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Since the first confirmed case on January 20th in Korea, the whole nation has been suffering from the COVID-19 for 2 months by the upcoming March 19th. OhmyNews diagnoses the current spread of COVID-19 with the analysis of deaths, timelines and re-meeting experts on the issue.[편집자말]
In the afternoon on March 15th, the medical teams in protective clothing are heading for the ward for their shift where the COVID-19 patients are hospitalized. ⓒ Yonhap News Agency

Dead men Tell No Tales. They Only Tell through Death.
 
On January 20th 2020, the first COVID-19 infection case was reported in Korea. Since then, many people have struggled with the emergence of the virus that was not in the world. However, the number, '75 Deaths (as of midnight on March 16th)', shows our limit and reality.
 
The victims are also the compass of the rest who have survived. How Korean society fought against the COVID-19, what was lacking and to which direction the society should go? The process of answering these questions has no choice but to start from the deaths of the COVID-19 victims. To find a clue to the answers, OhmyNews analyzed the data about the 75 deads released by KCDC (Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the local governments.
 
[Message 1] Focus on the High-Risk Group
 
ⓒ OhmyNews
 
In the list of the COVID-19 victims, the most prominent feature is the senior citizens. The average age of the victims is around 74.2. The total fatality rate (the ratio of deaths to those confirmed) is only 0.91%, but if it is calculated again over 60 years old, the number will soar to 3.67%. If we break up the sections in detail, the fatality rate for those in their 60s is 1.37%, 5.27% for those in their 70s, and 9.26% for those in their 80s. Of the total 75 deaths, 67 victims were over the age of 60s. In other words, the elderly were the absolute majority.
 
Also, all but one of the dead also suffered from underlying medical conditions. Several victims were reported to have had no chronic diseases immediately after their deaths. Based on the additional examination, however, on March 16th, KCDC said that only one victim had no underlying medical conditions so far. Of the rest 74 victims, 47 suffered from cardio-circulatory diseases such as high blood pressure and myocardial infarction, 35 suffered endocrine diseases such as diabetes, and 18 suffered respiratory problems such as asthma and pneumonia (Duplicate count).
 
The characteristics of the COVID-19 high-risk group appear similar in Wuhan China, the first outbreak site. The Chinese researchers analyzed the medical records of 137 cases completely cured and 54 dead among inpatients at Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital and Jinintan Hospitals in Wuhan until January 31st. The paper, 'Clinical Course and Risk Factor for Mortality of Inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: A Retrospective Cohort Study', was published in the online edition of the international medical journal <The Lancet> on March 9th.
 
According to the report, the average age of the dead is 69, while the average age of survivors is 52, and the overall average age is 56. In addition, many of the dead were suffering from underlying medical conditions. 26 of them had high blood pressure, 17 had diabetes, and 13 suffered from coronary heart disease (Duplicate count). Putting all of the results together, the Chinese researchers said that age and high SOFA scores (Sequential Organ Failure Assessment, an indicator that measures organ functions based on six criteria, such as respiratory and nervous systems) can be considered as the risk factors for death.
 
[Message 2] 'Tilting' Phenomenon

 
 

87.8% of the confirmed cases in Korea came from Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province also had the highest number of deaths (69 persons). Due to the simultaneous occurrence of many patients at once, Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province had a hard time securing enough beds for the patients.
 
Some patients had no choice but to stand by even though they were confirmed to have the COVID-19. The 13th, 14th, 20th, 22nd, 32nd, and 49th victims died while waiting for the results or the hospitalization opportunities after the COVID-19 tests. The 27th victim died after being rushed to the hospital due to breathing difficulties during self-isolation. Except for the 49th victim who died on March 7th, all of them were patients in Daegu (Based on the order KCDC released).
 
Daegu city government hurriedly came up with some countermeasures. On March 5th at a regular news briefing, Mayor Kwon Young-jin said "he would find out potential patients in advance by visiting homes of the high-risk group and conducting the COVID-19 mobile tests." Mayor Kwon also said that "the COVID-19 patients in the critical conditions would be put into the 300 beds first in the newly-prepared Daegu Army Hospital." However, making the care system for critical patients more sophisticated is still a remaining challenge (Jeong Eun-kyung, Head of KCDC at the regular news briefing on March 16th).
 
Meanwhile, based on the place of death, 35 patients died in public hospitals, 38 in private hospitals, and 2 in their homes. Among the private hospitals equipped with NPIR for intensive care, 8 patients died at Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center, 6 at Yeungnam University Medical Center, and 5 at Dongguk University Gyeongju Hospital. Some of them had waited for the hospitalization and died after being rushed to the hospitals due to worsening symptoms. The others died while being treated after being transferred to other hospitals.
 
[Message 3] A Plague Hits a vulnerable Spot

The last message the COVID-19 victims left is that 'A plague hits a vulnerable spot'. Of the 75 deaths, about half (39) were group infections. 10 victims of them were the patients related to Cheongdo Daenam Hospital. (8 patients, 1 caregiver, and 1 resident nearby).
 
After the first death on Feb. 19th, 7 patients in Daenam Hospital died in succession until Feb. 25th. the Central Clinic Committee of New Infectious Diseases expressed concern that "in the case of the mental patients whose immune functions have been weakened by long-term hospitalization, regardless of age, their death rate could be raised to 20% or more, and they should be taken extra care." Although the fatal rate didn't soar as much as their worries, more deaths related to Daenam Hospital eventually occurred.
 
Nursing homes, where senior citizens, the high-risk group, live together, is another major place group infections can occur. In particular, 59 patients, half of the total inmates, were confirmed to be infected by the COVID-19, and 2 of them died in Peureun Nursing Home in Bonghwa. Also, among the patients related to Daegu Hyo Sarang Nursing Home and Seo Daegu Home Welfare Center, 1 patient died respectively. The frails are falling in the vulnerable spots.
 
The Korean government is also concerned about the collapse of these weak links. On March 10th, President Moon Jae-in directed the thorough diagnostic checkups in the densely packed places such as nursing hospitals and nursing homes especially in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do area because those places are very vulnerable to the mass infection. Since then, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has conducted the additional full-scale tests of nursing homes and nursing hospitals nationwide, and the checkups for workers in the elderly care facilities in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province will be conducted from March 16th-19th. ★

 
Written by Park So Hee.
Translated by Youngae Joanna Kim.

* This report is the English version of OhmyNews Korean article. If you want to read the original article in Korean, click here!
   
Cheongdo Daenam Hospital, where 122 related cases were confirmed and 10 people died among them including the patients hospitalized there. ⓒ ohmynews
 
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