Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Ask the Hive Mind: What IS the percentage of covid cases here? And what does it mean?

Okay, for those of you who are competent with math: check this and tell me how crazy I am.

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%.

True?

If so, then would this calculation be correct?

4.485 million = 4,485,000 (correct??)
12,091/4,485,000 =.002695875
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?

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.

8 Comments

  1. This kind of thinking is exactly what I predicted 3 months ago.

    If there hadn’t been shelter in place orders put out, and things were left to be normal – the infection rate would more than likely be closer to what Italy was seeing – or New York City. Hospitals would be overrun by sick people, and the death toll would be much higher.
    People would be blaming the government for NOT doing anything – why didn’t you protect us!

    But, because something *was* done – in most states – shelter in place orders were enacted, large gatherings were banned, stores and restaurants and churches were shut down – and everyone learned a new concept of “social distancing” – the infection rate was lowered, the curve was flattened, and hospitals didn’t get overwhelmed and were able to attempt to treat those who came in.

    And now, people are looking around and going “well, this wasn’t so bad! Why did we have to do ALL THAT – it was all a big bunch of hoopla over nothing!”

    It’s exactly what I said in March – there is no way to win, here. No matter what, Joe Public is going to find something to complain about.

    Go back and read the stories from New York about the refrigerated trucks full of bodies. Go look at the statistics from Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Brazil and other countries that didn’t do anything.

    Most of the shelter-in-place logic was to buy time – buy time for the medical professionals to get PPE, to try to get a handle on how to treat this – if you can trickle in the cases, you have a chance to spend some time on them, vs being overwhelmed and not able to focus on any one patient.

    Not to mention, the number of positive cases are probably 3 to 5x lower than reported, due to a lack of testing.

    The city in the county next to us had a spike of 35 new cases the other day – for a county that has a total of 650 or so cases total – that’s a significant percentage of total cases. They have traced about half of those 35 cases to agricultural workers – one gets it, and spreads it around quickly because they can’t be socially distant and they are essential workers. The other cases have been traced to Mother’s day and Memorial day get-togethers where people gathered together in big groups, despite the rules against it.

    Personally – I want to put off getting this virus, until the doctors have figured out a way to treat it, if not until there’s a vaccine. The articles coming out describing the many ways that this thing does a number on your body – for some people, this virus seems to last months – and doctors are still trying to figure out how to treat it.

  2. Absolutely!I surely do want to put off getting the bug until we have a vaccine, too. Doctors are doing better in figuring out treatments, but…it’s a virus. Really, there’s no cure for a virus: the best you can do is keep the patient alive until he or she throws it off. If that happens at all.

    Nor do I question that the close-it-down/shelter-in-place policy has cut the spread of the disease. Obviously it has. What I wonder is how long this can go on.

    My question with today’s blog blurb is whether there may be other strategies that would be just as effective — maybe even more so? — than a lockdown that frustrates people so much they take to marching in the streets. While it’s true that quarantining us all inside our homes is the single most effective tool we have (as far as we know), it’s not very practical. People do still have to get groceries and hardware, and since many people no longer know how to cook at home, a large portion of the population actually NEEDS to be able to get food from restaurants — whether drive-through or by delivery. Some of the strategies are already in place:

    * Deliver K-12 instruction online, same as colleges and universities have been doing
    * Cancel events that draw crowds, including religious services, graduation ceremonies, athletic events, Mardi Gras (!!!!), and the like
    * Close sit-down and walk-in restaurants
    * Close offices and call centers that place workers in open offices or in cubes and have those employees work from home. Or can them…
    * Improve (over time, obviously) our medical system so it is better able to cope with an emergency like this

    Meanwhile, though, keep certain kinds of activities open or develop new ones. For example:

    * Provide more drive-through or delivery restaurants, of significantly better quality than fast-food joints
    * Bring back drive in theaters, where people can be entertained without getting nose-to-nose with each other

    Our problem with having schools go online permanently (or for some indefinitely extended period) is that in our present social system, both parents are expected to work. Unless one partner in a couple makes a sh!tload of money, it takes two incomes to pay a mortgage or rent, run two cars, buy food and clothing for a family, and on and on. The schools’ function as free babysitter/day care center/social services provider may be more important to our national lifestyle than their educational function. You can put education online, but you can’t leave K-12 kids alone in the house 9 hours a day, and most people can’t afford a babysitter or tutor to be there to guide, feed, and watch them all day, five or six days a week.

    Thus leaving the schools closed for any length of time essentially takes us back to the 1950s, when one parent — 9.5 times out of ten, the mother — had to stay home to rear the kids and care for the house & yard. Half of the middle-class workforce will disappear back into the home. While that might be better for our children…do we really want to do that to women? Or to men, for that matter?

    Another question that presents itself is ARE we being realistic about who is at risk of serious injury from this virus? Yes: an unacceptable number of people are dying from the damn thing. But they fall into certain categories. Can shut-downs be focused, so they apply mostly to the elderly and the sick? Is it really necessary to lock up EVERYONE, or would focused lock-ups work as well?

    I’m not questioning that we need to take action, nor do I question that such action may change the nature of our culture. What I am questioning is: Are we doing it the right way?

    • The school thing is key to figure out – for exactly the reasons you said – if kids aren’t in school, then parents have to figure out how to care for them at home – which means someone isn’t working – and yeah – I’ve read a LOT of articles about women who have quit their jobs in the last few months, to stay home and care and school their kids. In many families the woman earns less than the man – and if you’re going to go to one income, you pick the biggest one, obviously.

      My neighbour is a teacher – she struggled for weeks with zoom meetings and teaching online – she was lucky, most of her kids showed up, most of the time. My friend’s kids go to a private school, where class size is small – his kids did fine with online schooling – they had all their kids show up – because the school populate is made up of kids who have parents who have already decided that school is a priority – that’s why they are paying for private school.
      Another teacher I know, in a public school, in a district with a much lower average income – she lost more than half her kids. They just never showed up. Never acknowledged her emails. Nothing. And she knows that they got her emails – because when she emailed the same addresses asking for mailing addresses to send out her end of year treats – EVERY one of those kids/parents responded.
      Online education only works if the students have access to computers and internet and parents who can put in the effort to do the hands on teaching or even just make sure their kids sit down and attend class.

      Generally I’ve been pretty happy with the way California has handled things. The initial full lockdown was one of the earliest in the country – and our opening back up has been measured – really implementing many of the things you suggest – still no large gatherings, opening up restaurants and offices and businesses but restricting the number of people in the store at one time, distancing people from each other in offices.

      Every restaurant in town currently is doing take out and delivery – either through their own delivery service, or using uber eats, door dash or any of the other delivery services. Some restaurants are doing the equivalent of drive thru – “curbside” – you order, you pull up into one of several marks parking spots, and you call inside to tell them you are there – they run your food out to you and you are off.

      Now that they can start reopening, restaurants here are taking advantage of the summer weather, and are taking over sidewalks, parking lots and streets to set up tables outside – so that they can have a reasonable number of tables, whilst still keeping tables far from each other. Plus sitting outside, “feels” safer than inside.

      I got an email from my office building today – letting us know that the building is opening back up to tenants. They have a list of things they are doing – sanitizing “high touch” public areas (handrails on staircases, doorknobs, elevator buttons, faucets) twice day. They even said they are running the HVAC differently to cycle the air in the building more frequently – and are changing the filters on a frequent basis.

      There are rules for tenants who want to bring their people back – masks to be worn everywhere, social distancing in the car park, elevator, stairwells etc.

      Personally – I am set up to work from home and my company has made it clear that they are happy to have us work from home as long as we want. So I’m staying home at this point – I’m settled in 😀

      I’m hearing new things this week – that after tracing a lot of the infections that supposedly came from asymptomatic people – it’s looking more like they weren”t *really* asymptomatic – either they had very mild symptoms or they had symptoms that were not recognized as being COVID-19. So if it turns out that you can’t really be wandering around shedding virus without having some symptoms yourself – that’s a game changer.

      The other thing I’m reading is that your biggest “threat” is being in close proximity (less than 6 feet) from someone for 10 minutes or more. And the threat goes up if you both aren’t wearing masks. So – sitting across a table from someone at a restaurant for a meal, while you’re talking and eating? Bad if one of you has it.
      Going to the grocery store and doing a quick transaction with a cashier, while you’re both wearing masks and you’re standing behind those new plexiglass shields? Not very risky.
      Going to the hairdresser and sitting for 30 minutes while someone stands RIGHT UP in your personal space and cuts your hair, while they wear a mask and you hold a mask to your face since you can’t have it around your ears? Probably dicey!

      But because humans ignore the protocols and rush out and have big family gatherings on Memorial day, and because we need to get our hair and nails done, or insist on gathering in giant churches – we’re going to get big spikes – they’re already happening all over.

      Our city and state have closed the beaches. Does it matter that sitting on the beach, with your family who you already live with, 6 feet from other people is totally safe? No, because people weren’t doing that – they were gathering in huge groups, people were driving 2-3 hours coming in from out of town to go to the beach and break all the social distancing rules. Not to mention – this was 2 months ago – there were no *services* – everyone was supposed to be sheltering in place.

      So because people couldn’t follow the rules, they had to go draconian and lock it down – you can only be on the beaches before 11am and after 5pm and you can’t SIT on the beach you can only use the beach for exercise – you need to be walking or running or using the beach solely as access to go in the water to exercise.

      Does it work? Nope – the beach is full of people completely ignoring the rules. Humans suck.

  3. I do agree with Spiffi that no matter what the various governments did they would be “wrong.” But, having said that I have tried to find out of the country’s loosening up of the whole societal lockdown has led to an increase in cases. I have been unable to find a word written about this. Surely after a couple of weeks some sort of trend should be seeable. It feels like all the news outlets have dumped the virus and moved on to the latest crisis.

    Also, in my county, Riverside, CA, for some reason the vast majority of deaths have been of people between 18 and 60. Again, I don’t know why. And, while our local hospitals held off any admissions that they could to save beds for the pandemic, they finally started laying off nursing assistants as there was not enough for them to do. In other words, the deluge never came.

    So, many of us are standing here trying to figure out what exactly is happening. Is the worst over? Is this just because we are in the suburbs? Is New York City tapering off for new hospital admissions? Can we get some ink on this?

  4. A quarantine was designed to keep merchant ships on their moorings offshore until 30 (and then 40, hence the name) days had passed and no illness was detectable, in order to protect the citizens of the harbor town from foreign disease. Thus, only the sick should have been “locked down” (a barbaric jail-based term), and the economy could have hummed along while medical research could have proceeded on a vaccine. The WORST place for infected patients to have gone was into susceptible, vulnerable populations such as nursing homes and long-term care and rehabilitation hospitals.

    Keep up the very interesting and informative posts.

    • Yup! Apparently the covid disease got into nursing homes not because they were stashing patients there, but because staff who were unknowingly infected (or who hid it because they couldn’t afford to do without the pittance they’re paid) exposed the old folks…and once that started, there was basically no stopping it. What a fiasco!

      Where my friends are (a life-care community), the management realized what was up early on and asked everyone to shelter in their apartments. They closed the restaurants and delivered food to the inmates’ doors. The last I heard, they had two cases, and it had not spread beyond those two.

      But “locked down” and “jail” are appropriate terms, I’ll tellya! Visitors cannot even go up to the institution’s front door. When you show up at the guard gate, first you’re diverted to a kiosk where they take your temperature and grill you. Then you’re directed to a barricade across the front entrance. NOBODY is allowed in. If you have something to give a resident, you hand it to an employee and they take it up to your friend or relative.