Thursday, July 2, 2020

How scientists know COVID-19 is way deadlier than the flu

After months of study, scientists have better clarity on the coronavirus's lethal potential—which makes recent case surges all the more alarming.

A man who died from the coronavirus is seen wrapped in a body bag at the United Memorial Medical Center's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) intensive care unit in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 29, 2020. Photograph by Callaghan O'Hare, Reuters

By Carrie Arnold

For James Scott, the worries began in late May. It was about a month after Texas began relaxing restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, and Scott was looking at a model he had developed to predict COVID-19 deaths using cellphone mobility data. As he watched the dramatic rise in people visiting restaurants, bars, gyms, and concert venues, he felt it was only a matter of time before the state’s cases surged—and the deaths wouldn’t be far behind.

“It’s like Bob Dylan said: You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” says Scott, who works at the University of Texas at Austin, where his model is assessing whether changes in mobility patterns can predict coronavirus mortality.

Texas is just one of the states that has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases over recent weeks after relaxing its physical-distancing guidelines. However, while the death toll so far hasn’t risen to match, experts caution that the coronavirus has not lost its deadly kick. For one, the disease takes a while to kill, and humans take even more time to record the pandemic’s fatalities due to administrative red tape. The people who are dying today were likely infected three to four weeks ago.  Read more >>