COVID-19 Day 30: In Defense of Chicken Little



The final death toll currently “looks more like 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000” said Dr. Anthony Fauci on NBC’s Today Show. 

Similarly, The Imperial College in London radically lowered its fatality estimates from 500,000 to  20,000. Under normal circumstances this news would be greeted with relief. Fewer deaths are our primary goal in our battle with COVID-19.

But these dramatically lower numbers will likely add fuel to the argument that the COVID-19 “Cure is worse than the disease.” That the economic toll in jobs, business and public debt caused by shuttering the economy could cause far more harm in the long run, than the pandemic itself.

Both the CDC and the Imperial College predictions were a worst-case range, based on “real-time” data from hospitals and labs, which were at best messy/inconstant and at worst intentionally inaccurate (eg. Chinese government numbers). Software engineers and data scientists know, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’

But before we call these officials “Chicken Littles” it’s important to remember that whether their predictions were off by 10x or just 2x, either of these numbers are potentially catastrophic. The alarm they raised caused our governments to quickly reprioritize hospital admissions, stockpile PPE and respirators, and increase public awareness and standards of responsible personal hygiene. These actions themselves helped lower collateral deaths from “normal” critical patients who wouldn’t get ICU care due to COVID-19 cases. 

What remains to be seen is if these projected numbers justify the expected economic recession caused by shutting down the country (those numbers themselves are based on predictions and models). While we believe each life is priceless, when the bill comes due we still have to pay the piper. Or in this case, the doctor. 




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