Coronavirus Case Numbers Jumped Overnight. It’s Because We Changed How We Count Them

February 15, 2020

…In a press conference on Wednesday before the jump in cases announced by China, WHO noted a downturn in the numbers of newly reported cases, from 3,700 new cases on Feb. 5 to 2,000 new cases on Feb. 12, but had cautioned against seeing that as a turning point in the outbreak.

“In a country as vast as China, it is doubtful health authorities can find all cases and contacts,” Georgetown University’s Lawrence Gostin told BuzzFeed News. Ebola cases in a still ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, have plateaued several times only to rise again, he noted. “So we need to be exceedingly cautious interpreting these numbers.”

The biggest need in the outbreak right now is for the development of a blood test for antibodies to the disease, which can give a true picture of its spread and how deadly it is. Currently, case reports based on the most severe cases are suggesting a 2% mortality rate, while Chinese provinces away from Hubei say it is much lower, around 0.16%.

In the long term, many public health experts see COVID-19 spreading worldwide either this year or next year, given its apparent infectiousness and the thousands of cases already confirmed.

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