March 2, 2020. The coronavirus epidemic has now reached many countries, with epicenters in China, where it started, as well as South Korea, Iran, and Italy. Unlike most coronaviruses, including the common cold, Covid-19 seems to be asymptomatic in infected persons for as long as a week, which means those people can be passing on the virus without knowing that they’re infected. It is predicted that as many as forty percent of the adults in the world could eventually be infected with Covid-19. In the United States alone, that would mean 80 million people infected. With a current projected mortality rate of 2%, then as many as 1.6 million Americans could die. Of course, this is the most dire prediction. Already, steps are being taken to limit travel, and the public is becoming much more aware of what’s needed to protect yourself from a viral infection (primarily, hand washing), so the lethality of this virus will likely be considerably less than the most dire predictions.
That said, it should be remembered that in 1918-1919, the day-to-day news of the spread of the deadly strain of influenza would not have been as alarming as the eventual death toll suggests it should have been. The point is that we can’t tell from today’s news how deadly (or not) Covid-19 will turn out to be.