Four critical charts to watch as the coronavirus spreads globally

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to intensify worldwide

Back in January, when I first started writing about the coronavirus that has officially been given the name of COVID-19, I said that it was still too early to tell what the trajectory of the outbreak would be or if it would eventually become a pandemic. But now after a month of additional data, I wanted to follow up on the current status of that pandemic potential. To do this, I put together four charts with metrics that I consider critical for assessing the global outbreak.

The bottom line is that the situation is deeply concerning. There have been increasing new cases around the world in multiple countries. Now, after a lot of smoke, I believe there is fire - community spread has begun in several different countries with infections that have no identifiable contact tracing. On top of this, the number of new cases has started to rise beyond a threshold any rational observer could consider “under control.”

To avoid being completely alarmist, there is some positive news in this next chart which shows the ratio of cases outside of China to overall cases. Even though this chart shows a steep rise, indicating global spread, it also means that the relative number of new cases in China is slowing down. Assuming the reported Chinese numbers are accurate, it means that transmission can be slowed to some extent.

Back to pessimism, we also have to recognize that no two countries are alike. They differ in their ability to respond. China took drastic measures in response to the outbreak. And, with the number of countries that now have confirmed cases, we cannot guarantee that every last one will be able to fully mitigate the damage.

Finally, this last chart is really one about a story that is too early to tell, which makes it a great candidate for ongoing monitoring. By dividing the number of deaths outside of China by the number of infections outside of China, we can continue to assess the mortality rate, which we won’t know for certain until the disease has finished its course. As of now, the non-China mortality rate is lower than in China (about 3.5%).

At some point, you have to call it like it is and whether or not someone wants to use the word “pandemic” is irrelevant. The data speaks for itself. In the mean time, I will continue to track material news and developments as they occur. As I have said many times before, let’s continue to hope for the best in all of this.


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All previous articles I’ve written on the coronavirus:

Pandemic? It’s still early…

Forecasting Coronavirus Cases

Forecasting Long-term Wuhan Coronavirus Cases

Helpful Coronavirus Resources

Five Useful Coronavirus Charts

Forecasting Long-term Wuhan Coronavirus (nCoV-2019) Mortality Rates

Beware! The Coronavirus Stock Market Narrative

Forecasting Wuhan Coronavirus Cases (Performance Update)

Did we just see the inflection point of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak in Hubei?

The Wuhan Coronavirus Death Rate Is Climbing

Forecasting COVID-19 Cases (Second Performance Update)