Infection Wow

The Wednesday Wow posts have been a bit off the beam recently. Four weeks ago we were wowed (but not in a good way) by an incited insurrection by an incompetent imbecile. Two weeks ago we were wowed (in a great way) by the inclusive Inauguration of the incoming Individual.

With all that more or less behind us, I have time to be wowed by interesting (and depressing) information about the insidious infection infesting the country and the world. I mention both because I became intrigued by difference between them.

It all started when I noticed the COVID-19 graphic on CNN.

What struck me was the first-glance apparent disparity between the numbers for the USA and the numbers for the world. With an incompetent and self-serving administration, I knew we hadn’t dealt with the pandemic very well, but that first glance seemed to make us look especially bad.

I made a mental note to try to check out the numbers at some point and see how case and death rates in the USA compared to those worldwide.

The idea occasionally crossed my mind again, and at one point I wasn’t in the middle of something, so I tried a quick search. I kind of assumed COVID-19 data would be easy to find, and it was.

I downloaded a dataset of stats partitioned by country and date, wrote a little Python code, and created some charts…


Looking at COVID-19 cases and comparing raw numbers worldwide with the USA shows we have a fair chunk of the cases, but the rest of the world seems to have more than we do. Here are the raw numbers:

But raw numbers are misleading. The USA has a very large population. Still, it has to give one pause to consider that over 25 million people in the USA have been diagnosed with the disease.

Look at what happens with the same data charted as a percentage of population:

Now we’re way ahead of the curve (which isn’t good). And just consider the implication that 8% of our population (that 25+ million) has been diagnosed with COVID.

The picture is about the same looking at fatalities. First, the raw numbers:

It’s worth mentioning again that more people have died in less than a year’s time due to COVID-19 (439,463 as of this dataset) than died during all six years of WWII (419,400).

Here’s the death rate as a percentage of the population:

And we’re still leading the world. Yay?

It’s sobering to realize that 0.1 percent of our population has died due to this disease.


However, we’re neither alone nor leading the pack when we compare to other countries, at least in terms of percentages.

In terms of raw numbers, “USA, we’re Number One!”

Number one by quite a stretch.

[Top ten on the left: United States, India, Brazil, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany.]

[Top ten on the right: United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Russia, Spain, Iran.]

We do better when ranked by percentage of the total population, but look at the company we’re keeping (nice people, surely, but hardly world powers or even just power hitters):

But we’re still a contender given there are some 190 countries in the dataset.

[Top ten on the left: Andorra, Montenegro, Czechia, San Marino, Luxembourg, Slovenia, United States, Panama, Israel, Portugal.]

[Top ten on the right: San Marino, Belgium, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czechia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Liechtenstein, United States. Interesting that the UK is actually leading us here.]

The embarrassing thing is that, for a country of our status, power, ability, wealth, experience, science, and technology,… this really should have gone a lot better.

Not that there’s any mystery about why it didn’t.

Here’s a look at how fatalities are shared among the 16 countries with the largest death counts:

That’s an unfortunately big slice. Almost exactly one quarter.

[In clockwise order from 12-oclock: United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Russia, Spain, Iran, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, South Africa, Peru, Poland.]


I’ll end by adding a few more countries to the percentage charts.

First the cases:

Then the deaths:

We’re not entirely out front by ourselves, but we sure have put our foot in it.

§ §

I don’t know if you remember, but four years ago people used to wonder what might happen if some sort of major national disaster occurred. Would that administration rise to the occasion?

Well, I guess that question kinda got answered, didn’t it.

And after all this, the outright insurrection just four weeks ago, those may-they-be-eternally-damned Republicans still peddle their bullshit. There are times when I hope COVID wins.


My thanks to everyone at the Our World In Data site (OWID). It’s a pretty awesome site with a lot of tools and a lot of datasets. At some point I might look into doing some USA states charts. The COVID section of the site is really amazing.

It has a lot of interactive charts and goes far beyond just COVID data. It’s worth checking out!

Stay masked, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

8 responses to “Infection Wow

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I should give credit to Python in general and the matplotlib suite in particular for making the charts easy to create. I’ve always liked a good chart, and the matplotlib suite is pretty wonderful.

  • Brian

    I too have noticed how the USA is “leading the way” with Covid; Somewhere on Wikipedia I had seen a list of the countries most affected.

    I could spend all day looking at the charts and data and trying to think of various ways the results play out. For example, more testing for and reporting of infection will lead to more “cases”, and how deaths are reported and attributed to ‘Covid’ affect that. Higher numbers of cases is one thing, but the health of a population and how well the health services cope with the number of severe cases inflicted on them is surely a major factor.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ah, a fellow fan of charts and data! It’s amazing the stories that visualizing data can tell. In that last chart, for example, the curve for France is interesting. A sharp rise last April, but then they leveled off until November when the rate kicked up sharply. Compare that to the %cases chart before it, and there’s a corresponding rise that begins in October (leading, one assumes, to the rise in deaths in November). Interesting also that the case rate becomes less steep (they reacted and started to get a handle on it?) right about the time ours kicks into high gear.

      One thing that’s nice is that, now that the code is written, I can download a fresher version of the dataset and re-generate all the same charts very easily. Hopefully the coming year will show those curves on the decline.

      Comparing France on those two charts (the UK as well) makes me thing some charts directly comparing cases and deaths might be interesting…

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Arguably we would have been better off if the Trump administration had completely stayed out of the virus response, except to delegate it to the medical people and the states. It wouldn’t have been optimal, but it also wouldn’t have been the maximally incompetent sabotaging death factory we got.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Certainly some states would have handled it much better. I suspect we’ll be learning more and more about the failures of this administration for years. I can’t stop thinking about vampire lore; the rule about vampires not being able to enter your house until you invite them. Once you do, of course, you end up in dire straights (and I don’t mean that musically). We (as a nation) invited them in, and things turned out pretty much like any horror fan would expect.

      I just finished book two in Scalzi’s The Interdependency (I agree, not his best work). At some point I realized he was doing something of a political climate change analogy with regard to the Flow. But reading about how the assholes in that reality are conspiring and completely missing the danger in their selfishness has some pretty strong parallels to the current political scene. There’s a little bit I just read about politicians who are smart enough and experienced enough to know better but unable to escape their own corruption. Yeah, very relevant.

      That said, it’s a pretty boring story so far. It perked up a bit late in book two as we learn a bit more about the distant past, but then it got dull again. Even the final “you’re all traitors” scene fell a little flat, perhaps because it was so strongly telegraphed.

      The problem might be that, based on the other two books of his, he’s kind of a comedy writer, or at least someone with a fun light touch. That style might not work that well for these books, although it made the two others I read really enjoyable.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Yeah, my initial hope for the Interdependency was something epic in scope, maybe on the scale of The Expanse. But I think you’re right. It’s basically just an allegory for climate change and the related politics. I found it entertaining enough, but was just a smaller story than it could have been.

        It also felt like Scalzi was somewhat phoning it in. The resolutions felt rushed and improvised. And he used the same gags a bit too often, like the thing with characters talking to their brain in their internal dialog. He’s complained repeatedly on social media that the political situation has been making it difficult for him to write. And the pandemic apparently hasn’t helped. Maybe things will improve moving forward. His Old Man’s War series is a lot better. Most of those are standalone, but together they make up a fairly epic arc.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        After reading the first book, I went and read James Nicoll’s review, and he mentions the climate change angle. A comment has a link to an interview with Scalzi that apparently confirms it, so that definitely underpins the plot.

        Nicoll uses the term “castle-opera” which was new to me and I like it. Nice to have a word for a type of fiction I generally don’t care for. I’ve used “court intrigue” but I like castle-opera way better.

        Exactly as Nicoll mentions, the thing about castle-opera is getting readers to care about rich-ruler problems. I wonder if Scalzi brought the story down too far — as you say, it was a smaller story than it could have been.

        Which, ironically, is the part I liked. Lady Kiva, Cardenia, Marce, I enjoyed those characters okay. But you also mentioned all that internal dialog, which was a boat anchor to me. I came close to skimming several times during those. So boring! There were also omniscient narrations that went on too long or interrupted what little action there was inconveniently.

        I don’t care for fiction that gets too sweeping and epic, I prefer smaller stories, but they need to contain action or movement or gripping dialog and stunning insight or something to make them not boring. “Phoning it in” seems a good description. So far I give it an Eh! rating.

        One thing I wanted to check was whether Lady Kiva was an Avasarala clone or vice-versa. Pretty obviously a borrow from The Expanse. It would have been more interesting if she were more original. Scalzi has a reputation for his characters all sounding the same (probably all sounding like him), but I can think of many SF writers that’s true of (Asimov, for one). I can’t say that aspect really bothers me; one probably doesn’t read Scalzi for in-depth characters.

        Now, off to book three.

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