The Science of Panic: A coronavirus case study

The Science of Panic: A coronavirus case study

Story from Rome, Italy. Written by Victoria Voigt

While a precise estimate of the case fatality rate of coronavirus is impossible to be done at present, a panic outbreak has hit every place where a case occurs. The spread of the virus is de facto person to person however it is through a collective public information that the infection creates serious issue and sometimes even more dangerous than the virus itself. The precocious publications online make an average person feel anxious about every basic activity they undertake daily. No matter what place, every contact with the public starts seeming like a death threat.


What makes us panic the most is the new and unknown status of the pandemic. With that, the authors of the conspiracy theories, racists attacks and misinformation itself become more and more popular. What we don’t notice or we are just not well informed about is the nature of it. As common as the matter is, we shall not forget to stay reasonable and seek the best sources of information. 

The Media has begun a war of information that allows the usage of the most powerful weapon which is freedom of speech, which means that every journalist, politician, or just a regular florist acquires a theoretically equal voice.
As the tensions in media grow, the public reaction escalates and not the other way around. The media, therefore, hold an enormous responsibility for what’s currently happening in the world. They both can convince people to lock themselves in their houses and make them strike on the street for weeks. 


How to estimate your risk of dying based on your location?

Even though the overall situation changes dynamically (approx. every one hour globally), your “death threat scenario” probability can be defined by the index of the current deaths belong to a total case figure of the past, not to the current case figure in which the outcome (recovery or death) of a proportion (the most recent cases) hasn’t yet been determined. Your most precise location is your region, but if it is not the high-risk case you can apply the same formula to broader context, like your country or continent. 

The case fatality rate is one of the simplest and most accurate formulas to help you understand the mechanisms of the fatal potential of the current virus.

CFR = deaths at day.x / cases at day.x-{T}

(where T = average time period from case confirmation to death)

This would constitute a fair attempt to use values for cases and deaths belonging to the same group of patients.


Italy as an example

Such a sudden outbreak in Italy creates a good example of how the science of panic works. The first case was spotted in the Chinese couple in the region of Lombardy (North of Italy, where Milan is a capital). As of the 25th of February, 18:00, the number of infected is equal to 316 people, 7 people dead, which makes it:

7 deaths (cumulative total) and 316 cases (cumulative total) in Italy, 7/316 = 0,022 CFR (flawed formula)

CFR (flawed formula for Italy) = 2,2 % CFR

With a conservative estimate of T= 7 days as the average period from case confirmation to death, we would correct the above formula by using February 18th cumulative cases, which the number was just 3 last week in the denominator:

52 deaths / 1,835 cases = 0,028 CFR (correct formula, and estimating T=7).

0,028 x 100 = 2,8 % CFR

The results, therefore, suggest that the fatality rate in Italy is 2,8 % which makes it much less than 15,000 children of preventable or treatable causes, or 47,230 deaths of mothers during birth this year.

For comparison, the case fatality rate with seasonal flu in the United States is less than 0.1% (1 death per every 1,000 cases) which makes much less than 2,8 % or mortality rate for SARS (2002-2003) was 10%, and for MERS (2012) 34%.


Optimistic facts about the virus

  • US biotech firm Moderna has just shipped an experimental vaccine (mRNA vaccines) to US government researchers just 42 days after it they obtain the genetic information about it. The initial trials of the potential vaccine could begin in April. By comparison, it took researchers about 20 months to start human tests of the vaccine for an older coronavirus, SARS in 2002-2003.
  • The fatality case rates for the virus worldwide are very low.
  • The chances of getting infected outside China are infinitesimal (only 0.7%). You would rather die (8.0%) in a car accident in Hawaii.
  • Most of the people will get vacations, rest, time with their significant ones they would never get and will be more efficient when coming back to the office.
  • The governments collaborate with each other best when in need to fight the same enemy.
  • Our natural environment is experiencing a positive pause and recovery from the shut down of some of the biggest factories and businesses around the world.


The opportunities for global markets and remote work


The second richest and one of the oldest billionaires in the world, Warren Buffett said: “You don’t buy or sell your business based on today’s headlines. If it gives you a chance to buy something you like and you can buy it even cheaper then it’s your good luck.” He also adds that “most people are savers, they should want the market to go down. They should want to buy at a lower price.”

As we may observe now, the world’s exchanges indicate keep dropping as the massive sell-off continues. Calling it losses is a common mistake that media makes as the sell-off means that money goes from one hand to another, so in effect, various financial transactions are being made in higher numbers. The only “losses” some of the companies might experience are due to the speculations and uncertainty about the virus. It still doesn’t mean that companies cannot be benefitting as the history shows it is always temporary and the greatest phases or opportunities are yet to come.


A lot of companies, in particular, those based in China closed their offices and let their workers work from home. “We are currently witnessing the largest remote work experiment of all times due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Companies are forced to lock down their offices and let their employees work from home in order to prevent the virus from spreading further. As the majority of companies have previously been reluctant towards the remote work revolution, they are now rushing into various software platforms enabling remote project management and communication. Thanks to the ever-increasing remote work know-how, we are now able to start tackling the epidemic and let’s hope that we implement smart working as a future perk within the majority of companies”. says our HR expert, founder of, Nadia Harris.


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