Media reports are relating that there have been in the last few days many new coronavirus cases in America, or in certain areas of the county. The reports often suggest that this is something about which people should be fearful. However, a high number of reported coronavirus cases does not provide as much reason for worry as many people presume.
A Wednesday New York Times editorial by Nathaniel Lash discusses the amount of coronavirus cases reported over time countrywide and in particular states. While Lash writes there is a “plateau” in recently reported cases countrywide, he warns increasing numbers of cases termed “mini-epidemics” regionally “put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.“ (This number is reduced in a later version of the editorial from hundreds of thousands to hundreds.)
Lash does not explain in his editorial what a “case” is though he uses the word over ten times in the text of his editorial and the number of cases is key to his entire analysis. The word is also used in five descriptions of graphs accompanying the editorial.
As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states it has identified over 1.2 million coronavirus cases in America. That number is, of course, far greater than the number of people anyone is claiming have died due to coronavirus.
A coronavirus case is established for a person, the CDC explains, by the person testing positive for having coronavirus or being determined to have a “probable case” through various other means. A rise in cases, the CDC notes, can come from the spread of coronavirus, increases in testing of individuals, and increases in reporting to the CDC.
Since testing is limited and people who do not come into contact with the medical system should not be classified as “probable cases,” many people who have had coronavirus have not been included in the CDC’s coronavirus cases total.
It should also be noted that both testing results and “probable case” determinations are not always correct. The incorrect determinations mean that some people have not been included among the coronavirus cases who should have been included and that other people have been included who should not have been included. In fact, false positives and false negatives from coronavirus testing and encouraging an increased attribution of coronavirus as a cause of death even in the absence of an affirmative test result and in the presence of other likely causes of death are ongoing problems.
Subjected to media stories ominously discussing the number of coronavirus cases being reported each day, many people will create images in their minds of the people who are these cases hooked up to ventilators and dying in hospital. But, many cases are for people who have felt just mildly or moderately sick, or even not sick at all.
Of course, many other people who have experienced limited or no sickness have had coronavirus without having a chance of being listed in the coronavirus cases given that they sought neither testing nor medical help.
Back in a February New York Times editorial, Vivian Wang wrote regarding coronavirus in China that “government officials and medical experts, in their warnings about the epidemic, have also sounded a note of reassurance: Though the virus can be deadly, the vast majority of those infected so far have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries.” She further writes that some infected individuals are asymptomatic. It would be nice to see more American media reports now discuss coronavirus cases in America this way instead of pretty much fretting, “big number, scary disease, hide at home, keep the businesses closed.”