Birx: The United States Has One of the Lowest Coronavirus Mortality Rates in the World

Posted: Apr 23, 2020 1:05 PM
Birx: The United States Has One of the Lowest Coronavirus Mortality Rates in the World

A leftover from Tuesday's briefing, but it's worth showcasing for a number of reasons.  In the context of praising America's heroic frontline healthcare workers, Dr. Deborah Birx congratulated them over their efforts helping to ensure that the United States' Coronavirus mortality rate is among the lowest in the world.  You would think that this reality would be a point of national pride and relief, even amid so much suffering:

She's been making this point for weeks:

Too many in the media, including an army of blue checkmarks on social media, have been sharing charts and making assertions purporting to show that America has had the worst Coronavirus response in the world.  This context-free dishonesty -- which almost always fails to account for population size, while regurgitating bogus Chinese stats -- largely seems designed to make the Trump administration look as bad as possible.  In the process, these propagandists are doing a grave disservice to the public's understanding of what's really happening, diminishing the incredible accomplishments of our healthcare workers, and misleadingly running down the US healthcare system in general (which may also suit their ideological goals just fine).  The reality is that there are well over 100 nations dealing with Coronavirus, but among larger nations, the data shows that she is correct:

The U.S. has the 33rd-highest mortality rate, measured as deaths divided by total cases, out of the 134 countries tracked by Johns Hopkins. That means more than 100 countries have lower mortality rates than the U.S., although many of those countries reported comparatively few cases. When compared only to the ten countries with the most cases, the U.S. ranks as the second-lowest mortality rate as a percentage of total cases. That means eight of those countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus have higher mortality rates than the U.S...When mortality is measured per 100,000 people among the ten countries with the most cases, the U.S. ranks seventh, with Iran, Germany, and China reporting lower numbers of deaths per 100,000 people...the lack of testing in the United States could lead to an undercounting of overall COVID-19 cases. If the total number of cases is actually higher, that would mean the current data might be overstating the death rate.

Among the top ten most heavily-affected nations in terms of infections, the US ranks seventh -- behind China, Iran and Germany.  In other words, the US likely ranks ninth, because Iran's regime has been suppressing information and burying people in mass graves, and China is, well, China:

I also think that the final bolded sentence of the excerpt above is interesting.  It is true that America's testing regime is still too far behind the curve, a reality that irks President Trump (though he is right to call out the media's sudden lack of interest in ventilators as soon as his administration moved heaven and earth to successfully fend off that crisis).  What if the US has experienced far more Coronavirus cases than we realize, based on the official count?  That would mean that the death rate could be significantly lower, because the denominator in this fraction is way off.  Is that possible? The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A person who died at home in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 was infected with the coronavirus at the time of death, a stunning discovery that makes that individual the first recorded COVID-19 fatality in the United States, according to autopsy results released by public health officials late Tuesday. That death — three weeks before the first fatality was reported in the U.S., in Washington state on Feb. 28 — adds to increasing evidence that the virus was in the country far earlier than once thought.

If the virus was in California in January, far earlier than previously known, that would have some major implications.  There would almost certainly been community spread earlier than known as a result, given the total lack of public warnings, contact tracing or mitigation, which would indicate that many more people may have contracted (and survived) the virus than are reflected in the official statistics (see update):

Two new studies using antibody tests to assess how many people have been infected with the coronavirus have turned up numbers higher than some experts had expected. Both studies were performed in California: one among residents of Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, and the other among residents of Los Angeles County. In both cases, the estimates of the number of people infected in those counties were far higher than the number of confirmed cases...After adjustments intended to account for differences between the sample and the population of the county as a whole, the researchers estimated that the prevalence of antibodies was between 2.5 percent and a bit more than 4 percent. The county’s population is 1.9 million. That means that 48,000 to 81,000 people were infected with the coronavirus in Santa Clara County by early April, the investigators concluded. In Los Angeles County, researchers conducted tests at drive-through sites and at participants’ homes and estimated that 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population carried antibodies to the coronavirus. There are 10.4 million people in Los Angeles County.

Some critics have questioned the methodology behind these numbers, but let's say they're somewhere within the ballpark of accuracy.  Those communities wouldn't have reached anything close to 'herd immunity,' but the findings would suggest that the overall US death rate (already comparatively low) is even lower than understood, and that there may be a lot of people eligible to donate plasma for the development of treatments.  I'll leave you with one more intriguing new data point about transmission of the virus:

Outdoor distancing could be much safer than indoor distancing.  Caveats: I'm wary of any data of of China, this study excluded the epicenter of the disease in China, and it did not include hotels or resorts.  On the other hand, there appear to be some similar findings in Japan about outdoor spaces being lower risk.  That could very much help inform public policy decisions here.

UPDATE - This is preliminary, but it's still a 'wow' moment, for the reasons discussed above:

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