My smart awesome friends are smart and awesome (Daily COVID-19 data update CXXXVIII)

Graphs day 138, pandemic day 145, day 215 since the first cases were diagnosed.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 17,849,843

Total deaths: 685,054

Photo of Jennifer Morrison from the TV series House
Dr. Arnoczy, probably

Dividing those numbers gives the global observed case fatality rate – the percentage of people diagnosed with COVID-19 who go on to die of the disease. That number is 3.8 percent. It has been steadily declining since I’ve been tracking the pandemic, down from 4.1 percent for COVID-19 daily data update I on March 18th. Why the decrease?

I’ll let one of my smart awesome friends explain. Here is Dr. Gretchen Arnoczy, an infectious disease doctor at First Health of North Carolina, with the explanation:

Testing testing testing.

As our testing capacity increases, we are able to identify more mild or asymptomatic cases. If we only test symptomatic people, the mortality rates look bad.

South Korea did this well early on, finding widespread infection across lots of age groups but symptoms only in older and high risk. Their mortality rate was around 1% or less. I expect the true mortality rate to be around 1-3%.

We still struggle with having enough tests. If our hospital only has 50 tests, we only test people who are sick enough to be admitted. If our hospital has 5000 tests, we can test everyone exposed in an outbreak and really understand the scope of disease better.

Dr. Gretchen Arnoczy
Photo of Alyson Hannigan, actress from How I Met Your Mother and American Pie
Jordyn Hoyos, probably

Speaking of smart awesome friends, my smart awesome (and excellently named friend) Jordyn Hoyos asked me to take a look at three more U.S. states: Texas, California, and North Dakota. How are these states looking?

Looking only at absolute numbers of cases, California has more cases than Florida or Texas, and North Dakota has very few. But, as I’ve said from the beginning, raw numbers are usually not a useful way of looking at the spread of a disease. It is much more helpful to look at rates of disease, measured in cases per million. And what happens when you look at rates of disease in Florida, Texas, and North Dakota (and also Peru and Ecuador)?

Cases reported per million people each day in various places

The graph shows that the pandemic is much worse in Florida and Texas than it is in California. And the graph shows that even North Dakota (black line), a state which is frequently cited as having successfully managed the pandemic without major economic disruption, has not actually been all that successful in managing the pandemic. The low number of cases in North Dakota is due to North Dakota’s low population – looking at case rates per million people shows that they are on par with Peru and above Ecuador, two countries I’ve been following for their high case rates.

The good news is that the downward trend in Florida appears to be continuing. Florida’s mistake back in May was to relax its social distancing policies too early. Let’s hope they stay the course this time.

Want to try these graphs yourself? Go for it!!! I’ve updated my spreadsheet (still version 7) to restore the formulas. The upside is that you can now more easily make changes to make the graphs your own; the downside is that unless you are on a high-end computer, the calculations will be slooooooooooooooooow. To speed up calculations, replace formulas with values once you decide you have the right formulas. If you’re not sure how to do that, just ask – leave a comment, messenge me on social media, or send me an email at

Another update on the state of the pandemic tomorrow, and every day until the pandemic ends or I do. And more of the regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts, which are way more interesting anyway.

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