It has now been 157 days since January 26th, 2020 when the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in California and it has been 104 days since March 19th when Governor Newsom issued the state wide stay-at-home order. Just as we began to slowly re-open from the lock-down, we are now hearing alarming reports about increasing numbers of new cases and many are left wondering what does this all mean?
I thought it would be helpful to provide you with some perspective regarding the numbers we are hearing so much about so that you will be better informed and hopefully, less anxious. To begin with I want to point out a historical fact that is important to remember: all pandemics eventually come to an end. The worst pandemic in recent history was the 1918 flu pandemic which lasted from 1918-1919 and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. The most recent pandemic was the H1N1 Pandemic lasting from April of 2009 to April of 2020. According to the CDC estimates there were an estimated 60.8 million cases resulting in 274,304 hospitalizations and approximately 12,469 deaths in the United States.
Although each of these pandemics were different in magnitude they both lasted for about a year. It is interesting to note that there were not any vaccines or antibiotics during the 1918 pandemic- but it still ended. Although there was a small quantity of vaccine available to use for the 2009 pandemic, it has mostly run its course by the time the vaccine became available. In a way a pandemic is like a fire which can only continue as long as there is new fuel to burn. In the same way fires eventually burn out, so do pandemics once the virus has run its course.
As of the writing of this article we are approximately one half year into the Covid-19 Pandemic and the current worldwide death toll currently stands at 511,300 with the US death toll at 127,425. While even one death is too many; the current worldwide mortality is only 1% of the worldwide death toll of the 1918 pandemic. To date, California has had 222,917 confirmed cases and 5,980 deaths which means that the current mortality rate of all those who test positive is between 2-3%. It is important to note there have been ZERO reported deaths in patients under 17 and the actual death rate for those under age 65 has been 0.59%. In order to help put the 5,980 Covid-19 deaths in California into perspective; according to 2017 CDC statistics 13,881 Californians died in accidents and 59,515 Californians died of cancer.
But what about the news headlines that we have had an increase in new cases over the past two weeks? While I think it is very important to continue to test and monitor for Covid-19 we must also take into consideration that during the same time period that we saw the uptick in cases, we have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of tests being run each day form around 60,000 per day a couple weeks ago to now over 100,00 per day.
It stands to reason that if you test nearly twice as many people you will find more positive results. It is important to note that as many as 50-80% of younger patients who test positive have had minimal to no symptoms of illness. The final number I want to discuss is the number of deaths per day related to Covid-19. Despite the fact that there has been an upward trend in the new cases per day, thee has also been a sow but steady decrease in the number of deaths per day. I think we can take this decrease in deaths as a very encouraging sign that despite more positive cases, fewer patients are now dying. Although no one can know exactly how long we will have to endure this pandemic, one thing is for sure: Hospice of the Valleys will be here to provide care and comfort to those in need.