C19 anomalies: comparing the US and Canada

Canada and United States are in many, many ways very similar countries, sharing not only a continent, and a continental economy, but very thick ancestral and family bonds. I know few Canadians who do not have family in the US, nor few Americans without family connections north of the—until recently, unguarded—border.

Now, as I observe the rush of COVID19 stats emerging, I am increasingly struck by the anomaly of the experience of C19 in these intimately proximate countries.

The population of the United States, including Territories, was 330,150,688 as of the end of 2019, according to the official census estimate of the US government. The corresponding number for Canada is 37,671,930. So the population of the USA is about 8.8 times that of Canada.

As I write this (afternoon of April 14, 2020) the estimate of cases of C19 infection and the actual registered deaths in the respective countries is:

  • USA – Johns Hopkins et alia, including CDC:  592,743 cases; 24,737 deaths [my calculation: 7.49 per 100,000 persons].
  • Canada – Federal Government:  25,680 cases; 780 deaths [my calculation: 2.07 deaths per 100,000 persons].

If the caseload in the United States were following the same trajectory as in Canada to-date, with a population of 8.8 times larger than Canada, the caseload would be approximately 225,055, rather than its current 592,743; while the number of deaths would stand at approximately 6,864, rather than the current 24,737.  

If we compare the two countries, adjusting for the difference in the size of the populations, the United States is experiencing 2.6 times the number of cases, and 3.6 times the number of deaths, than we would expect if it were on the same track as its close neighbour to the north.

This begs the question: what are the variables to explain this anomaly? Following that trail will be important in defining politics and social policy in both countries in the year, and years, going forward (the US even now being in an election year; and Canada—with our minority government—on-the-bubble and heading sooner than later to the polls) .

Caveat: the calculations above are based on what are really only off-the-side-of-the-desk estimates, as we do not know the actual numbers because testing is nowhere near adequate, systematic, coherent, or consistent in, or among, any of the jurisdictions, in either of the two countries. We do know that the number of as-yet unmanifest and/or unidentified C19 infections is higher by several factors in both countries. The number of actual deaths is more discrete and obvious, although not yet useful in a predictive sense—cases, and deaths, in both countries could still explode further, or begin finally to diminish slowly. Time will tell.

[Updated 17 April 2020, correcting transcription error in Paragraph 5; original confused number of cases in U.S with cases in Canada on that date. The correct number was 24,737 not 25,680, as was reported accurately in the paragraph immediately above.]

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