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Europe’s even worse off than we thought

Summary:
Here’s the Financial Times: On Tuesday night, the health authority in the Grand Est region said two-thirds of its 620 old people’s homes had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and 570 residents had died. Those 570 people are not recorded in France’s official coronavirus death toll, which reached 4,032 on April 1, but so far counts only those who have died in hospital. Eastern France, which has had 1,112 hospital deaths, was the first region in the country to be badly hit by the pandemic. Recent studies in Italy comparing recorded Covid-19 deaths with overall death rates in specific regions also suggest the country’s death toll is far higher than the official total of more than 13,000, already the world’s highest. In an Italian retirement home in Mediglia, outside Milan,

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Here’s the Financial Times:

On Tuesday night, the health authority in the Grand Est region said two-thirds of its 620 old people’s homes had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and 570 residents had died.

Those 570 people are not recorded in France’s official coronavirus death toll, which reached 4,032 on April 1, but so far counts only those who have died in hospital. Eastern France, which has had 1,112 hospital deaths, was the first region in the country to be badly hit by the pandemic.

Recent studies in Italy comparing recorded Covid-19 deaths with overall death rates in specific regions also suggest the country’s death toll is far higher than the official total of more than 13,000, already the world’s highest.

In an Italian retirement home in Mediglia, outside Milan, 52 of the 152 elderly staying there had died from Covid-19 infection by last week.

In the province of Bergamo, 2,060 deaths were attributed to the virus in March. However L’Eco di Bergamo, a local newspaper, found that a total of 5,400 deaths occurred in the province in March, up from just 900 in the same month in 2019.

Based on the Bergamo data, it seems possible that the actual Italian death total is already well over 20,000, not the 14,000 official total.  China’s not the only country where coronavirus deaths are somewhat undercounted.  Yet I continue to believe the death rate data is superior to caseload data, once adjusted for demographic factors such as age.  Caseloads have likely been grossly undercounted almost everywhere, with a few possible exceptions like Iceland.

I also continue to believe that the Chinese data showing a dramatic decline in the epidemic between February and March is broadly accurate, despite an undercount in level terms.

Many people have trouble understanding my view of China.  I believe the censoring of Wuhan doctors was the single worst mistake of the entire epidemic, and have said so repeatedly.  If China had been ruled by a Western government, those doctors would not have been censored and the epidemic would have been addressed more quickly (by a few weeks).  However the epidemic would also have been addressed much more incompetently by a Western-style government, and today the epidemic would be totally out of control in China, with far more deaths.  The optimal solution would have occurred if the Nationalists had won the Chinese civil war, as Taiwan has one of the few governments that has handled this crisis with any degree of competence.

And Tyler Cowen points out that the CCP is making hay out of the fact that we also censor our doctors when they issue warnings.  Can this country get any stupider?

PS.  People talk a lot about Italy, but Spain’s been hit just as hard, albeit a few days behind Italy. Roughly 24,000 of the 50,000 global deaths are in Italy and Spain, not even accounting for unreported cases.

PPS.  Alex Tabarrok points out that plenty of masks are available, but the FDA won’t allow them into the country.  Yeah, “globalization” is to blame.  And don’t bother donating your extra masks to your hospital; they won’t take them.  You can’t make this stuff up.

PPPS.  Ten days ago, I pointed to California (and should have mentioned Washington as well) as a place that was doing somewhat better due to getting a head start on social distancing.  Since then, their share of cases and especially deaths has dropped further.  California has nearly 12% of the US population but 4.4% of cases and 4.0% of deaths.  It’s fallen to number 6 in deaths, whereas Washington (once number one) has fallen to 5th in deaths and 10th in cases.  Both states continue to see deaths climb much more slowly than the national average.  Outside of the NYC area, Michigan and Louisiana have done extremely poorly.  Within my area (Orange County) the rich areas were hit hardest, although perhaps that’s now changing a bit.  I recall that AIDS started as a mostly white disease in America, then shifted to minorities.

Updated figures:

Europe’s even worse off than we thought


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Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

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