Christine Folch

COVID-19 in South America: The Numbers, Drastic Responses, and #QuédateEnTuCasa

(Here’s the version in Spanish.)

I ran the numbers. They’re grim.

In 30 days, unless there’s massive social distancing: 307,200 people in Brazil will need hospitalization; 13,824 people in Paraguay will require hospitalization; 86,016 people in Argentina will require hospitalization. But there aren’t enough intensive therapy beds to go around and hospitals will be overwhelmed as they have been in Italy.

Though the official numbers lag behind the rapidly rising confirmed cases and death toll of Europe, Asia, and North America, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have begun appearing in South America.

As testing expands, these cases will put to the test the theory that warm weather keeps COVID-19 at bay–many parts of the hemisphere are still experiencing warm (even hot) weather. And South America is still dealing with the worst dengue outbreak in recorded history.

Some political figures downplay the severity of COVID-19 and many ordinary citizens are ignoring the pleas of health ministers to #StayAtHome #QuédateEnTuCasa #EpytaNdeRógape. Over the last week, starting with Paraguay, countries have closed down schools, sealed their borders, and even begun implementing curfews. These moves may seem drastic when compared to the official COVID-19 counts that are in single or double digits.

But here are the numbers behind those moves.

1. Exponential Growth: Average doubling time of the number of infections is 3 days.

2. Asymptomatic Carriers: You could be infected & spreading the disease and not know it.

3. Not Enough Hospital Beds: Too many sick at the same time means not enough beds and then people die.

For the calculations, I took the Current Confirmed cases from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 site and multiplied them by 10 (for a low-range count) and by 50 (for the Harvard-range count) to arrive at the Total Current cases. Then, based on the average doubling time of 3 days, over 30 days, the growth would be 2^10, or multiplied by 1024 to give us the Total Cases in 30 days. 15% of Total Cases require hospitalization. And the current composite death rate (all ages) is 3%. (I followed the methodology proposed by James S. Warner.)


Those numbers in orange are likely why several countries have taken serious measures now, knowing that 30 days the hospitals will be flooded and that 3% mortality rate will skyrocket.


Here’s a web-friendly infographic (English).

And here are my numbers (calculated yesterday) for you to review and analyze.


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This entry was posted on March 17, 2020 by in Global Health and tagged .
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