Last week, when people in America used to leave their homes (remember that?), I was finishing up a big household project and stopped off at Lowe’s (every project I do requires at least 17 trips to the hardware store).
I walked in, wearing some scuzzy jeans and a paint-splotched CNN shirt (which I only wear for painting), grabbed a cart and then stopped to pick up a sanitizing wipe. I swabbed off my filthy hands and the cart handle (following a stern directive from my wife), and was getting ready to pick up my supplies.
Just then a realllly filthy workman rolled in. He saw me swabbing away, hesitated, then walked over and grabbed his own wipe. Now, this guy probably never even knew there was a sanitation station in the hardware store and certainly didn’t look like the kind of guy who’d ever used one before, but there he was — there we were.
And therein lies my point (I knew I’d get to one eventually): This ain’t China. We don’t eat bats. And even a grubby day laborer and a guy in a shirt Jackson Pollock might’ve worn will take a moment to clean their hands (and make sure, in this dangerous day, that he doesn’t pick up — or put down — any germs).
So for me, the numbers being bandied around just don’t make any sense.
The latest coronavirus, COVID-19, is bad, but 150 million Americans infected? That is what Congress’ in-house doctor told Capitol Hill staffers at a close-door meeting last week.
A recent projection from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had even more alarming numbers. Worst-case scenario, COVID-19 could infect between up to 214 million people over a period of more than a year — and kill as many as 1.7 million Americans.
The New York Times used an even more dire model: 2.1 million dead.
Let’s back up a second. China has a population of 1,437,722,468 as of Tuesday, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.
COVID-19 was born there, with the first case being diagnosed on Dec. 1.
On Tuesday, there were 81,054 confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Of those, 68,798 recovered, while 3,230 people died, at least according to statistics released by China (figures that could well be cooked by officials there). The remainder were still active cases.
But if the numbers are accurate, that means the infection rate in China was just .006%. How, then, are the “experts” forecasting that well more than 50% of the 320 million people in America — where people already wash their hands incessantly and use Purell nonstop — will be infected?
Again, look at the numbers. The virus pounded China from December 1 through the third week of February — more than 10 weeks in all — before it leveled off (if you can believe the communist leaders’ claim).
In the Hubei province, just more than 11% of the nearly 60 million residents were infected. And that was ground zero.
The spread of COVID-19 in China began leveling off a week before February ended. It topped 80,000 on March 1, but 14 days later it was still less than 81,000. The curve had flattened.
But let’s go to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for the final word.
“I think we really need to be careful with those kinds of predictions, because that’s based on a model,” Dr. Fauci said at a congressional hearing last week of the projection that 150 million will be infected in the U.S. “All models are as good as the assumptions that you put into the model … it’s unpredictable. So, testing now is not going to tell me how many cases you are going to have. What will tell you what you’re going to have will be how you respond to it with containment and mitigation,” he said.
Dr. Fauci also said the breathless media tends to report on the higher end of ranges predicted by models. “Remember the model during the Ebola outbreak said you could have as many as a million [cases]. We didn’t have a million,” he said.
No, instead, two people died in the United States from Ebola in 2014. Both contracted the disease overseas. Two more contracted the disease in the United States — and both survived.
On Tuesday, the United States had 5,702 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 94 deaths (48 of those in Washington state alone). The numbers will undoubtedly go up — likely by a lot. But President Trump has taken swift action to cut off the influx of travelers from countries teeming with infection and on Monday laid out stringent new guidelines to halt the upward curve.
Americans appear to be taking the directives seriously. So, time will tell if it all works.
But 150 million infected? A million dead? Right now, those numbers just don’t seem to add up.
Let’s hope they never do.
*Joseph Curl ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2014 and covered the White House for a dozen years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @JosephCurl. A version of this article ran previously in The Washington Times.