We are told, on a page at Wunderground, that as of today, June 5, 2020, Maricopa County, AZ, has seen 12,091 confirmed cases of covid 19, of which 432 resulted in death. (Maricopa County is home to the city of Phoenix and its many sprawling suburbs.)
What percentage of the county’s population do these figures represent?
Maricopa County supposedly had a population of 4.485 million, as of 2019.
Am I right in thinking you calculate a percentage by dividing x (the number you want to compare with the total) by y (the total number)? Thus to determine what percentage 5 is of 10, you divide 5 by 10 and then move the decimal point two spaces to the right: so 5/10 = .5 = 50%.
If so, then would this calculation be correct?
4.485 million = 4,485,000 (correct??)
Move the decimal 2 characters to the right to get .269587%, or, rounding up, about .3%.
Three-tenths of a percent? That represents the total number of known cases as a percentage of total population, almost 4½ million people.
Can that possibly be right?
We are getting ourselves in a frantic sweat over an ailment that affects less than 1% of our population — a lot less. An ailment whose death rate is thought to be around 1.3% of those afflicted? Theoretically, then: of those 12,091 cases, 157 patients should have died — many of them already seriously ill or very elderly.
Now, this is 157 people we would prefer not to lose. However, in terms of the county’s total population, it would seem not to be much:
157 deaths/4,485,000 = .0035%
Am I right in thinking that is way less than 1%?
The actual number of covid-related deaths in Maricopa County, if published figures are correct, is 432, out of 12,091 known cases of covid-19. That’s 3.57% of covid sufferers, and .0096% of Maricopa County residents.
For .0096% of our metropolitan area’s entire population, we’re shutting down our economy, closing schools, and running around with decorative but not very effective cloth or paper masks strapped over our faces? We’re enduring such a panic that you can’t find a roll of toilet paper, that beef is selling for $22 a pound, that grocery shelves are half-empty, that you can’t buy a bottle of household cleanser…because 3.57% of our population may die of this dread disease?
That’s assuming the figure given for total cases is correct. Many may not have been reported, and some may have been misdiagnosed.
Now, it’s true: we would like not to lose any fraction of our people to some bizarre new virus. The death rate for influenza is estimated to be around .1%. That is much lower than some estimates for covid-19: possibly around .6%. Unless the death rate shown for Maricopa County is accurate, in which case we have a very sickly population or we have much better case reporting or national figures are pretty far off-base.
Meanwhile, we’re told that 70% of deaths from the disease here occur among residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. That would explain the “very sickly” impression: Arizona has a LOT of elderly, because a lot of people retire here. We’re the home of the Del Webb’s Sun Cities, and Webb had a slew of imitators. Thirty-seven thousand people, with a median age of 73, live in Sun City alone, and that appears not to include Sun City West (24,535) and Sun City Grand (14,385). Or Sun Lakes (13,975). Westbrook Village…Pebble Creek…Robson Ranch…Sun City Festival…Leisure World…Verrado…the Trilogy developments…Ventana Lakes…and many more in and adjacent to Maricopa County. Plus all the “active retirement communities” in Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, and waypoints. And that doesn’t count the residents of apartment-like warehouses for old folks like the Beatitudes and the Terraces. Add them all up and you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people over the danger age of 60. Indeed…many hundreds of thousands. All living together.
The mortality estimates are very vague, and as far as I can tell not provable — because no one knows for sure how many Americans have already been infected with covid, an unknown number asymptomatically. And no one really knows how many cases of the flu go unreported.
But still…one is left wondering: are we getting our panties in a twist for less cause than we imagine? What if that 3.57% death rate is artificially elevated because we have so many residents here who are in the high-risk over-60 set? And so many segregated in long-term care, life-care, and retirement venues?
What if, rather than locking down the entire community, we took a different tack, primarily targeting high-risk groups? With covid-19, we know the over-60 population is most at risk of dying. What if we locked down only retirement communities, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities?
That alone could knock the death rate down significantly.
We know children can be silent carriers — and of course we do know that every bug in heaven goes crazy in a school setting. So what if we closed schools during an epidemic? What if we trained teachers to instruct online, and always had the software available for online education?
We know that large gatherings spread the disease. What if we canceled athletic events and closed theaters and other crowd-gatherers during an epidemic?
And knowing that about gatherings, what if we closed down only those businesses that house workers in open-plan bull-pen settings, and had them move to the work-at-home mode? Businesses whose employees have their own offices and whose employers are willing to pay to disinfect work spaces every night could stay open.
Restaurants? Well…most of them serve up pretty unhealthy food, and it would be next to impossible to serve customers in a dining-setting without spreading bugs. So it seems more justifiable to close restaurants in time of plague. However…what if government funding were provided so restaurant owners and chains could install drive-up windows and hire delivery services during times of plague? It would give those businesses at least a shot at hanging on for the duration…and customers could get their junk-food, processed-food fix, even if they’d have to eat it at home, in the car, or at a park. And what if all restaurant employees had to be tested for the bug on a regular basis, like once a week?
Then we have the problem that our hospitals are overwhelmed by a deluge of sick and dying covid victims. Could the problem be not that everyone in sight is keeling over with the dread disease, but that our medical system leaves a lot to be desired? (But…we already knew that, eh?) If our medical system staggers when faced with illness in a tiny percentage of the population, what would happen if we had to cope with, say, a nuclear war? Even one bomb would disable a region’s hospitals. Bombs over several cities would wreak catastrophe in hospitals all over the nation.
What if we threw out the lunatic patchwork that is our medical care system, took insurance companies’ sticky fingers out of the picture, did the same for the hugely profitable and rapacious Big Pharma industries and lobbyists, and restored sanity to medical care in America? Could we not then manage to afford to supply our medical providers with enough protective gear to handle an epidemic, and build hospitals large enough and strong enough to cope with a sudden influx of dangerously ill patients?
Given that your chance of dying from this disease is fairly low unless you’re already sick or unless you’re elderly, it seems as though blanket shut-downs amount to over-kill. Targeting high-risk groups and high-risk activities would be more complex and expensive than just telling everyone to go home and stay home. But it would also be a lot less destructive to the economy and a lot less disruptive to our society.
Cleaning the rot out of our medical system would help a lot, too.
Are we coming at the whole covid-19 mess from the wrong direction?