Will the coronavirus kill 2.2-million Americans within the next six months? Or will only a million people die of the new virus before it runs it course in 12 to 18 months?
How many Mississippians will die and how many will perish in the counties of Northeast Mississippi?
The answer to those questions will largely depend upon the behavior, the self-discipline that Mississippians and all Americans practice during coming months.
President Trump and three of the country’s top public health physicians talked about death estimates in the 1-million to 2.2-million range during a 90-minute White House briefing Sunday afternoon. Trump was subdued, solemn even dignified, referring questions to Doctors Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, and Brett Giroir.
Doctor Fauci said forecasting COVID-19 deaths is done with complex models and based on data that changes continually. He said the estimate of 2.2-million deaths assumed a continuing failure to “flatten the curve.” Trump and Fauci essentially acknowledged that the U.S. had gotten off to a slow start in dealing with COVID-19 because of testing failures and a general lack of preparedness.
Although carefully avoiding any exact predictions, Fauci indicated that he hoped, with strictly practiced social distancing, deaths might be kept to one million, perhaps fewer. That as few as 100-thousand American’s might die of COVID-19 was hinted at, but it seemed more a hope than a prediction.
Trump extended the policy of extreme social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 until at least the end of April. The president acknowledged that his earlier statements indicating the crisis might be over by Easter were “aspirational” and not realistic. He said it might be June, perhaps even later before the worst of the crisis is over.
Trump, again showing more gravitas than usual, held another Rose Garden briefing Monday afternoon. “Vigorously following the (social distancing) guideline could save more than a million American lives,” the president said.
“Our future is in our own hands. The choices and sacrifices we make will determine the fate of this virus…,” said Trump. “We have no other choice. Every one of us has a role to play.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn announced during the Monday briefing that American pharmaceutical companies have donated many thousand doses of the drug hydroxychloroquine. Hahn said it is hoped that hydroxychloroquine may be effective in treating COVID-19. Normally used to tread malaria, lupus and arthritis, hydroxychloroquine will be tested in coming weeks on 2,000 participants, some at New York University and others at the University of Washington (state).
Trump said at the Monday briefing that 8,100 ventilators have been distributed to COVID-19 hotspots around the country, including New York City and California. He said Michigan would receive 400 ventilators and 150 each would go to Illinois and Louisiana.
Many perceive that Trump has put himself and his administration into a more robust response to the COVID-19 crisis during the recent few days. He had been criticized previously for not taking the crisis seriously enough. Trump made a moving reference Sunday to having seen bodies in bags and freezer trailers for preserving corpses being put into use at a hospital in the neighborhood where he grew up in the New York City borough of Queens.
There have been published accounts of Trump having clashed with Dr. Fauci over the COVID-19 response. Trump was notably deferential Sunday to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and Dr. Giroir and said he was following their guidance.
Will COVID-19 kill 2.2-million Americans by the time it plays out or will it be only 100,000? How long will it take for the pandemic to finally end?
Epidemiologists have pointed repeatedly to the fact deaths during pandemics, such as the influenza virus that killed over 70 million people worldwide in 1918-19, have a tendency to ebb and flow as viruses spread and mutate. Trump said Sunday that, although he thought the peak death rate in the country might occur between April and June, the fight against COVID-19 might go on significantly longer.
At 4:45 PM Tuesday, March 31, statistics were updated to show that there were 175,669 active coronavirus cases in the United States and that 3,780 Americans have died of it. Eleven military veterans, who had been exposed to COVID-19, died in a single “soldier’s home” in Massachusetts on Monday.
How many may die in Mississippi?
It has been amply demonstrated that COVID-19 kills poor people at a higher rate than rich people. Mississippi is the poorest state in the country, so one would have to expect that Mississippians will die from COVID-19 at the same or worse rates than people in other states. What, then, could be the death toll in Mississippi, given the range of 1 to 1.2-million deaths nationally?
There are just under 3-million people in Mississippi. If one million die nationally, the proportionate number would be 9,300 deaths in Mississippi. Our state’s share of deaths would be 20,100 if COVID-19 deaths reach 2.2-million nationally.
According to most recent census estimates, there are 457,114 people living today in the 15 counties of Northeast Mississippi. Northeast Mississippi would have 1,416 COVID-19 deaths if the lower estimate prevails and 3,064 will die here if the higher estimate is correct.
Deaths in Northeast Mississippi counties, based on the proportions of the lower and higher CDC estimates, would then likely be:
Alcorn County 115 deaths at the lower national estimate, 249 at the higher estimate.
Benton County 25 or 56
Calhoun County 45 or 97
Clay County 60 or 130
Chickasaw County 53 or 115
Itawamba County 73 or 158
Lafayette County 169 or 364
Lee County 263 or 569
Marshall County 110 or 239
Monroe County 111 or 240
Pontotoc County 98 or 212
Prentiss County 78 or 169
Tippah County 66 or 143
Tishomingo County 61 or 131
Union County 89 or 192
About 26,000 die each year in Mississippi.
If the more optimistic national estimate holds and only 9,300 Mississippians die of COVID-19, that’s an increase of 36% over the number of people who would normally be expected to die in 2020. At the higher and more pessimistic estimate, that would be an increase of 77% over Mississippi’s typical annual death rate.
Control of our death rate is not in the hands of doctors and hospitals. No matter what the president and other public officials do, they will not determine how many people die.
To the extent that the death rate will be controlled by human beings, it is up to individual Americans, individual Mississippians, to control their own behavior and strictly, radically practice social distancing.
“Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid.”
Those words have variously been attributed to John Wayne, Redd Foxx, Robert Mitchum and several others. No matter who first uttered them, those words are more appropriate than ever as our own behavior determines how many COVID-19 will kill and how long it will take to whip COVID-19.
Covid-19 coronavirus, Northeast MS news, President Donald Trump