Day five of me doing this. Since yesterday, another 34,000 people worldwide were diagnosed with COVID-19, and another 1,700 died.
Several friends asked me to plot cases and deaths per capita, so we can get a sense of infection rates across different countries. I’ve done that, and I’ll show those graphs further down the page. But it’s important to be able to directly compare these graphs between one day and the next.
So, while I think the per capita graphs will end up being more useful, for the time being I will continue to show the plots of absolute numbers as well.
Below is the total number reported cases of COVID-19 by country. I have removed South Korea, since the disease appears to be well-contained there. I have replaced it with the United Kingdom, where the number of cases is likely to increase significantly (but that’s a testable hypothesis, we’ll see in a few weeks). The line for the UK is the same light blue color as South Korea, but now has a dot-dash pattern. I also added Australia (gray dot-dot-dash line), where there is also reason to believe that cases will increase.
And here is the graph of absolute number of deaths by country – same countries, same color schemes. The uptick in deaths in the United States that I pointed out yesterday continues today.
COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita
Looking at absolute numbers of cases is important, but when comparing China (which has about 1,400,000,000 people) to Belgium (about 11,000,000), they can give a misleading sense of how far the disease has spread in different places. A better measure could be to look at how the number of cases (or deaths) compares to the population of the country.
The graph below shows the number of reported cases of COVID-19 per million people for each of the countries shown in the other graph. Current values vary between 43 cases per million people in Australia to nearly 900 per million in Italy. This graph looks different from the one graph of total cases. And when you look at the lines for Italy, Spain, and France, you can see why Europe is being described as the new epicenter of infection.
Note that I also changed the scale of the horizontal axis on this graph. The ones above were from February 15th to today, while the ones below show all cases since the first ones were reported on December 31, 2019.
Here is the graph of deaths per million people – same countries, same color schems:
Since COVID-19 is transmitted by person-to-person contact, a better comparison might be population density rather than absolute population. I’ll look at that later. I’m also playing with some simple curve fitting models, but I’m a long way from being ready to share any of those.
Remember: I’m not an epidemiologist, and not even any kind of healthcare worker. I’m just some guy on the Internet that likes to graph things. Listen to the actual experts. And as always, follow the recommendations of your regional health authorities (if you’re in the U.S., follow the CDC recommendations).
What I hope I can contribute to the effort is to help you to realize that data about the virus are publicly available, and that you have access to the tools to understand the trends for yourself. I get the data from the European Centers for Disease Control’s Coronavirus Source Data site (even though it’s a European entity, the reports are from all over the world). I download the CSV file from the “Full dataset” link. I make my graphs in Microsoft Excel using this template.
Update tomorrow, and every day until this pandemic is over.