If you are the town crier in your circle of family and friends, the one who watches all the news and has a fully-informed and horrified view of the COVID-19 pandemic, do not read this. Instead, just give this to the naysayer in your life. You know, that person who scoffs at you for asking them to wash their hands, that Baby Boomer who won’t change their life just because of some virus, that oblivious Gen Xer, all of our precious Children of Millennials, or whoever you know who is convinced and annoyed by your perceived overreaction. Let me talk to them. I have a math lesson for them on this day, the Ides of March 2020, the day the number of worldwide cases of COVID-19 outside China has surpassed the number of cases inside China.
In our normal lives we have little to no experience with exponential growth. Our puppies, our hair, our bank accounts, and our waistlines all grow rather linearly–at a somewhat constant slope. Remember slope from high school math? Change in y over change in x? When x is time, a slope is a rate like speed–miles per hour, dollars per hour, words per minute. For the spread of a virus, if the number of diagnosed cases per day is constant, the number of new cases per a given amount of time would allow simple prediction of the number of expected cases at any given future date.
The spread of COVID-19 is not occurring at a constant linear rate. The growth in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States of America is more accurately modeled as a power function.
Only 5 days ago there were 1000 confirmed cases in the US.
Today, as we approach the 9-week mark since the first confirmed case in our country, there are about 3200 cases in the US.
Based on a simple mathematical model on Excel using numbers from coronaviruslivestats.com, where x = number of days since the first confirmed US case, the number of cases on a given day in the future can be approximated as 5E-17 x^11.032. Hence, the US may reach
30,000 cases by the end of March,
and half a million (500,000) cases by April 23, 2020.
Half a million. This is a relentless rate. Unstoppable. And likely (terrifyingly) underestimated, as many of us who have or will contract the virus will not be tested or tallied in the total.
I give you these numbers so you don’t have to wait for your 2020 hindsight. I hope you do all in your power to change the mathematical function, to slow the spread of this disease. Simple things you can do. Wash your hands. Stay home. Don’t put another human at risk. Think of everyone and yourself.
Do everything in your power to prove me wrong. Let’s get to five weeks from now and point at Laura and laugh at her ridiculous prediction. Please.
If you are not yet sufficiently afraid, I give you one more number. At the current rate of spread if we change nothing and insist on living our own way, ALL OF US, every American, may contract the virus within 26 weeks of the first noted case in January 2020.
All of us.
The 26-week mark is in mid-July 2020.