Report: Coronavirus fatality rate much lower than anticipated, close to flu’s 0.1%

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Despite initially being warned about deaths in the “millions” if Americans didn’t subject themselves to business killing closures and “social distancing,” the coronavirus, while it has spread faster than normal viruses do has actually been less deadly, according to the Economist, citing a new study.

Last Saturday, the Economist said that it is actually somewhat of a blessing that the coronavirus’ spread across the United States as it did, in fact calling it “good news.”

“If millions of people were infected weeks ago without dying, the virus must be less deadly than official data suggest,” the magazine reported, while utilizing graphs that suggest the faster the disease spreads and hits its peak, in fact the fewer people that will die from it.

Citing a new study by Justin Silverman and Alex Washburne, the Economist says that data shows the coronavirus is currently widespread in America, which is quite obvious.

In a somewhat surprising conclusion, the two researchers found that the mortality rate of coronavirus could be as low as 0.1 percent, or similar to the mortality rate of the flu.

In explaining their conclusions, the Economist said:

COVID-19 takes 20-25 days to kill victims. The [Silverman and Washburne] paper reckons that 7 m Americans were infected from March 8 to 14th, and official data show 7,000 deaths three weeks later. The resulting fatality rate is 0.1%, similar to that of flu. That is amazingly low, just a tenth of some other estimates. Perhaps it is just wrong, possibly because the death toll has been under-reported. Perhaps, though, New York’s hospitals are overflowing because the virus is so contagious that it has crammed the equivalent of a year’s worth of flu cases into one week.

It is acknowledged that the death rate could be somewhat higher, because people with mild symptoms or even some who were asymptomatic did not seek treatment for non-flu influenza-like illnesses to their doctors, although not significantly so.

The researchers got their data from weekly reports submitted by 2,600 American doctors on the number of patients who reported influenza-like illnesses, or ILI, the Economist explained.

The authors assume that the share of these providers’ patients with ili who do have the flu matches the rate of flu tests that are positive in the same state and week. This lets them estimate how many people have ili seriously enough to call a doctor, but do not have the flu—and how many more people have had non-flu ili in 2020 than in prior years.

While the flu is the most common cause of ili, there are also numerous other causes, including common colds, strep throat and of course now coronavirus.

Back in March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had predicted a mortality rate of about 2 percent, which made it more deadly than the seasonal flu.

“If you look at the cases that have come to the attention of medical authorities in China, and you just do the math, the math is about 2 percent,” Fauci said at the time.

“If you look at certain age groups, certain risk groups, the fatality is much higher. But as a group it’s going to depend completely on what the factor of asymptotic cases are. So if you have asymptotic that are a lot, it’s going to come down,” Fauci added.

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Last month, a study from Britain in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases also discovered that fewer people are dying from the novel coronavirus than was previously estimated.

In that study, it was estimated that the coronavirus death rate could be as low as 0.66 percent, with a high of about 1.38 percent. Fauci’s initial estimate was higher than both.

As of Tuesday, coronavirus had infected just over 584,000 people in the US, with 24,485 deaths attributed to the virus. Nearly 3 million Americans have been tested for the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

NPR reported last month that in 1999 when the West Nile virus first came on the scene, scientists initially predicted a mortality rate of more than 10%, mostly because testing for the virus was initially limited.

Once testing became more widespread, it was determined that thousands of Americans had, in fact had the virus, but never were ill enough to notice. NPR says that more than 3 million of Americans have been infected with West Nile, but under 1% became seriously ill.

Likewise with coronavirus, where in Germany, both critically ill and those with milder symptoms have been tested, which accounts for Germany’s much lower mortality rate.

The same holds true for the United States, where more widespread testing has been undertaken, and likewise a drop in the mortality rates.

As NPR reported, and as many experts have stated, a country’s fatality rate is the number of deaths (the numerator) divided by the total number of infections (denominator). In the case of the United States, neither of these numbers can be reliable.

Dr. Steven Lawrence, and infectious disease expert and associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says that early in an outbreak, testing is “limited to people who are so sick they wind up in the hospital.”

He explains that means that the only infections which get reported are those in which people are most likely to die. Therefore, the number of infections, or denominator misses a large number of infected people who survive, which “makes the virus appear more deadly than it really is.”

That is what some have been saying since this whole thing started. While social distancing may have helped “slow the spread,” it is not convincing that this thing is any more deadly than the seasonal flu, and statistics are starting to bear that out.

California didn’t implement a statewide social-distancing directive until March 20. New York did so two days later. However California, with a population much greater than that of New York has had far less coronavirus deaths. Two days head start in social distancing would not account for that disparity.

Some have proposed that California was actually exposed to the coronavirus much earlier and that a phenomenon known as “herd immunity” could be the reason why California’s mortality rate is so much lower than that of New York.

If you’re not familiar, “herd immunity” is: “the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease…” While this may be accomplished through vaccination, it can also be accomplished via exposure to the virus where one is asymptomatic, or has mild symptoms. 

On his program, Rush Limbaugh raised the issue of herd immunity concerning California, and cited a Patch.com report which reported a “spike” in flu outbreaks in that state which reported that from Sept. 29 through Jan. 4, 70 people had died from the “flu” statewide.

“Nationally, influenza activity is increasing. All regions of the country are experiencing elevated levels of influenza-like illness (emphasis added). It is too soon to see how severe this season might be,” a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health told the Patch.

“Influenza activity began increasing in early November in California, which was a few weeks earlier than other recent seasons (emphasis added). Influenza activity in California continues to increase.”

As of today, the “killer” coronavirus has killed 326 people in California, while 70 people died from the flu in the fall/winter.

The infinitesimal number of California residents who have died comparative to the total population of the state in comparison to the percentage of say, New York City residents who have died in comparison to the population of the city is staggering. Two additional days of social distancing cannot possibly account for the discrepancy.

The only thing that makes sense is that California was exposed to COVID-19 late last year, and the concept of herd immunity makes sense as to why the death rate is so much lower in California as compared to New York.

Meanwhile we have millions of people out of work, hundreds of thousands of businesses shuttered, larger businesses on the verge of collapse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicides spiking, and governors and mayors implementing government overreach on steroids while gutting our Constitution.

And sadly, a lot of people seem to be fine with that.


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