In a sign of how quickly COVID-19 has spread among America’s largest states, confirmed cases in California number nearly half of the count in Russia. The state’s cases are growing faster, too. California has 336,508 cases, after adding 7,346 in the past day. Russia has 746,369, which is up by 6,422. Russia ranks fourth in the world based on COVID-19 cases, behind only the United States, Brazil and India.
California’s death count also is close to Russia’s. Fatal cases in California rose by 47 to 7,087. In Russia, the gain was 156 and the total 11,770.
The figures are all the more extraordinary based on the sizes of the populations. Russia is the ninth most populated nation in the world, at 145,872,256. California is the most populated U.S. state, at 39,512,223, or 27% of Russia’s total.
Why is California’s number so large and Russia’s comparatively small? One reason is that California is part of a massive spread across the United States, most of it based on a lack of social distancing and a refusal to wear masks. The U.S. total numbers are staggering. Confirmed cases are up to 3,483,905, a one-day gain of 55,443. COVID-19 deaths number 138,358, after adding 745. Both numbers are overwhelming compared to Russia’s.
Another reason is that Russia hides its total numbers. The central government would like the nation’s residents to believe that the disease is under control. It would like the world to believe that it has taken measures to control the disease that are better than any other nation.
Several sources have questioned the Russian number. Aleksei Raksha, who worked for the Russian health agency Rosstat, said Russia was “misclassifying” COVID-19 deaths. He lost his job, saying on a Facebook post: “It’s official. My work at Rosstat is finished.”
However, California numbers are probably too small as well. Counts do not include asymptomatic carriers, which means the number of confirmed cases is too low.
The trouble with these reasons for the incorrect figures in both Russia and California is that tracking the spread of the disease is essential. If numbers are understated on purpose or lack the means to track all carriers, the numbers of people who are infected will rise much more than they might have.