On April 12, I noted “Everything the gleeful journalists said would happen to Sweden has happened… to Massachusetts”. Massachusetts has been shut down since mid-March. Swedes, on the other hand, are still going to school, eating at restaurants, and working at offices and factories as necessary. They may not even be using #StayHome and #SaveLives on their Facebook posts.
Combining what we’ve learned from U.S. media and 4th grade arithmetic lessons regarding exponential growth, we would expect most Swedes to be dead at this point. Yet as of April 12, a smaller percentage of Swedes had died compared to Massachusetts residents, and there was a dramatic difference in the rate of new cases (8X) and deaths (6X).
Maybe the sharp difference was a holiday (Easter) weekend data entry effect?
Here’s an update for today, based on WHO and mass.gov numbers:
The latest report for Sweden: 465 new cases and 20 deaths (Denmark was at 144 and 12). Massachusetts had 1,296 new cases and 113 deaths (8X the death rate).
I.e., Sweden (10 million population) is doing dramatically better than Massachusetts (7 million) and the stats per person are roughly comparable to shut-down Denmark (5 million). (see this post for numbers on previous days)
How does the U.S. media cover a country with a lower death rate than Massachusetts’s? “Sweden: 22 Scientists Say Coronavirus Strategy Has Failed As Deaths Top 1,000” (Forbes):
Sweden’s relatively relaxed approach to controlling the spread of the coronavirus has come under fire in international media and from many locals in the capital Stockholm, where more than half the country’s deaths have been recorded. Now, 22 researchers have publicly criticized the strategy and called on politicians to make changes.
Major public events such as the start of the Swedish soccer season are postponed and the physical buildings of universities are closed, but otherwise everyday life continues. Schools remain open.
(I will hazard a guess that the “22 researchers” referenced still get paid regardless of how long the shutdown lasts!)
The MD/PhD infidel (not a “scientist”) who doubts the shutdown religion does get one paragraph:
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell quickly hit back at the researchers’ claims. SVT reported that Tegnell said there is “a fundamental inaccuracy in that article” regarding the numbers used.
How about the local newspaper in what became Wuhan-on-the-Hudson? “Sweden taking lax approach to coronavirus, top doc says it’ll ‘probably end in a historical massacre’” (New York Daily News):
Following the terrible examples of China, the United States, Britain and others, Sweden has decided that coronavirus is overrated.
The European nation known for being cold and socialist has not ordered any sort of lockdown, is still allowing up to 50 people to gather in groups and has been weeks behind the rest of Europe on social distancing advice, Time Magazine reported.
A top doctor as a large Swedish hospital told Time that this lackadaisical approach will “probably end in a historical massacre.”
What about Massachusetts? Is our forecast of suffering 12% of U.S. COVID-19 fatalities (with just 2% of U.S. population) a potential “historical massacre”? A search into the New York Times reveals only a concern about a Massachusetts roommate dispute regarding social distancing religious orthodoxy.
Update from my cumulative tracking post:
4/15 comment: Sweden at 1033/114; Denmark at 299/14; Massachusetts at 1,755/151. It seems that there was a substantial lag in reporting deaths in Sweden due partly to a three-day Easter holiday weekend. Even if all of the 114 deaths had occurred in the preceding 24 hours, the rate of new deaths in Massachusetts is substantially higher when adjusted for population. Total deaths in Massachusetts are at 1,108 versus 1,033 in Sweden, a 1.5X higher rate in the shut-down region of Massachusetts versus the up-and-running get-it-over-with region of Sweden.
It does look as though neighboring Denmark has at least deferred some infections and deaths with its temporary lockdown. As the top epidemiologist in Sweden says, “time will tell.” As noted in the comments below, we were told that, without an economic shutdown, coronavirus would kill 2.2 million Americans. Sweden did not shut down. They should be suffering close to 70,000 deaths from the exponentially growing virus, not 1,000 or 2,000. Even with the upsetting catch-up number of deaths following the holiday weekend, Sweden’s outcome so far seems inconsistent with most epidemiologists and government think that they know about coronavirus.