infections in his state, which represents about 1% of the state’s population, despite there only being a handful of confirmed cases at the time.

If these suggested infection rates are anywhere near reality there is one positive – the death rate per infected person and per population will be a lot lower.

But the obvious negative is that the virus may be far more widely established and spread in populations, including here in New Zealand.

One thing that needs to be remembered – until an effective vaccine becomes widely available Covid-19 will continue to spread probably everywhere, and more and more people will get it.

Apart from hoping a vaccine will come out in time we have to hope we don’t get it until the demand for health services settles back and treatments improve as they learn what works best to deal with the symptoms and avoid complications.

So for now I’m happy to be in isolation, and I am prepared for this being for closer to four months than four weeks (August has been mentioned as a time we may be getting on top of things by).

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36 Comments

  1. BBC: UK deaths rise by more than 100 in a day

    The number of people in the UK who have died with coronavirus has jumped by more than 100 in a day for the first time.

    The death toll has risen from 475 to 578, health officials have confirmed.

    Reply
    • David

       /  27th March 2020

      There are 65 million people in the UK. I get the feeling that they are letting the virus spread and relying on herd immunity by stealth knowing that far more people have been infected than the official toll.

      Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th March 2020

    The Brits have been running a self-diagnosing app which is showing a high percentage of infections. Loss of sense.of smell and taste is also reportedly cirrently common and indicative of asymptomatic infection.

    Reply
  3. Australia’s death toll is currently 13, with a total of 2810 Australians testing positive to Covid-19.

    Cases by state (population in brackets):
    NSW 1,219 (7,317,500)
    Victoria 520 (5,640,900)
    Queensland 493 (4,599,400)
    South Australia 235 (1,659,800)
    Western Australia 231 (2,366,900)
    ACT 53 (366,900)
    Tasmania 47 (511,000)
    Northern Territory 12 (231,200)

    Reply
  4. David

     /  27th March 2020

    As Alan mentioned the App that has been developed by Kings College is indicating 6.6 million people in the UK have/had it and this gels with what they think was the first UK case in mid January.
    There was a village in Italy where everyone was tested and 2.7% of the population was infected whereas the official numbers for that province just 198 cases in a population of 955,000. That indicates an infection rate 130 fold more than the official numbers which gives a mortality rate of 0.06% not 8%. These numbers are from Stanford University.
    Professor Ferguson from Imperial College who has been the go to person forecast 250,000 deaths and now he says it might be less then 20,000. He also estimates 2/3rd of people who have died would have died of their other conditions before long anyway.
    I have this uncomfortable feeling we have totally miscalculated this virus with too much of an eye to upcoming elections and politics generally.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  27th March 2020

      make up your mind David…one day over estimating the impact of C19,the next miscalculating its severity.

      Reply
      • David

         /  27th March 2020

        Pretty consistent in thinking the virus,s severity is being massively over stated and the reaction to it is totally over the top and aimed at the wrong target. Shut the border not the country.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  27th March 2020

          Its here,now in communities David….we need to stop the spread….you can’t make money if you’re…dead.

          Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  27th March 2020

      David, I believe that it’s being massively overstated and Italy’s atypical case being used as if it was the norm. Panicmongering is inexcusable.

      Reply
  5. “So for now I’m happy to be in isolation, and I am prepared for this being for closer to four months than four weeks (August has been mentioned as a time we may be getting on top of things by).”

    I’m happy with my last few days holiday. I will NOT be happy by week’s end. Covid’s gonna have to do more than it is to keep the country in lockdown.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  27th March 2020

      I am having cabin fever already. Even I can’t do nothing but read all day.

      I was talking to a friend of my late mother last night. She is over 80 and is resigned to but not happy about being in solitary for four weeks. What will people like her be like if it goes on longer ?

      I thought that my deep freeze had died; thank goodness it was only that the door was a tiny bit ajar. But what will happen when people’s essential appliances die, as some will by the law of averages ??? Things like fridges and ovens are not things that can be done without.

      Reply
  6. lurcher1948

     /  27th March 2020

    The USA medical service has finally discovered how to save the country.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ET-OzlpXsAA3KOw?format=jpg&name=medium

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  27th March 2020

      Good one, Lurch. Can we have one for Commissioner Bush?

      Reply
  7. Infected NZer says only symptom was loss of smell and taste

    A New Zealander who has tested positive for coronavirus says her only symptoms are a loss of taste and smell.

    Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons in the UK report significant numbers of patients with Covid-19 in South Korea, China and Italy lost their sense of smell.

    Nicole Fyfe, 24, said she felt she had a cold when she returned from Britain on Saturday afternoon, but nothing else.

    However a day later, Fyfe said she could not smell perfume, even when she sniffed the bottle.

    She had no idea her “cold” could be Covid-19, until she heard the symptom mentioned during a Health Ministry media conference.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018740408/coronavirus-kiwi-patient-only-had-one-symptom

    Reply
  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th March 2020

    There is probably a message for climate alarmists in this but not one they will want to hear: don’t put too much faith in alarmist models.

    https://thefederalist.com/2020/03/26/the-scientist-whose-doomsday-pandemic-model-predicted-armageddon-just-walked-back-the-apocalyptic-predictions/

    Reply
    • oldlaker

       /  27th March 2020

      Alan, as far as I can tell Prof Neil Ferguson changed his prediction of deaths to accommodate the effects of a lockdown. (“After both the U.S. and U.K. governments effectively shut down their citizens and economies, Ferguson is walking back his doomsday scenarios.”)
      I have seen no evidence that he retracted his initial estimates if no lockdowns take place.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  27th March 2020

        He’s a nut. Nearly 20 years ago I was very busy cleaning up the mess his team made.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  27th March 2020

          All in a days work for you and then off to party with the…Rothschilds.

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  27th March 2020

            Yes mate. You can’t bury 5 million carcass of the animals killed in a wild eye’ed effort to chase a ghost without it making a mess that will need cleaning up.

            As for the Rothschild, it’s a singular. And he parties in a style you do too. Your imagination is really wide of the mark.

            Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  27th March 2020

        Hard to tell as there was no detail or context around his verbal correction. However given Griff’s exponential line there doesn’t seem a lot of sitiational change data to support such a massive pruning of the estimate. Most likely it is the result mostly of a previously greatly underestimated infection rate as other studies seem to be indicating.

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  27th March 2020

          “Most likely it is the result mostly of a previously greatly underestimated infection rate as other studies seem to be indicating.”

          Yes. There is no baseline. No context. The graph is useless without the correct perspective. The media and others are using it simply as a weapon to stoke fear.

          Reply
  9. Reply
    • Duker

       /  27th March 2020

      Its always like that in NZ … the drinking probably started earlier in the day, luckily the city centre alcohol problems will be virtually zero, along with road accidents
      NZ has an alcohol problem and yet we still allow alcohol sales as an essential service

      Reply
      • Maybe they looked at the possible effect reducing availability of alcohol or taking it off the market versus the effects of withdrawal.

        But I doubt they looked at it like that.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  27th March 2020

          I could well imagine that the effects of stress and confinement will fray people’s nerves to an unbearable extent anyway. It’s drizzling here, and people won’t even be able to go for a walk or do anything in the garden.

          Reply
  10. Duker

     /  27th March 2020

    The Australian papers are reporting that large Chinese property companies working in Australia last diverted their workforce to source bulk supplies of medical protective gear from Australian stocks and then flew in chartered cargo planes direct to China.

    Australia doesnt produce a lot of those supplies itself anymore – face masks are only made at a tiny factory in rural Victoria- and yet China both blocked exports of its own gear and Chinese companies not involved in medical equipment scoured other countries for their supplies.
    Hospitals both here in Oz are running short of disposable supplies….this will be huge

    Reply
  11. Remember when Alan said that “Trump’s US has an extremely low rate of infections per capita much to the chagrin of his clueless opponents.”

    https://yournz.org/2020/03/10/covid-19-up-markets-down-down-down/#comment-399783

    America has just overtaken China and the country with the highest number of cases in the world. Deaths will continue rising – up by 421 deaths in the past 48 hours alone – and the NY hospital system is about to crash.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  27th March 2020

      Cheer up Ishmael. Trump is still doing well.

      Small states/territories lead the list in cases per capita: San Marino with 445 per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Faroe Islands (235/100,000), Iceland (166/100,000), Andorra (146/100,000) and Luxembourg (127/100,000). Among the countries with the highest totals, Italy has 97 per 100,000 inhabitants, Spain 61, Iran 25, United States of America 10 and China 6.

      And
      Of the larger countries with reported cases in the thousands, Italy has the highest reported mortality rate (9.5%) followed by Iran (7.9%), Spain (6.5%) and the United Kingdom (5%). China has a mortality rate of 4%. Of the countries with many reported cases, Germany and United States have a considerably lower mortality rates (0.4% and 1.1% deaths of all reported cases).
      https://worldmapper.org/covid-19-coronavirus/

      Reply
      • the trends are all going in the wrong direction for America to be “doing well” – over 2,000 additional cases reported in the last 2 hours

        As for Trump doing well, I applaud your perseverance with your Trumpaganda, but the wheels came off that administration well over a month ago.

        Reply
      • I don’t know that Alan will see this as his head’s in the sand, but the facts are clear: America’s COVID-19 crisis is just beginning. Following is from conservative news site The Hill:

        “American health officials are deeply concerned that the coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed New York City hospitals in recent days is just the first in a wave of local outbreaks likely to strike cities across the country in the coming weeks.

        In an exclusive interview, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said her agency is seeing early signs that the number of cases in other cities are already beginning to spike. While New York City is home to almost half the cases in the country at the moment, other cities are seeing their case counts rising at alarming rates.

        “We’re looking at our flu syndromic data, our respiratory illness that presents at emergency departments. Across the country there’s a number of areas that are escalating. The numbers in New York are so large that they show up, but we’re looking at increases over time and we’re really seeing some in a number of places. It would be surprising to me based on what I’ve seen about how this virus spreads if it were not going to increase in many other parts of the country,” Schuchat said.

        The CDC has deployed about 1,500 of its epidemiologists, scientists and experts to hot spots around the country, including the New York City area and Seattle, where the first American cases of the coronavirus emerged in January and early February. Now, Schuchat said, the CDC has dispatched teams to Louisiana, Wisconsin and Colorado, among others.

        Schuchat declined to name the cities that are likely to become the epicenters of new and worrying outbreaks, but New Orleans has stood out in recent days for the rapid growth in cases it has seen. Louisiana reported its first case of coronavirus on March 9; it crossed 100 cases a week later. Its case count doubled between Sunday and Wednesday, when the state reported almost 1,800 cases.

        Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Tuesday that the pace of growth in the number of confirmed cases in Louisiana was on par with countries like Italy and Spain, two of the hardest-hit nations in Europe where health systems have quickly become overwhelmed and doctors are having to make gut-wrenching decisions about rationing care.

        Colorado reported nearly a thousand cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, twice as many as it had confirmed on Sunday. Wisconsin’s case load had grown from 385 on Sunday to 585 on Thursday.

        Along with hard-hit New York, with some 30,000 confirmed cases, the epidemic is spreading more broadly. New Jersey has reported more than 4,400 cases. California, Michigan and Washington have all confirmed more than 2,000 cases, and Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania had all recorded more than 1,000 cases,”

        https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/489684-exclusive-top-cdc-official-warns-new-yorks-coronavirus-outbreak-is-just-a

        Reply
      • “How did things go so wrong so fast? Much of the answer is that when we were reporting very few cases, things were already getting bad under the radar. A disastrously mismanaged February, during which government officials, much of the media, and even some experts assured Americans there was nothing to fear, let the virus spread until it was too big to ignore. By that time, it was also too big to stop without heavy-handed social distancing measures — and their attendant catastrophic economic costs.

        Much of the blame lies with the president, who stripped public health agencies of the staffing, resources, and authority they needed to function, and then addressed the crisis in his usual fashion: with misinformation and bluster. It’s worked well for him against many of the scandals of his administration, but the virus was unimpressed.

        Even with the government sleeping on the job, there were signs from other countries that a catastrophe was arriving on our shores. But very few people said it out loud, and the ones who did were assured they were overreacting. Most people took public health experts’ reassurances at face value and assumed the low numbers of reported cases reflected reality.

        Meanwhile, the virus spread.

        Now, the world’s most powerful country has one of the world’s worst disasters on its hands.”

        https://www.vox.com/2020/3/26/21194153/us-confirmed-coronavirus-cases-world

        How ironic. I’ve been saying for six weeks that a disaster was unfolding in America, and for the past six weeks you’ve been pooh-poohing the idea. Now, the world’s most powerful country has one of the world’s worst disasters on its hands.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  27th March 2020

          America is bigger so of course it’s numbers will be bigger. You have to scale them for the population to make rational comparisons. So far so good for them. Let’s see how it pans out. No doubt the cases per capita will increase as they will everywhere at least until a vaccine is deployed but if the death rates per capita and per case remain low that will be a success.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  27th March 2020

            Yes. Effectively 64x NZ population
            But their cities can be both denser than NZ and some are more spreadout.

            Reply

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