Covid-19: By the numbers

By Vivian Ho, Ph.D.
James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics

Kirstin R.W. Matthews, Ph.D.
Fellow in Science and Technology Policy

Heidi Russell, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics and Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy
Baylor College of Medicine



As of Friday, June 26, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average (smoothed) number of new U.S. daily cases rose to 34,476, a 41% increase relative to 24,414 the previous Friday. The percent of cases testing positive rose to 6.4% from 4.9% one week earlier. We do not have accurate measures of national death trends, because New Jersey added 1,854 prior deaths to their statistics for last Thursday after a review of death records. Here in Texas, the growth in the number of smoothed daily cases rose 73% between June 19 and 26, and the smoothed number of daily deaths fell slightly from 29 to 26. The percent of people testing positive rose from 8.8% on June 19 to 10.9% last Friday.

Risk Factors and Disease Effects

Scientists’ estimates of how deadly the coronavirus is have varied over time. Now they believe that roughly .5 to 1% of those who have been infected with the virus have died.

Latin America is the grim new center of the pandemic, with more than two million people infected and 100,000 deaths. The region has 8% of the world’s population, but accounted for 47% of coronavirus deaths recorded in the past two weeks.

In a press conference on June 25, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield announced that 20 million  Americans, or about 6% of the nation’s 331 million people, have likely been infected with the coronavirus. The number is 10 times higher than the officially reported statistic. The new estimate is based on CDC studies of blood samples collected nationwide. 

The CDC also reported that people with chronic conditions were 12 times more likely to die from the virus compared with those who did not have underlying conditions. In addition, pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit, although they are not at greater risk of death from the virus.

Three research studies have concluded that the conservative media amplify misinformation about Covid-19, entertain conspiracy theories and discourage audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.

 In The New Yorker magazine, a Texas physician describes what it’s like to treat Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients in one of Houston’s public county hospitals.

Vaccines and Treatments

Public health officials and scientists are concerned that a weakened immune system could limit the effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine among the elderly. Companies are exploring possible options such as increasing the doses or adding a booster to the shot. At least one vaccine specifically for the elderly is in development, and some companies have started testing their coronavirus vaccine candidates in older adults.

Gilead Sciences said it will soon begin clinical studies of an inhaled form of remdesivir with the aim of expanding the drug’s use to healthier, nonhospitalized Covid-19 patients. Remdesivir is currently only approved to be administered via daily intravenous infusions, limiting its use to patients in the hospital.

Hydroxychloroquine has diminished as a potential treatment for Covid-19. The NIH halted the ORCHID Study early, and the WHO ended the hydroxychloroquine arm of its trial due to midpoint analyses showing the drug was unlikely to be beneficial. The FDA added warnings to remdesivir labeling that it not be given simultaneously with hydroxychloroquine because of antagonistic effects in in vitro testing.   This change leaves a national stockpile of 63 million doses.

Policy Interventions

As states ease their lockdowns, bars are emerging as fertile breeding grounds for the coronavirus. As a result of the alarming outbreak in Texas, Gov. Abbott ordered bars to close at noon on June 26 except for delivery and takeout.

Roughly 30 countries, including Singapore, Israel and China, have rolled out or are planning Covid-tracking apps at the national level. The kaleidoscope of U.S. apps, deployed at the state or county level, risks confusing users and could make it harder to track potential Covid-19 exposure when people travel across state lines.

European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders on July 1 are likely to block Americans from entering, because the United States has failed to control the coronavirus. Countries on the E.U. draft lists have been selected as safe based on a combination of epidemiological criteria. The benchmark is the E.U. average number of new infections — over the past 14 days — per 100,000 people, which is currently 16 for the bloc. The comparable number for the United States is 107.

In 2015, during the Ebola epidemic, the Government Accountability Office recommended that the Department of Transportation develop a comprehensive national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. However, the DOT has yet to do so. GAO’s new report found that the Federal Aviation Administration has conducted only limited research on disease transmission during air travel or in airports.