At this point there have been 90,000 cases of COVID 2019. South Korea struggles with more than 5,000 cases. the WHO reports that globally about 3.4% of reported cases have died.
The WHO claims we are in uncharted territory. I would say this is eirily similar to 1918 and the “Spanish” flu. In that pandemic, 27% of the worlds population of 1.9 billion was infected, with a death toll of around 50 million. This indicates a death rate of approximately 5%.
Although we have more air travel today, back in 1918, the world was coming home from war. Soldiers and other personel were traveling en-masse from theatres all over the world. The situation seems quite parallel.
If COVID-2019 has similar characteristics of infectiousness and mortality going forward, we would expect about 30% infection rates, and about 2% mortality. That would lead to about 2.5 billion people infected worldwide. About 100 million infections in the US alone, with up to 2 million deaths. However, of the 100 million infected, about 25 million would show serious illness. I think it is entirely reasonable to assume that health services will be overwhelmed. The US is particularly vulnerable to rapid spread, as there is no universal health coverage, and many people with initial minor symptoms will not get tested due to concern over expense, and many people will continue to show up for work due to financial constraints.
Here in Canada, we have a more available health system, but that system is presently running at capacity. Elective surgeries will cease, and special mobile clinics will have to be set up to cope. About 2.5 million severe infections can be expected, and 100s of thousands of deaths.
If the infection spreads quickly, health systems cannot cope. The best hope lies in slowing the spread so sickness can be managed. If the infections can be spread over a couple of years, then we stand a chance of weathering the storm without calamitous breakdowns. If things deteriorate rapidly, there will be significant collateral damage to other health matters in general, and health workers themselves could be significantly affected.
The age spread is also important. The elderly are definitely more at risk, with most of the deaths occuring over the age of 80 (over 10% mortality). Infant deaths are almost unknown. Deaths under 30 are at less than 1%. the numbers climb gradually with age. Health complications are also clearly a factor, with breathing, immune or heart issues significantly increasing morbidity.
In the U.S., people are beginning to hoard various goods - drinking water, toilet paper, canned food. The Cnadian government website suggest making sure you have enough of some basic stuff - but I don’t see any unusual shopping patterns here, or empty shelves.