On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, experts released their projections on what the expected death toll from COVID-19 will be. On the best side, they are projecting that 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States. In the worse case, the projection is 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths.
All of these are based on modelling which are based on assumptions.
This reminded me of September 2014 when the experts released their epimological projections for EVD infections in the Mano River Union basin. As always, this was based on the “model.”
The folks at Imperial College in London projected that by November 2, 2014, an estimated 1.5 million Liberians would be infected; 1.8 million in Guinea; and 1.3 million in Sierra Leone.
Given that the mortality rate for EVD is between 70% and 80%, it meant that at least 1.01 million Liberians would have died by November 2014 based on the model.
The Imperial College projections were so alarming that the CDC came out with its own projection. But this projection, which was moderate, indicated that about 1.4 million infections would be recorded in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 2015. This was an optimistic projection at that time. It pushed the curve and reduced the combined number of infections in both countries.
I remember we were in a meeting when someone told Madam President about the projection. She shouted at the person and told them that it was not possible and we would not accept that projection and resigned ourselves to that. She vowed that we will do everything to ensure that those projections would not actualize.
Well, that dramatic projection helped in only two ways: booster the “CNN effect” that then brought more donor support and also made every Liberian to get fully involved in defeating the epidemic because they did not want to be part of the 1.5 million infected or the 1.01 million deaths.
Under Madam President’s leadership, we were able to defeat the EVD and keep the fatality and mortality very low. By low, I mean far below the epimological projections based on the model.
It was the assumptions that we undermined in order to defeat the model. Everyone has a stake in this game and everyone MUST be involved to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In the end, about 11,315 persons lost their precious lives to the EVD in 2014: Liberia (4,809), Sierra Leone (3,955), Guinea (2,536) and Nigeria) 8).
This was a far cry from the estimated 3.7 million people that would have gotten infected and estimated 2.5 million that would have died as per the model.
From my view, based on my 2014 experience, we should not give up because the model has projected one thing. We must work hard to make the model wrong by undermining the assumptions. This means that we should practice social distancing, proper hygiene, and look out for one another.
Governments should get communities involve; and citizens should not stigmatise infected people. By stigmatizing infected people, we scare others from coming forward thereby increasing community infections.