22. Biweekly Update: Is the U.S. a Third-World Nation?

(7/22/20) The provocative title is impelled by comparing the U.S. response to Covid-19 to other countries around the world. Within the U.S. certain populous states dominate this malady. And it traces back to the level of bad counties exemplified by what’s going on in California.

[Please also see Daily Rumblings – II for contemporary and interesting news]

I have had a good run with this blog with about 4,000 visitors and nearly 15,000 views, but hardly anything remotely approaching a podium. My original mission was to provide the best forecasting tool for cases (prevalence), new cases (incidence) and most particularly deaths and that has been reasonably achieved, but I can’t keep up with the now many refined models run by large teams. However, there is still enough mystery and misunderstanding of reported data and news, with perhaps a dash of alternative facts thrown in to further cloud reality and make me want to keep my voice alive.

However, I’m departing from my sober and dispassionate delivery for two reasons, one is I probably bored quite a few people and two my tongue is totally mangled by biting it so often. So, from now on, with a much less bloodied tongue firmly planted in cheek and perhaps fortified with a little bourbon, I’m allowing a little snarkiness to override some of my better sense!

Let me first apologize that I may not be able to access as much data as before. Unfortunately, the Administration doesn’t think the decades of experience of scientists, medical experts and statisticians at the CDC is sufficient to handle all the data coming in from the states and has now decreed that the Administration will handle it from here on it. As far as I can tell the state boards are now being instructed to send all data to Jared Kushner so he can put it on his iPad and do his magic before making it available to the public. (Damn that’s good bourbon!)


Some countries learn their lessons and some don’t. While the world was in shock when Covid-19 blind-sided the early hot spots in Europe, we now look at how well they have recovered. The plots below are for the hottest of the hot spots, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium (we save the U.K. for shortly). This is how to take control of a pandemic that is ravaging the population and economy. The exponential growth of the epidemic is quite obvious and occurs in a matter of days. These nations got a grip on things and saw a peak in the death rate within a month of the initial outbreak. Outstandingly, they maintained their grip and drove the death rate right into the ground. No premature social easing. No lame political statements about revving up the economy.

Death rate plots for the major European pandemic countries showing how effectively they purged the problem. The Gaussian dotted line is to help visualize the recovery and shows the asymmetry to the rise and fall of the death rate. The spikes for some countries are one-time readjustments to the data.

Elsewhere around the world things are different particularly for less wealthy nations. You can see in the Figures below that Iran is backtracking and Brazil doesn’t seem to care and their death rates are now out of control. There are many other bad performers but I don’t have time to plot them all. These two countries exemplify what is bad. Sadly, Iran looked at first to be one of the good performers. The President and their Health Minister are now saying that upwards of 25-50% of the population may be(come) infected. The failure to lock down is due to not wanting to further damage their already feeble sanction-restricted economy. As for Brazil, if President Bolsonario, two Ministers, and a half dozen other high-ranking officials getting Covid-19 doesn’t spur any action, there is just no hope.

Death rate plots for two countries that are doing little to stem the epidemic.

Now let’s look at the U.S. and U.K. as they were the last of the first wave of nations to acknowledge the problem and consequently were hit hard. The U.K. was even later than the U.S. to enact any action and it took Boris Johnson to catch Covid-19 and almost die to ring a bell. Now the U.K is doing better than the U.S. The U.S. death rate is now rising again, in keeping with the leadership character of a third-world nation.

Death rate plots for the U.S. and U.K. who were the last modern countries to acknowledge the seriousness of Covid-19.

So how is the world doing? Pretty bad as you can see from the worldwide death rate plot below, which continues to go up due to the inability of third-world nations to cope and to …… the U.S, which has the highest total deaths in the world and second highest death rate among nations. The sorry fact is that the U.S. is the only modern country behaving like a third-world nation. Why do we say that? Look at the table below for deaths per week per capita. Only Brazil exceeds us. The U.S. accounts for 25% of all world deaths despite having only 4% of world population.

Death rate plot for the world showing new global outbreaks.
Table showing per capita death rates for countries around the world.


We have reported before on the domestic situation in Daily Rumblings – II and those commentaries are still current and worth reading. That will save me a lot of effort re-stating them. So instead I’d like to keep to the theme of those governments (nations or states) that are or are not serious. Again, it seems that those populations that were heavily hit (and I mean >10x the per capita death rate per day than CA has yet to see) have found religion and have mostly suppressed the epidemic in their states. Below are the results for the much-publicized cases of NY and NJ, representing the two highest per capita death tolls in the world among major populations. But the same story applies to all of New England, which was almost as heavily hit. They answered the challenge.

Death rate plots for the states of NY and NJ that are showing fortitude in recovering from the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

However, there are over 40 states for which cases and/or hospitalizations are increasing. We have all read about Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, just to name some of the more populous states. The death rates for most of these states look like Brazil above in having avoided most of the early outbreak, but now realizing they are not immune to the virus and were caught flatfooted. Crazy that with so much evidence from other states and countries how can these politicians think there must be something different about their populations and that they didn’t need to act. And flatfooted they remain. CA is an exception in having stemmed the early tide of outbreaks, but then relaxed too soon and when it became necessary to tighten up again, the population just doesn’t care. So, CA reached a peak started to decline and is now surging again. Beginning to look like Iran! Louisiana also looked to have gotten the outbreak under control, but is now facing a new surge. The death rate Figures are below.

Death rate plots for LA and CA, two of many states that are relapsing into new outbreaks.

Southern California

I only follow Los Angeles and Orange County, but they are a microcosm of what is going on in CA. The hospitalization and death rates for LA and OC are plotted in the Figures below.

(Left) Hospitalizations and (Right) death rates for Los Angeles county
(Left) Hospitalizations and (Right) death rates for Orange county.

The obvious trend is a steep increase in hospitalizations particularly for OC over the last few weeks. This is matched by an increase in death rate generally lagging a week or two from the number of hospitalized patients. If you go back two weeks ago below in Daily Rumblings – II, I predicted these new death rate surges in LA and OC based on the surge in hospitalizations. Hopefully things will change particularly since I have noticed that people in OC have gone from asking whether you know anyone who has had Covid-19 to probably everyone knowing at least a half dozen infected people and soon it will be knowing people who have died. Hopefully that will be a wake-up call. Of course, it might be too late by then.