First off, I think I may have overreacted to short term changes in the growth rate in my last projection. The projections are mathematically right, but in retrospect the increased rate of growth we saw may have been noise rather than signal. I’ll be taking a more conservative approach today, based on the trend graph from the tracker. I’m only showing the US line here. The tracker shows an overall growth rate of 34.8% per day over the last 19 days. I’ll use that for the projection.

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The tracker is showing 31,000 cases currently. If we keep growing at 34.8% per day, here’s what it looks like, every other day until the 1st.

3/22 31,000 (today)
3/24 56,330
3/26 102,358
3/28 185,995
3/30 337,972
4/1 614,130

That’s a lot better than the projections on the higher growth rate, but if you consider that the current global numbers are in the 330k range, it’s still a lot.

I’ve been keeping my projections only extended to the 1st, because the farther I extend them, the more variables can impact them. I’m pretty confident we’ll be above 50,000 on Tuesday. I’m far less confident we’ll be above 330,000 on the 1st just because a lot can happen between now and then.

We’ve talked about how testing rates can impact these numbers. All we’re seeing is the number of reported cases. More testing means more reported cases even if the actual cases were stable. Conversely, if we stop testing altogether, then there will be no growth in reported cases. There are currently conflicting trends in this area. On the one hand, we’ve seen a big push to make testing more available. On the other hand, some areas are starting to recommend against testing unless its necessary for a treatment decision, thus reducing the availability of testing.

Given the value of testing in understanding how to combat the virus, you may be wondering why anyone would limit testing. Wouldn’t it be better to just test everyone? In theory, yes, it would be best to test everyone. That would give us the most information and help us to limit the spread of the virus. However, each test has to be conducted by someone who knows what they’re doing. That takes time, and medical personnel are already stretched thin. It also takes resources. The tester needs to wear a mask, gloves, and use other supplies that are becoming increasingly scarce. Those are the same supplies we need in order to treat the critically ill. So it comes down to a choice. Do you try to increase knowledge of the spread of the virus at the cost of patients dying for lack of supplies, or do you conserve resource for treating critically ill patients at the cost of limiting our knowledge of the spread? I won’t pretend to know how to make such a decision, I’m glad I don’t have to. But I can certainly understand those who prefer treating the sick to testing the well.

It’s hard to know how these competing trends will affect the numbers we see. Throw in the effects of social distancing and other efforts, along with the push back from some segments of society and the fatigue of even the best-intentioned among us and I’m leery of projecting farther. In my view, things are more uncertain now than they were a week ago.

As we get closer to the 1st, I’ll extend my projections out a bit, but probably not far. I do think there is value in knowing what may be around the corner, even if it’s not certain. I’ll continue to try to be as up front about my assumptions and sources as I can be.

Thanks for reading.

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