This is a follow-up to my earlier posts where I began to track the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 daily situation reports. I have updated the spreadsheet here through WHO’s Sunday evening report (March 29).1
The news for the week was mostly bad. The total number of global new cases and daily fatalities about doubled in the last week. Here are the highlights from the most recent data:
- Europe continues to be the epicenter of the outbreak, accounting for over 80% of last week’s fatalities and 60% of the new confirmed cases. But the US numbers are coming up fast, while the European numbers are showing some signs of topping out.
- The differences in various countries’ experiences with this disease is startling. A comparison of Germany and Italy is particularly striking. Italy has about twice as many infections (92,472 v. 52,547), but has 25 times the number of fatalities (10,023 v. 389).
There is a similar difference generally between Europe and Asia, both in terms of the extent of the outbreak and the mortality rate. There is a lot of speculation attempting to explain this dramatic difference between Italy and Germany, but there is little hard statistical evidence.
This New York Times article runs through some of the possibilities. I have to believe that the quality of the care that infected patients receive must be a significant factor. For example, there is a wide range in the numbers of ICU beds on a per capita basis between countries. Fortunately, the U.S. leads the world. Interesting, Germany is a close second, while Italy has only about a third of the beds of the U.S. But South Korea, China and Japan, all of which have been spared high mortalities, have fewer ICU beds than Italy — underscoring that no one factor can fully explain the divergence.
On another front, the FDA gave Houston Methodist its first approval for a plasma therapy. [Click here for Houston Methodist’s press release.] Plasma therapy is the use of blood plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to inject antibodies into an infected patient. It is a well-established therapy for many diseases but untested as to COVID-19. There seems to be a pretty high level of confidence in this approach, but there are questions as to whether it can be deployed quickly enough to head off a spike in fatalities in the US.
1 The spreadsheet notes that previously appeared at the bottom of my posts have been moved to a tab on the spreadsheet itself.