04.02.2020 0

U.S. daily death toll from Chinese coronavirus reaches 1,000, double seasonal flu, as private sector quickly moves to build ventilators

By Robert Romano

The daily death toll from Chinese coronavirus in the U.S. sadly has reached more than 1,000, already double that of the seasonal flu, with the worst yet to come according to certain models that plot hospitals becoming overwhelmed with ventilator shortages.

Thankfully, the private sector is moving as quickly as possible to produce the number of ventilators believed to be needed with Ford, GE, 3M, General Motors and others acting, and President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite the orders being made.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has a modeling website, www.covid19.healthdata.org, updated daily with new metrics on mortality projections, the number of hospital beds, intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators that will be need to mitigate the loss of life.

It projects that the daily death toll could top 4,500 a day at the high end, almost 10 times worse than the seasonal flu. That is if the rate of infection exceeds the private sector’s capacity to produce enough beds and ventilators, according to the model.

The overall death toll could reach 177,000 if the health care system becomes overwhelmed. And that’s with the entire country on lockdown. Without the lockdown, the White House coronavirus task force projects as many as 2.2 million could have perished in the U.S. in the pandemic this year, with the elderly and those with underlying health conditions the most at risk.

The stated purpose of the website is to help planners know how many of those thinks they need both nationally and at the state level: “These forecasts were developed to help hospitals and health systems prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients over the coming weeks. ‘Peak resource use’ is when the estimates predict the greatest need for hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, and other related hospital resources.”

Additionally: “The model is updated regularly as new data are available, in order to provide the most up-to-date planning tool possible.”

One interesting aspect about the website is users are able to compare where we are today with two weeks from now when the model projects peak resource usage and as death tolls mount. Sadly, right now, the mortality projections appear to be rising, not falling, from just a few days ago, and so are the projected ventilator shortages.

On March 27, IMHE was saying peak resource use would be on April 9 and 19,000 ventilators were needed. A day later the model said it was April 14 peak and 18,700 ventilators needed. Then on March 30, it was April 15 and 26,700 ventilators needed. As of April 1, it was up to April 16 peak and 31,000 ventilators needed.

Also, at first IMHE was projecting 81,000 deaths total this year on the medium range. Now as of April 1, the model projects up to 93,700 deaths on the medium range, with a range from about 41,000 to 177,000.

The struggle, and a large part of the reason for the uncertainty has to do with ventilator production. Readers have undoubtedly noted the emphasis given by public leaders, the medical profession and media outlets on the ventilators.


 

The reason is because, in order to be useful, ventilators must be rigorously tested before put to use. And as the President noted yesterday, they take some time to build. It’s quite possible they won’t get there in time. Apparently, it usually it takes about two years to develop a new ventilator and bring it to market with the testing required. So, obviously companies will be fabricating existing models via licensing or other means. But even then, they still need to be tested.  If they don’t work properly, people will die.

UPDATE 4/2/20, 6:40p.m.: As of April 2, the White House coronavirus task force has already allocated more than 4,400 ventilators to New York, 850 to New Jersey, 400 to Michigan, 500 to Washington and 150 to Louisiana. Additionally, President Trump has reported the federal government is retaining about 10,000 ventilators to be rapidly distributed as surges occur across the country on a situational basis.

President Trump controversially invoked the Defense Production Act on ventilators for a reason. It’s because the models show the hospitals need them yesterday. The projected shortages appear to be quite real. Anecdotally, that matches what I’m hearing from people in the health care profession. They’re really scared. This truly is a grim situation.

Now, a point of optimism. These data are all moving targets and hopefully these numbers start falling rapidly as the federal government, state governments and the private sector all swing into action. Here at Americans for Limited Government, we will be monitoring the situation and comparing projected mortality to what transpires on the ground.

According to the model, if it’s on the lower end, that means the mitigation and production of critically needed items like ventilators were effective and lives truly were saved by everything that has been set into motion by President Trump’s national emergency declaration.

The point here is not to make predictions or to necessarily question the model, but simply to report how effective these efforts are at saving lives.

Of course, the possibility remains that the model could be missing massive asymptomatic transmission, even if it appears unlikely.  Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday at the White House coronavirus task force press briefing mentioned doing serology tests geographically and showing the extent of the pandemic, although he said it’s not a top priority at the moment. But maybe that can change. We’ve already seen that if the President believes he needs something additional done, he’ll act on his own authority to get it done.

Now, it may be that other data already reasonably proves the fatality rate to the medical community’s satisfaction, but they’re not the only constituency that needs convincing. Since some of the articles expressing skepticism are from the medical community itself, that will invariably lead to other skeptics to use that to bolster the case to say that current efforts are overkill.

And there are monumental consequences economically for leaving the economy closed for this long, including the possibility of long, deep recession or even a depression. Later this week we will get our first unemployment report, but it will not be until the first week of May that we find out how bad unemployment is.

If the doctors don’t want a revolt — we still operate on the consent of the governed — they still need to prove what they’re saying is real, as often as possible.

But to be certain, the data is already really, really bad. Again, the flu’s top killing day was about 500. The mitigation there are tens of millions of flu shots every year.  The daily death tolls for this new virus could go as high as 4,500, almost 10 times worse than the seasonal flu. And that’s with the entire country shut down. We don’t have a Chinese coronavirus shot. The lockdown is our shot.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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