Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Here’s an interesting bit on the ventilator shortage that wasn’t.  Excerpt:

In the state that (as of today) has one-third of the country’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, New York governor Andrew Cuomo sounded the alarm for ventilators repeatedly. On March 27, he acknowledged “I don’t have a crystal ball” but said his state desperately needed 30,000 ventilators, maybe 40,000, but had only 12,000. When President Trump noted that Cuomo’s state had thousands of unused ventilators it hadn’t even placed yet, Cuomo admitted this was true but said he still needed more: “Yes, they’re in a stockpile because that’s where they’re supposed to be because we don’t need them yet. We need them for the apex,” Cuomo said at the time. On April 2, Cuomo predicted the state would run out of ventilators in six days “at the current burn rate.” But on April 6, Cuomo noted, “We’re ok, and we have some in reserve.”

Now New York appears to have passed the apex. Deaths, a lagging indicator, crested at 799 on April 9 and hit 606 on April 16, the lowest figure since April 6. Hospitalizations are also declining, and on April 16 also hit their lowest level since April 6. Cuomo today has so many ventilators he is giving them away: On April 15, he said he was sending 100 of them to Michigan and 50 to Maryland. On April 16, he announced he was sending 100 to New Jersey.

New Jersey has by far the most cases outside of New York, with 75,000 positive tests. It also has by far the most deaths outside of New York: 3,518 as of April 16. However, New Jersey, with 8,011 total hospitalizations as of April 16, also has more ventilators than it is currently using and also may have passed its apex; as of April 16, the fewest New Jerseyans were on ventilators since April 8. So far, the peak was April 14, when 1705 patients were on ventilators. Yet before Cuomo’s announcement, New Jersey reported that 46 percent of its ventilators were still available.

Now, to be fair, the business closures and social distancing may have held the spread of the virus in check well enough to reduce the need for ventilators well below the initial projections.  Or, maybe, treatments were more effective than suspected, or maybe the virus affected fewer people than suspected to the degree where a ventilator was needed.

And that’s a pretty bad degree, as once a ventilator is indicated, the chance for survival drops quite a bit.

On the other hand, some recent preliminary studies seem to indicate that the number of asymptomatic carriers is quite a bit higher than estimated, which 1) increases the possibility of transmission by folks who don’t know they have the virus, and B) increases the denominator for the “percentage seriously ill/dead” calculation.

I suppose it’s prudent to be overly cautious in estimating things like this.  But the distribution of ventilators is quite a bit different than the ongoing shutdown of most of our economy, which on this Monday morning shows little sign of opening up across most of the country.  Personally my business isn’t affected a jot.  I can and do perform much of my work remotely in any case, and my work being in the medical manufacturing industry, I’m in no danger of running out of work.

But most folks aren’t so fortunate.

Texas is the first state to start opening things up.  Let’s hope more follow, and quickly.  We can move ventilators a lot more quickly than we can rebuild a broken economy.