The Deaths We Don’t Know About, Yet, and Games with Models, 5/6/20 Data

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The positive trends continue.  All that can really be said is that my simplistic model seems to expect that things would be improving a little more quickly than they are, but that’s a good problem to have.  The 14-day infection rate is now at 0.75, where 1 is the line between the virus’s increasing or decreasing.

Assuming the governor deigns to allow more freedom in her state, these decreases in new cases and, in turn, hospitalizations may slow.  Or maybe they won’t, whether because heightened spacing and hygiene is simply an adequate solution or because the better weather and increased outdoor time creates a healthier environment.

One peculiarity is that, beginning roughly around the time the state changed its definition for COVID-19 hospitalization to include anybody in the hospital who tests positive for COVID-19, no matter what they’re actually in the hospital for, deaths have been revised and have more or less fluctuated around 13-14 per day for several weeks.  Of course, it’s difficult to know what to make of these numbers regardless of the trends.  The data for April 29, for example, shows two more deaths in hospitals than there were deaths total.

On the dark subject of death, though, it’s worth remembering a number we won’t know for some time, and may never be able to estimate in a universally accepted way:  fatalities resulting from our reaction to the disease.  Two recent stories illustrate the reason for concern.

First, the website, TheCancerLetter.com, reports that visits for cancer treatments has dropped dramatically.  To be sure, individuals are making their own decisions about whether they can wait, and one hopes those who are foregoing treatment tend to be those for whom the answer is, “yes.”  Still, news out of hospitals generally is that cancer patients will not be alone in this trend, and if treatment actually is helpful and life-saving, some number of deaths will result.

Second, the NY Daily News reports that suicides are way up in Queens.  If I’m reading the article correctly, the increase might be nearly four times, with 16 suicides in a little over a month, compared with 17 for the first four months of the year, in 2019.  For some perspective, in Rhode Island, the number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 is at the moment just about equal to the annual number of suicides and overdoses.

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  • Cases:
    • Projection for 5/6: 10,098
    • Actual for 5/6: 10,205
    • Projection for 5/7: 10,371
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 5/6: 312
    • Actual for 5/6: 324
    • Projection for 5/7: 307
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 5/6: 361
    • Actual for 5/6: 370
    • Projection for 5/7: 376