The Corner

Politics & Policy

Questions about the Coronavirus

An Ecuadorian health official uses a thermal scanner on car passengers at Rumichaca International Bridge between Colombia and Ecuador after the Ecuadorian government closed its borders to all foreign travelers due to the spread of coronavirus in Tulcan, Ecuador, March 16, 2020. (Daniel Tapia/Reuters)

More data is critical in understanding the virus in general and in particular its transmission in particular countries. Anyone who looks at rates of morality and lethality of influenza and related pneumonia, especially in the elderly and infirm, can be shocked at the wide variances between particular countries.  

Reliable data alone should drive proper policy, especially given that any decision made henceforth in the present landscape of bad and worse choices can involve on the one hand greater viral death and morbidity, and on the other economic catastrophe with its own particular role in ensuring non-viral morbidity and death.

So, what we would like to know, it seems, are a few of numbers of which we are not often apprised:

  • What is the percentage of negatives of all those tested?
  • What are the percentages of those who request, or are given tests, who are showing some symptoms of illness or at least feel that they are in some way ill?
  • To what degree can we assume that those tested are accurate representations of the population as a whole, or are weighed inordinately toward the apparently ill or reside in perceived hotspot areas of the virus?
  • What is the percentage relationship between increased known virus cases and the number of increased tests? And does the death rate from coronavirus rise, stay steady, or fall commensurately when testing, and thus known positive cases, increase?
  • We are told that what is happening in Italy is what is waiting for us in the U.S., but what are the criteria in Italy that are the same as or quite different from the U.S., given that on a per capita basis those, say, in West Virginia may be experience quite differently the virus from those in Washington?
  • What is best estimation of how many arrived in the U.S. from China, from say mid-or late-November to February 1–2, 2020, and in terms of epidemiology, albeit relying in part on Chinese data, what are the parameters of numbers of likely positive carriers and the ripples from arriving population? What is the best estimation of the number of Chinese nationals who were unable to return home after the flight ban, or who arrived via temporary stop-overs in European cities after the flight ban.
  • Given the flu is often a source of comparison, for both pessimists and optimists of the virus’s trajectories, how are the methods of ascertaining deaths from the flu, or the number of annual cases of the flu, or the effects on particular vulnerable age groups similar or different from those modes now in use to ascertain how many have been infected by COVID-19, how many have died from it, and what the lethality rate is?

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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