At the beginning of this pandemic, I wrote about the numbers quite often. Mostly because there was a lot of confusion as to what the statistics really meant versus how they were being portrayed in the headlines.
Back then, I also mentioned it will take some time before we know the true extent of the actual death rate. And more specifically, before we can see how COVID-19 compares to other viruses, including the seasonal flu.
When all of this started, presumed mortality rates were all over the place—ranging anywhere from one percent to as high as 25 percent.
But now, with summer turning into fall, we have a lot more data to draw from. So today, let’s revisit the numbers, and look at how this crisis is really shaking out…
Not as deadly as we once feared
Let’s start with some context: A really bad seasonal flu kills roughly 0.1 percent of the people who catch it. And previous influenza pandemics have killed upwards of 0.7 percent of patients, with complication rates as high as three percent. (This is more in line with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] predicts for COVID-19.)
In fact, it now looks as though a patient’s odds of death from COVID-19 is about six times the risk of death from the seasonal flu. (Kind of where I thought we would end up—certainly higher than your average flu, but nowhere near as deadly as the first SARS or MERS outbreak.)
But one thing I should make crystal clear is that the coronavirus mortality rate isn’t yet falling—despite what you may have seen or heard. Because the truth is, we weren’t working with accurate numbers in the first place—and in some ways, we still don’t know what to expect. Not to mention, there may still be another wave coming.
Still, there’s some good news: COVID-19 hasn’t yet proven as deadly as everyone feared back in the spring. However, the bad news, of course, is that it’s still killing a staggering amount of people.
As of the end of August, this pandemic has infected more than 25 million people globally, killing 847,000. And the United States accounts for a huge portion of those statistics, claiming 6 million confirmed infections and more than 190,000 deaths. (Sadly, many of those deaths could have been avoided with a healthier population and more decisive leadership.)
These are big numbers—and it isn’t over yet.
Beware a false sense of safety
Another reason I mention these numbers today is because I predict a fair amount of fact manipulation in the months ahead…
After all, this is the first time we’ve seen a global health crisis unfold in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. And it’s certainly found its way onto the campaign trail as a result, with both sides of the aisle politicizing the issue to win voters.
But this is exactly why I feel the need to remind each and every one of you that the numbers are inconsistent by their very nature. And they are going to change in the face of new and better information gathering.
As I’ve mentioned here before, more widespread testing and tracking to include milder cases will definitely impact death rate projections. And they’re also going to change based on our ability to treat severe illness more effectively.
So while it may seem like this has been going on forever, remember, we’re still dealing with a novel and emerging virus.
Luckily, it’s not so novel anymore that we can’t draw some reasonable conclusions. For instance, it seems pretty clear that the virus isn’t mutating to become more lethal over time. (This is good news for a lot of obvious reasons—and it bodes especially well for treatment and vaccine development.)
But once again, it’s important not to be lulled into a false sense of safety here. So far, American COVID-19 deaths have surpassed the annual death toll from Alzheimer’s, stroke, and influenza, combined. And when all is said and done, they may eventually surpass deaths from heart disease and cancer, too.
In other words, even this “low” mortality rate is more than enough to devastate the nation. (Not to mention the unknown effects survivors may suffer in the days, months, or years to come.) And as the threat persists, a lack of preparedness could prove to be the nail in our country’s coffin.
In other words, the key to controlling the damage here isn’t denial. It’s learning from our past (and current) mistakes as quickly and efficiently as possible. And we’ll talk more about that tomorrow. So as always, stay tuned…
P.S. Remember, boosting your immune system during these unsettling times is of utmost importance (especially as we enter cold and flu season). And that’s exactly why I outlined all of my top immune health recommendations into one comprehensive guide: my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. To learn more, click here now!
“What Changing Death Rates Tell Us About COVID-19.” WebMD, 09/01/2020. (webmd.com/lung/news/20200901/what-changing-death-rates-tell-us-about-covid)