Reported at Just The News Doctors around world say COVID-19 may be losing its potency, becoming less deadly
Doctors in Italy, Israel and U.S. say the coronavirus may be losing its potency and becoming less deadly even as it spreads.
Doctors across the world are offering preliminary but encouraging reports that the coronavirus may be losing steam and becoming less deadly: a behavior observed in at least one respiratory pandemic before, and a welcome sign for a world weary of nonstop COVID-19 fears.
But numerous prominent doctors and scientists in the last few weeks and months have begun to question that narrative, pointing to evidence that suggests the coronavirus may, unexpectedly, be dying out on its own.
Virus appears to behave the same regardless of lockdown measures
Yitzhak Ben Israel, a professor at Tel Aviv University, offered early speculation to that effect when in April he said, based on the observed behavior of the virus across the globe, that the virus appears to function more or less the same no matter what a country does to mitigate it. He said the virus appears to follow a fixed pattern in which there is “a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures” that is “similar to the countries with closures.” See post on Ben Israel Good Virus News from the Promised Land
Those observations may indicate that the virus is not an unstoppable juggernaut: If it works more or less the same with or without mitigation efforts, then it is likely less of a danger than was initially imagined, insofar as the disease is less hampered by lockdowns than experts thought but also less deadly without them than was initially feared.
Yet apart from the epidemiological path the pandemic might or might not take, there are also signs that the virus itself is weakening, growing less potent, more diffuse and less deadly, meaning that even if a region experiences a significant amount of infections, it may amount to fewer hospitalizations and deaths than medical experts have predicted over the past few months.
That’s the contention of two top Italian doctors, who argued this week that the disease appears to be rapidly declining in potency. The coronavirus “clinically no longer exists in Italy,” San Raffaele Hospital Director Alberto Zangrillo told Reuters, claiming that recent swabs of infected patients have shown “a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago.”
Matteo Bassetti, meanwhile—the head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in Genoa—said that “the strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today” and that “it is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.”
The Italian government is still cautioning its citizens to continue to treat the virus as highly dangerous.
Covid Decline Evident in Canada
The media and governmental reports focus on total accumulated numbers which are big enough to scare people to do as they are told. In the absence of contextual comparisons, citizens have difficulty answering the main (perhaps only) question on their minds: What are my chances of catching Covid19 and dying from it? The map shows a lot of cases, and the chart looks like an hockey stick, going upward on a straight line. So why do I say canadians are safer than it looks like from such images?
First let’s look at daily numbers to see where we are in this process. All the statistics come from Canada Public Health Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update.
By showing daily tests, new cases and reported deaths, we can see how the outbreak has built up, peaked and declined over the last 3 months. The green line shows how testing grew to a sustained daily rate of 29,000, then dropped, before rising to a new level. (all numbers are smoothed with 7 day averages ending with the stated date.) Note that the curve is now descending after peaking at 1800 on April 22, now down to 679 new cases per day. This lower rate of infections is despite the highest rate of testing since the outbreak began. Deaths have also peaked at 177 on May 6, down to 72 June 7. The rate of people testing positive is down to 2.2%, and deaths are 0.22% of the tests administered.
But it matters greatly where in Canada you live. Quebec has been the province leading the nation in both cases and deaths. Quebec has always celebrated being a distinct society, but not in this way. Below is the same chart for the Quebec epidemic from the same dataset. The province has about 23% of the national population and does about 26% of the tests. But Quebec contributes 56% of the cases and 64% of the deaths, as of yesterday. Here how the outbreak has gone in La Belle Province.
The Quebec graph is more lumpy showing cases peaking May 1-9, including several days inflated by data catchups. Cases have dropped off recently, from 1100 May 7 down to 256 yesterday. Deaths are also dropped, declining from 110 on May 7 to 48 June 7 (7-day average). The animation below shows the epidemic in Canada with and without Quebec statistics.
But clearly everywhere else in Canada, people are much safer than those living in Quebec. So what is going on?
The graph shows that people in Quebec are dying in group homes, the majority in CHSLD (long term medical care facilities) and also in PSR (private seniors’ residences). The huge majority of Quebecers in other, more typical living arrangements have very little chance of dying from this disease. Not even prisoners are much at risk.