The U.S. will soon find out whether it’s likely to be the next South Korea or Italy or China when it comes to the new coronavirus crisis. A data analysis by USA TODAY finds that, two weeks after the America’s first entered into community transmission on March 3, America’s trajectory is trending toward Italy’s, where circumstances are dire .
A couple ofweeks ago, Italy was much like us, with 107 deaths on March 4. But things were already rapidly getting worse; by March 10, more than 600 people were dead, and now more than 3,400 are. That makes Italy the epicenter of coronavirus fatalities in the world, with more deaths than even China, where the outbreak started. Hospitals have been pushed to the breaking point, with doctors and nurses without adequate protective equipment collapsing at work and other doctors reporting that patients won’t all get lifesaving care because there isn’t enough of it to go around.
What’s scary about Italy’s experience is that Italy wasn’t exactly passive in its response to the virus. The country did act, quarantining a dozen towns in northern regions on February 23, urging the public to engage in social distancing, andordering the closure of all schools nationwide on March 4.
But case numbers kept growing. On March 8, Italy locked down the north of the country, and on March 9 it extended the lockdown to the whole country. Now, it looks like these extreme efforts might have slowed the rate of growth of cases.On March 15, there were 3,590 new cases. On March 16, 3,233. On the 17th, 3,526. And on the 18th, 4,207. That’s not exponential growth, suggesting the lockdown really did help — but those still aren’t good numbers, especially when Italy’s hospitals are already overwhelmed.
Italy has been devastated by the virus because the action it took was just a little too moderate, a little too restrained, and a little too slow. The country took measures that were substantial and costly but nonetheless insufficient to actually bring the epidemic to a halt.