How the coronavirus compares to other killers


The outbreak of the coronavirus across California has now made it the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, surpassing decades of wildfires and earthquakes. As the outbreak continues, it is on track to be the third leading cause of death in the state this year, an astonishing potential milestone for a disease unknown nine months ago.But the numbers capture only a fraction of the agony caused by the virus, given the lingering impacts on the health and pain of survivors, not to mention societal disruption.

The state has passed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday since Patricia Dowd, 57, of San Jose, became the first known death from the virus in the United States on February 6. The death toll appears to have eclipsed suicide, high blood pressure, influenza and diabetes will become the seventh leading cause of death in the state in just six months, judging by 2018 mortality figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

“That number, 10,000, is not remotely the worst” the coronavirus can do, said Dr Steven Goodman, professor of epidemiology at Stanford University. “It could easily be at a level close to cancer or heart disease a year from now if we didn’t do anything.

Ironically, the milestone of 10,000 has fallen at a time when other California coronavirus data has come into question. Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday called for an investigation into computer system issues that appear to have compromised the state’s test and infection totals for at least the past two weeks.

The call came as California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr Mark Ghaly broke the state’s silence surrounding the system’s lingering technical issues with insight into what led to the backup massive amount of data, which left counties in limbo as they relied on old-fashioned spreadsheets. to try to track the virus locally. Ghaly was unable to say for sure when all the issues will be resolved.

“We are looking in detail at how this communication could have been better and where it went wrong,” Ghaly said, adding, “We will hold people accountable. ”

The problems have not compromised the death toll, however, and they are staggering.

To put the coronavirus into context, more than 62,500 people died from heart disease in California in 2018, the most recent year for which totals are available. Almost 60,000 died of cancer, followed by 16,600 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and 16,400 from stroke.

COVID-19 could soon surpass the latter two of them – a new estimate released Thursday predicts that California could have nearly 32,700 deaths from the virus by December 1, even with the current mitigation plan for the virus. ‘State. The analysis, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicts that even with the use of an almost universal mask, deaths could reach around 21,400 by that date.

Nothing, except perhaps climate change, has had such a profound impact on the state, Goodman said.

Wildfires, a deadly and increasingly destructive presence in California, are pale in comparison. The 20 deadliest wildfires in the state’s modern history have killed a total of 302, according to CalFire. This includes 85 deaths from the 2018 Butte County campfire and 25 deaths from the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. California currently averages about the same number of deaths as these 20 fires in forest every two days.

The closest natural disaster, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, is estimated to have claimed 3,000 lives, directly and indirectly, while San Francisco had a population of around 400,000. In addition to this notorious disaster, major earthquakes have claimed less than 500 lives in the state since the 1800s, including 63 in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

Only two disasters still exceed COVID-19 death totals, but their records will almost certainly drop this winter. In 20 years after California became a state and gold was discovered, as many as 16,000 Native Americans were killed in a massive campaign of genocide against the region’s original inhabitants by new white settlers . And in 1918, the flu epidemic killed an estimated 16,800 people in California – and 13,000 more died over the next two years.

For those affected by the virus, the death toll is not the complete picture. Stacey Silva lost her father, Gary Young, in mid-March to the virus at a time when there were less than 1,000 known cases in the state. Young, who lived with Silva at her Gilroy home, was known to greet people with “good morning” at all times of the day, a guaranteed way to bring them a smile, said Silva.

GILROY – MARCH 19: A portrait of Stacey Silva holding a photo of her father Gary Young in Gilroy, Calif. On Thursday, March 19, 2020. Young died Tuesday in a sealed room alone. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Silva said she struggled with depression and guilt after illness took her away from her father’s side when he passed away. She is also frustrated by people opposed to mask requirements that could help limit the spread of the virus.

“The pain I have endured, the pain my family has endured, I would not wish that on my worst enemy,” she said.

It also had a financial impact. After articles were published about Young’s death, Silva’s wife lost her job. His wife’s boss, Silva said, fired her because she had not informed him that she was linked to someone infected with the virus. She declined to name the company.

Even those who recover from the virus could have lifelong complications. Doctors have reported people with damaged hearts and lungs, clotting problems that lead to strokes and pulmonary embolisms in younger patients, Goodman said.


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