A status report – the hidden news about COVID-19

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: As usual, the news media (and even more so the bold internet amateur experts) ignore news from the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic, focusing instead on the minutea. Here is important information you might not have seen.


COVID-19 numbers and remedies

As of yesterday’s WHO situation report – There are 87 thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 92% are in China. More importantly, 77% of the world’s cases are in Hubei Province; 84% of China’s cases are in Hubei. This is an epidemic centered in one of China’s 34 administrative areas. There are 14 thousand confirmed cases amidst the 1.4 billion people in the rest of China (i.e., outside Hubei).

The world’s public health agencies are working to keep it from spreading from Hubei. That is the core reality that is ignored by the press.

As the CDC’s February 29 status report said, “At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.” The international survey team found that China has successfully contained the epidemic (so far, at least) using those nonpharmaceutical methods, chiefly cordon sanitaires and quarantines. The survey team estimated the fatality rate in China outside Hubei Province (whose health care systems have collapsed) at 0.7%.

Only time will tell how many other nations have the wise leadership and social cohesion required to use these tools on the scale needed.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

A status report from the Director-General of WHO

Excerpt from Media briefing on March 2 by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

The number of cases in China continues to decline. Yesterday, China reported 206 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, the lowest since the 22nd of January. Only 8 cases were reported outside Hubei province yesterday. Outside China, a total of 8739 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO from 61 countries, with 127 deaths. In the last 24 hours there were almost 9 times more cases reported outside China than inside China.

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The epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan are our greatest concern. …

The Republic of Korea has now reported more than 4200 cases and 22 deaths, meaning it has more than half of all cases outside China. However, the cases in the Republic of Korea appear to be coming mostly from suspected cases from the 5 known clusters, rather than the community. That’s important because it indicates that surveillance measures are working and Korea’s epidemic can still be contained.

Knowing and understanding your epidemic is the first step to defeating it. Korea’s situation also underlines that this a unique virus with unique features. This virus is not influenza. We are in unchartered territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures. If this was an influenza epidemic, we would have expected to see widespread community transmission across the globe by now, and efforts to slow it down or contain it would not be feasible.

Containment of COVID-19 is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries. With early, aggressive measures, countries can stop transmission and save lives. …

Of the 8739 cases reported outside China, 81% are from four countries. Of the other 57 affected countries, 38 have reported 10 cases or less, 19 have reported only one cases, and a good number of countries have already contained the virus and have not reported in the last two weeks. …

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There is no one-size fits all approach. Different countries are in different scenarios. More than 130 countries have not detected any cases yet.

  • Some just received their first cases yesterday.
  • Some have clusters of cases, with transmission between family members and other close contacts.
  • Some have rapidly expanding epidemics, with signs of community transmission.
  • And some have declining epidemics, and have not reported a case for more than two weeks.

Some countries have more than one of these scenarios at the same time. For example, China had community transmission in Wuhan, but relatively small numbers of cases in other provinces. Other countries have a similar pattern.

WHO is advising countries on actions they can take for each of the “three Cs” scenarios – first case, first cluster, first evidence of community transmission. The basic actions in each scenario are the same, but the emphasis changes depending on which scenario a country is in.

Our message to all countries is: this is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country. There’s no choice but to act now.

———– End excerpt. ———–

The US took strong early steps, but current efforts are falling apart due to decentralized political structure (many agencies with overlapping mandates at Federal, State, and local levels) and partisan feuding. For example, see the bickering about who should pay for testing. That somebody should not test due to the cost is mad. It is a cost of business for the nation, and should be paid for accordingly.

Trump should stop tweeting and take strong action immediately. The clock is running; time is not on our side.