Preview 2020: Coronavirus

The new coronavirus has become one of the biggest stories of the winter, of course, and has impacted sports.  The NPB played spring training games in empty venues and has announced a delay in the start of its season.  Italy has shut down all sports while the epidemic is still widespread there.  The Ivy League cancelled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.  Other sporting events have been postponed or canceled as well.  MLB, NHL, NBA, and MLS have all closed their locker rooms to all except essential personnel (and some media outlets have gallingly pontificated on the importance of access—note to them: this is entertainment, access is not really important at all).

So… will this disease result in game stoppage like in Japan? Might games go on but in empty parks?  I don’t know. Maybe.

The epidemic has been ongoing in China for three months now and appears to be wearing down there now, so there is reason to expect it to be time limited although it is still ramping up else where. 90% of the fatalities in Italy have been 70 or older.  That is a normal disease pattern—they are more dangerous to the old and infirm.  This has been the pattern thus far here in the US too.  About 3-5% of reported cases have been fatal, but it’s likely there are many more unreported cases as most people develop a fever and cough and get over it—many would not seek medical attention for that.  The overall fatality rate is likely actually in the 1% range, which would be similar to influenzas.  That’s not to minimize it at all.  Speaking as a physician, I wish we took influenzas far more seriously.

Everyone, please, be vigilant about hand washing, stay safe and well.

8 thoughts on “Preview 2020: Coronavirus

  1. Look for the silver lining. For me, it’s walking up behind a long line of ticket buyers at the movie theater, putting my hand over my mouth and faking a cough, and watching everyone else on the line scatter so I find myself right up at the ticket window in seconds. Works just as well inside the theater; one or two ga-houghhh!s and you have a three row radius all to yourself.

    Speaking as an educated layman, we can thank the anti-vaxx assholes for ploughing furrows of illness through the naive, gullible, paranoid, ignorant and just plain stupid segments of the population, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hopefully the one good thing that will come out of this is people will hopefully develop better hygiene habits and will lead to increased education on how to properly avoid illness. For everyone who says “It’s just the flu” are not understanding that it’s a flu that has zero vaccinations, zero resistance against, and is more contagious and more deadly. People have been misusing the flu to explain a mild case of flu-like symptoms for years. The actual flu is pretty damn dangerous and the only reason it doesn’t kill more people is due to our monumental efforts to get flu shots and years of building resistances.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The fatality rate for flu the last several years has been .1% not 1.0%. The estimate for the fatality rate for the corona virus as being as low as 1% due to unreported cases is (while still being 10 times greater than that for the flu) is on the extreme low end of informed estimates. The fatality rate in Italy is right now at 5%. The eventual mortality rate will of course be affected by the quality (or lack thereof) of available medical care. Plausible estimates of the number of cases which we might eventually see far
    exceed the number of ICU beds in the united states. we are talking about what could easily be millions of deaths world wide and hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States

    Thank god for big ass cheap as TVs.


    1. The case fatality rates for the flu in the past decade for hospitalized patients in this country has been roughly 1%. Using disease burden as the denominator it is indeed 0.1%—that is what I should have used, and thanks for the correction.

      Some influenza strains in the past have had much higher rates, notably the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic. US Army stats indicate a roughly 5% case fatality rate in military camps, and much higher numbers were reported by other groups in some other countries. Again, nothing I said about the flu was meant to minimize anything.

      My statement of expecting the coronavirus rate to ultimately be around 1% of the disease burden was not meant as an exact figure but I believe ultimately the actual disease burden—like that of the flu—will be a lot higher than the number of reported cases. A 1% case fatality rate does mean the number of deaths worldwide could be staggering.


      1. I didn’t think you were trying to minimize it. I just wanted to emphasize it.

        We should also point out the potential economic consequences of curtailed travel, shuttered theatres, restaurants, ball parks (a Yankee salary dump ??? !!!), etc.. And the indirect long term consequences of indefinite school closures.

        But on the bright side, we do have a “very stable genius” who would never dream of putting his own reelection prospects and self image maintenance ahead of the health and lives of other human beings directing the response.


        1. No doubt the economic impact could be significant. There’s too many variables right now, so I don’t want to guess.


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