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NYT graphic illustrates well the per capita deaths in South Korea, U.S.

There may be several reasons that South Korea’s rate remained low and flat while the U.S. numbers soared, but one is, as the Times reports, “from the beginning, South Korea took the virus extremely seriously, with widespread testing, tracking of cases and quarantining.”

Below is a truly stunning graphic, via Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times.

It compares coronavirus deaths between the United States and South Korea. Yes, the United States has a much bigger population, but the graph is adjusted for that. It is deaths per 10 million people, so the difference in the total populations does not affect the slopes.

Both countries had their first confirmed cases and first deaths around the same time. 

There may be several reasons that South Korea’s remained low and flat while the U.S. numbers soared, but one of the likely biggest is that, as the Times reports, “from the beginning, South Korea took the virus extremely seriously, with widespread testing, tracking of cases and quarantining.” This compares with the wasted weeks across late January, all of February and much of March in the United States, when President Trump was predicting that such measures were not necessary and the virus would, according to at least one of his famous quotes, disappear on its own in the spring.

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Of course, Trump has now changed his tune and attempted to repudiate everything he said back when he was in denial. Neither I nor anyone else can say how many COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States might have been prevented if Trump had taken the strong early measures that South Korea did. But you’d have to be completely drunk on the Trump joy juice not to strongly suspect that Trump reluctance and slowness to adopt strong emergency measures earlier would almost certainly have prevented many cases in the United States, which has now taken the lead, from Italy, for most deaths of any nation from the virus.

The comparison to Italy is raw numbers, not adjusted for population size, so Italy’s death toll is still higher per capita. But in the graphic comparing the deaths in the most recent days is proportional and meaningful. It shows the U.S. with a still sharply rising death rate of 50 a day per 10 million Americans, versus about two a day per 10 million for the South Koreans.

Here’s the depressing, devastating graph, followed by Leonhardt’s comment that:

“Hundreds more Americans are likely to die of the virus again today. For that, the president bears substantial blame.”

As the president keeps spinning, I note that his approval rating, as measured by FiveThirtyEight.com’s average of many approval polls, has ended its rally-round-the-president spike and fallen every day for the last few days.