In the comments section Curle referred to a post over at the West Hunter site, Just another flu in Bergamo. Greg Cochran is one who is firmly with the worst-case-scenario crowd. The money shot is this:
“All this means that official death count in Italy ( 743 today) is a serious underestimate: the actual numbers must be something like 4-9 times bigger – say 4000 a day. Does influenza do this? One did, back in 1918. “
However this basic point of agreement between the “Just a Flu” crowd and the “1918” crowd is that we can’t trust the numbers. This unfortunately has been true from the beginning. I’ve never believed the Chinese numbers, and I don’t believe their current “no new cases” claim now. However, what’s a WHO going to do? The World Health Organization initially only had Chinese numbers, and those numbers began to shape our understanding of this virus.
But of course we are still trying to find gold from dross, which is how 743 deaths times x (with x being guesswork) gives you 4,000 dead Italians a day. But I don’t see how Italy can tell us anything about the virus. That country has been an outlier throughout this crisis. Look at the (official) death rates compared to some comparative countries:
I could argue contra Cochran, “Hey look at Germany!”
Of course for all I know Germany is fiddling with their numbers to mitigate the impact of the virus. The truth is, we just don’t have good numbers, and frankly I don’t trust Italians to keep good records in the first place. I do trust the records of the US however, with qualifications.
As of today (March 26th):
The qualifications? I buy the death rates (1,163), but I don’t buy the number of cases (80,854). Testing for COVID-19 is still mostly limited to first responders, medical personnel, celebrities (?), and people showing symptoms at the doctor’s office or emergency room. That is not a representative sample. At the earliest it will be weeks, and more likely months, before the US has enough data to really have a good idea how the bell curve of severity of symptoms plays out with COVID-19. In the meantime I can agree with Cochran that the Italian numbers are probably wrong.