In CAN WE TRUST THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) STATISTICS? — PART 1 we considered the overall problem of trusting the Coronavirus (COVID-19) statistics. Here we will look at a specific issue. How much can we trust that death rate number?
We don’t know who has had COVID-19.
Experts estimate tens of millions of Americans contracted the coronavirus but are not included in official tallies because of testing errors, misdiagnoses, a sluggish public health response and ignorance about the disease during its early days in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that there have been about 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide and at least 136,000 deaths. The actual number of infections is likely 10 times the number of reported cases, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a news conference June 25. (from here (msn.com))
When someone is asymptomatic, they probably won’t even go to the doctor to get tested. Moreover, once people get over COVID-19, we have to use a different test to verify that someone has had the virus, and that test is not as available as the test to detect an active case. Therefore, we have probably undercounted the number of COVID-19 cases.
We seem to be overestimating the number of COVID-19 deaths
There are couple of reasons why we are probably overestimating COVID-19 deaths.
- This article, The CDC Confesses to Lying About COVID-19 Death Numbers (canadafreepress.com), is probably a bit of an overstatement. Because the economic shutdown has resulted in such a huge mess, we want to blame someone for it. Nevertheless, the folks at CDC probably did not intend to lie. We too often forget that sometimes the best we can do is guess. Consider that the median age of someone who dies from COVID-19 is 78 (see Characteristics of Persons Who Died with COVID-19 — United States, February 12–May 18, 2020 (cdc.gov)). When people are old and fragile and they have other health problems (see Older Adults (cdc.gov)), it can be difficult to decide what finally killed them. Unfortunately, the CDC’s ground rules left it pretty much up to the doctor to decide.
- This article, Fact check: Hospitals get paid more if patients listed as COVID-19 (usatoday.com), fact checks as true. That creates a bias. We like money.
Given the bias and the vague definition of a COVID-19 death, we have probably overcounted COVID-19 deaths. Therefore, the number of people dying from COVID-19 appears to be greater than it is.
When the experts talk about the death rate, they are comparing the number deaths against those who tested positive, but lots of people who had the virus have never been tested. So we don’t have a good measure of the number of people who have been infected. In addition, we seem to be overcounting COVID-19 deaths, assuming a positive test for COVID-19 accurately indicates the cause of death. If we are undercounting the number of COVID-19 infections and overcounting the number of deaths, then COVID-19 is probably much less lethal than many of us think it is.
Unfortunately, the national news media is trying to scare us, and they have been largely successful.
Given the hysteria generated by the news media, is it any surprise that many Americans think 30 million people have died of COVID-19?
- How many of us are likely to have caught the coronavirus so far? (newscientist.com)
- White House Strips CDC Of Data Collection Role For COVID-19 Hospitalizations (npr.org)
- WERE THE LOCKDOWNS EFFECTIVE AT ALL? and ARE U.S. CORONAVIRUS DEATHS BEING OVER COUNTED OR UNDER COUNTED? (powerlineblog.com)
To Be Continued