Making Sense of COVID-19 Numbers
With new reports available each day, making sense of COVID-19 data can be confusing. Chief Physician Executive Bruce Swords, MD, PhD, breaks down the meaning of COVID-19 numbers in this week's 2 Your Well-Being segment with WFMY News 2.
What numbers or data should we be paying attention to when it comes to COVID-19? The number of tests, the number of cases, the number of deaths?
“All of those probably have some level of importance - and good evening, thanks for having me. I think the most important number – the numbers that aren't subject to testing volume really would be hospitalizations and deaths. So, I think those are the two numbers that we can ground ourselves in. Certainly someone who dies from COVID, that's an event that either happens or it doesn't - hospitalizations are similar. When it comes to the number of cases, that's very dependent on testing and how communities are testing and what testing is available to a community.”
Should we be concerned about how local numbers are when comparing them to other states and cities?
“We certainly are a state that is experiencing more COVID, and we have seen that actually increase day over day in the past several weeks, so that's concerning. More locally, at least in Guilford County, the numbers seem to be somewhat stabilized, but I am not resting comfortably with that knowledge right now. I think we're all at risk for seeing more and more cases based on the reopening of the economy.”
Why is the death rate in Guilford County higher than other counties in North Carolina right now?
Certainly the death rate is higher in Guilford County than some counties and it's lower than other counties, and we pay attention to that. Some of what we know about Guilford County is the density of nursing home residents per 10,000 in Guilford County is quite a lot higher than Mecklenburg or Wake County. We have experienced a number of nursing home residents come to our campuses, our hospitals. Unfortunately, many of them have died and a number of nursing home residents have died within their nursing homes.”
What can we do to help control those numbers to either make them go down or at least keep them at a manageable level?
“It's a great point that this is really one big community effort, and we are all in this together and we all have to take a certain amount of responsibility to squash the coronavirus transmission. And the ways we can do that are what we have been consistent about saying since the beginning, and that is stay away from each other. That doesn't mean you have to be socially distant forever - you have to be physically distant. Everyone should wear a mask when they're out in public or in close proximity, sometimes even in their own home if non-family members are part of your home or with whom you're living, and wash your hands. They are three relatively easy things to do, and everyone should wear a mask.
When we hear those numbers are improving, does that mean that we can go back to normal life and we don’t need to worry as much about the virus?
“I'll be happy to talk about that when the time is right. We're not experiencing that right now. We might be living in a little bit of an area where the numbers are at least stable. I wouldn't say they're going down yet, but our state, the numbers are going up. When we get to the point where we can start doing more normal things - I don't think we have that defined yet. I think we will get to a point where we're not social distancing forevermore, but it will be dependent on either treatments becoming available for coronavirus or a vaccine becoming available.”