Bulletin: Statement from R Stefan Templeton on the present reality of COVID-19 in the United States
It is Monday morning, 7:59, as I write this from my living room study overlooking Rock Creek park in Washington, DC.
Closely monitoring the COVID-19 epidemic, I have been using the math I learned in the HELP class at Johns Hopkins, 15 years ago, taught by the renowned epidemiologist Les Roberts. At the time he was under great pressure from the George W Bush administration to suppress his findings on the Iraq Mortality study. I clearly remember him saying “Math doesn’t have a political opinion, it doesn’t have an agenda, it just is what is is. You can interpret it however you want, but the math is the math.” Les passed away from cancer some years ago, and I have his image clearly in my mind as I write this. Never has his teaching been so prescient as it is today.
Yesterday I sent out information predicting today’s infection numbers and now, when I compare our prediction with the official numbers on the COVID-19 Global Cases map, I see 35,224 confirmed US cases, compared to our 33,092 forecast. This is an undercount on our part of 2,132 cases, approximately 6%. Given that the map is updated via irregular postings from various health authorities, our forecast numbers are essentially correct and provide a roadmap for where COVID-19 is headed if radical action is not taken.
I have been struggling with the question of whether or not SPEAR, as an organisation, should put out this type of information that clearly states the reality looming ahead? Is there a benefit to society at large to communicate such stark bad news? The answer is of course! When my wife Elena and I head outside of Fortress Templeton for provisions, gloved, masked and stand-offish at 2 meters, we still see the majority of people interacting as if nothing were different. Apathy and indifference are our biggest enemy. We must act fast. Maybe we need to shout on the street corner? I do not see any mention of this reality on any of the news sites this morning – neither BBC, AL Jazeera, France 24, The New York Times, The Washington Post are stating the obvious truth that the math is trending in a direction that will have great consequences for us all. This is serious. We are not, as a society, doing enough to halt the spread of this disease. So let me make an unequivocal statement:
By the end of this week, Friday the 27th of March 2020, the United States of America will become the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic. US confirmed cases will pass the 81,496 number confirmed in China. The numbers of cases and subsequent deaths will continue to rise exponentially. By early next week, there will be over 100,000 cases and the death rate will continue to climb in direct correlation. The USA will be the “sickest man” of an already sick planet. The longer we wait, the sicker we will get.
The factors that have caused, and continue to contribute to, the accelerating case rate come down to a lack of effective political leadership, contributing to a generalized abandonment of civic duty by the man on the street.
Once again public health has become politicized and we at SPEAR find ourselves aligning truth on the ground differently to the information communicated by the powers that be. Just as Les Roberts did in 2004.