A data-driven look at the Wuhan coronavirus [UPDATED]

Aaron Ginn is a Silicon Valley technologist who has written for Breitbart, TechCrunch, TheNextWeb, and Townhall. Ginn has published a piece at Medium about the Wuhan coronavirus. It’s called “Evidence over hysteria — COVID-19.”

Ginn is not a scientist or a doctor, but he seems like a capable numbers cruncher and analyst. Moreover, he marshals views of medical and health professionals.

I think his piece is worthy of your consideration. However, as with just about everything written on this subject, it should not be considered definitive. At this point, some level of skepticism is almost always in order.

The table of contents of Ginn’s lengthy piece provides an idea of his views:

1. Total cases are the wrong metric
2. Time lapsing new cases gives us perspective
3. On a per-capita basis, we shouldn’t be panicking
4. COVID-19 is spreading
5. Watch the Bell Curve
6. A low probability of catching COVID-19
7. Common transmission modes
8. COVID-19 is likely to burn off in the summer
9. Children and Teens aren’t at risk
10.Strong, but unknown viral effect
11.What about asymptomatic spread?
12.93% of people who think they are positive aren’t
13.1% of cases will be severe
14.Declining fatality rate
15.So what should we do?
16.Start with basic hygiene
17.More data
18.Open schools
19.Open up public spaces
20.Support business and productivity
21.People fear what the government will do, not infection
22.Expand medical capacity
23.Don’t let them forget it and vote

Here are a few important passages:

As to contagiousness:

The World Health Organization (“WHO”) released a study on how China responded to COVID-19. Currently, this study is one of the most exhaustive pieces published on how the virus spreads.

The results of their research show that COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe (remember people abandoned their dogs out of fear of getting infected). According to their report if you come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 you have a 1–5% chance of catching it as well. The variability is large because the infection is based on the type of contact and how long.

The majority of viral infections come from prolonged exposures in confined spaces with other infected individuals. Person-to-person and surface contact is by far the most common cause. From the WHO report, “When a cluster of several infected people occurred in China, it was most often (78–85%) caused by an infection within the family by droplets and other carriers of infection in close contact with an infected person. . . .

Dr. Paul Auwaerter, the Clinical Director for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine [finds]:

If you have a COVID-19 patient in your household, your risk of developing the infection is about 10%….If you were casually exposed to the virus in the workplace (e.g., you were not locked up in conference room for six hours with someone who was infected [like a hospital]), your chance of infection is about 0.5%

According to Dr. Auwaerter, these transmission rates are very similar to the seasonal flu.

As to asymptomatic spread:

The majority of cases see symptoms within a few days, not two weeks as originally believed.

On true asymptomatic spread, the data is still unclear but increasingly unlikely. Two studies point to a low infection rate from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. One study said 10% of infections come from people who don’t show symptoms, yet. Another WHO study reported 1.2% of confirmed cases were truly asymptomatic. Several studies confirming asymptotic spread have ended up disproven.

It is important to note there is a difference between “never showing symptoms” and “pre-symptomatic” and the media is promoting an unproven narrative. Almost all people end up in the latter camp within five days, almost never the former. It is very unlikely for individuals with COVID-19 to never show symptoms. WHO and CDC claim that asymptomatic spread isn’t a concern and quite rare.

As to fatality rates:

As the US continues to expand testing, the case fatality rate will decline over the next few weeks. There is little doubt that serious and fatal cases of COVID-19 are being properly recorded. What is unclear is the total size of mild cases.

WHO originally estimated a case fatality rate of 4% at the beginning of the outbreak but revised estimates downward 2.3% — 3% for all age groups. CDC estimates 0.5% — 3%, however stresses that closer to 1% is more probable. Dr. Paul Auwaerter estimated 0.5% — 2%, leaning towards the lower end.

A paper released on March 19th analyzed a wider data set from China and lowered the fatality rate to 1.4%. This won’t be clear for the US until we see the broader population that is positive but with mild cases. With little doubt, the fatality rate and severity rate will decline as more people are tested and more mild cases are counted.

Higher fatality rates in China, Iran, and Italy are more likely associated with a sudden shock to the healthcare system unable to address demands and doesn’t accurately reflect viral fatality rates. . . .

Looking at the US fatality, the fatality rate is drastically declining as the number of cases increases, halving every four or five days. The fatality rate will eventually level off and plateau as the US case-mix becomes apparent.

This is just a sample of the content. The whole thing is worth considering.

JOE adds: It was a pleasure to help my friend Aaron put this piece together. Aaron is a smart guy and his analysis of the actual numbers is, in my view, correct. This period has been a fascinating view into how people think.

UPDATE BY PAUL: Medium has taken down Ginn’s post. It says the post “is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.” Whatever that means in this context.

I think the piece is worth reading, albeit, as I said, with the skepticism that should extend to just about everything of this type written on the subject. Zero Hedge has posted it here.

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