Stanford biophysicist and Nobel laureate Michael Levitt says that based on how the COVID-19 crisis has played out in multiple countries, the threat is less severe than the media has portrayed it to be and might be over sooner than most think. “The real situation is not as nearly as terrible as they make it out to be,” Levitt says, and, in the end, “we’re going to be fine.”
Levitt, who accurately predicted the slowdown of coronavirus cases in China, has been making the rounds with various media outlets to discuss his findings on the most recent data from nearly 80 countries involving the global pandemic. Like several other experts, Levitt maintains that the threat of COVID-19 is less severe than many reports make it appear.
In a report published by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Levitt assured the public that the world, and the U.S., are going to survive COVID-19, and that, as has occurred in countries first hit by the pandemic, the cases of the virus will begin to decline more rapidly than some are projecting.
Levitt, the L.A. Times’ Joe Mozingo notes, “correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted” and now “foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world.”
In a report published on February 1, Levitt predicted with remarkable accuracy how China’s cases would end up, saying that around 80,000 would contract the disease and among those around 3,250 would die. Mozingo notes that as of March 16, China, which has nearly 1.4 billion people, reported a total of just 80,298 cases and 3,245 deaths related to the virus and the number of new cases has slowed down to around 25 per day.
Levitt says that after studying data from 78 countries, he sees a similar pattern. As occurred in China in February, the rate of case increases will begin to decline, signaling the downside of a spread curve. “What we need is to control the panic,” Levitt told the paper.
The important metric, Levitt explained, is the number of new cases, not the total number of cases. The new cases data allows one to see more clearly the rate of spread. He also stressed that only when the virus is not being detected will it spread “exponentially.” When countries are testing and responding aggressively, the growth rate tends to decrease significantly.
Levitt made clear that he generally agrees with the government imposed social-distancing measures as a way to help curb the spread, for now, but also suggests that fears are overblown in large part because of the media focusing on the total number of cases and on famous figures being infected.
The flu, notes Mozingo has infected 36 million Americans in just over 6 months and killed around 22,000. The total COVID-19 infections in the U.S. is currently just over 40,000 and the total number of deaths connected to infection around 500.
Levitt, Mozingo writes, “fears the public health measures that have shut down large swaths of the economy could cause their own health catastrophe, as lost jobs lead to poverty and hopelessness,” circumstances in the past which have proven to result in increases in suicide, among other tragedies.
As The Daily Wire noted, Levitt offered a similar message to Calcalist two weeks ago, underscoring the importance of populations and governments not allowing “panic” to determine their response to the pandemic and stressing that “most people will remain healthy and humanity will survive.”
“[T]here are years when flu is raging, like in the U.S. in 2017, when there were three times the regular number of mortalities,” said Levitt. “And still, we did not panic. That is my message: you need to think of corona like a severe flu. It is four to eight times as strong as a common flu, and yet, most people will remain healthy and humanity will survive.”
The concern about the U.S. he, said, is more about overwhelming the hospitals rather than the ultimate death toll. “Currently, I am most worried about the U.S. It must isolate as many people as possible to buy time for preparations,” he explained. “Otherwise, it can end up in a situation where 20,000 infected people will descend on the nearest hospital at the same time and the healthcare system will collapse.”
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