There’s More to Covid-19 than the Death Rate

The U.S. death rate for COVID-19 is, sadly, climbing again, and this number, along with the number infected, tends to be the headline. But there are a lot of other numbers to be concerned about.

Someone named Franklin Veaux has collected and estimated some. I haven’t checked them personally, but they seem plausible.

Veaux frames the issue as “How can a disease with 1% mortality shut down the United States?” and then he’s off to the races:

There are two problems with this question.

  1. It neglects the law of large numbers; and
  2. It assumes that one of two things happen: you die or you’re 100% fine.

The US has a population of 328,200,000. If one percent of the population dies, that’s 3,282,000 people dead.

Three million people dead would monkey wrench the economy no matter what. That more than doubles the number of annual deaths all at once.

The second bit is people keep talking about deaths. Deaths, deaths, deaths. Only one percent die! Just one percent! One is a small number! No big deal, right?

What about the people who survive?

For every one person who dies:

  • 19 more require hospitalization.
  • 18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
  • 10 will have permanent lung damage.
  • 3 will have strokes.
  • 2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
  • 2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.

So now all of a sudden, that “but it’s only 1% fatal!” becomes:

  • 3,282,000 people dead.
  • 62,358,000 hospitalized.
  • 59,076,000 people with permanent heart damage.
  • 32,820,000 people with permanent lung damage.
  • 9,846,000 people with strokes.
  • 6,564,000 people with muscle weakness.
  • 6,564,000 people with loss of cognitive function.

That’s the thing that the folks who keep going on about “only 1% dead, what’s the big deal?” don’t get.

The choice is not “ruin the economy to save 1%.” If we reopen the economy, it will be destroyed anyway. The US economy cannot survive everyone getting COVID-19.

There’s more than money at stake — this is a lot of misery. Even if the economy could survive it, surely this is a scenario worth working to avoid?

UPDATE: (7/27/2020) As I should have pointed out initially, the numbers below the 65,358,000 hospitalized are a breakdown of that number, not in addition to it. As far as I know, we don’t have any data at all on what the long-term effects, if any, of COVID-19 are likely to be on persons who are not hospitalized for it.

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3 Responses to There’s More to Covid-19 than the Death Rate

  1. Vic says:

    You really need to stop looking at other people’s interpretation of things and start thinking for yourself. There is an entirely different story going on with this desensitized once you stop listening to those with a narrative and start questioning the numbers yourself.

    Hint, Florida does NOT have a spiking death rate from COVID, actually it’s been heading downward, from not so high, for some time now. The supposed spike is actually comprised of old deaths, sometimes WEEKS old, being reported as new deaths. If you did your own research and looked for yourself, maybe you’d see that.

    The way this disease is being mishandled for political purposes should anger people, but if otherwise smart people prostitute themselves to help the lies spread, what hope is there for truth? The numbers are out there for you to look at at their official sources. I’m not giving you links because you are fully capable of finding the various obvious Government departments involved, Mr. Admin Law. You have the capability to find and see them, why don’t you try that instead of dishing out more fear and lies? Maybe even if just to make yourself feel better about things.

    • I’m sure there is some real statistical delay here. If nothing else, test results are taking up to two weeks to come in, so there has to be at least some delay there. Plus states and localities vary in their competence.

      BUT — One number that we know lags exposures by a consistent value is the hospitalizations. Those are currently very high in several parts of the country, especially in south Florida. Those people in hospital beds are real, and they can’t be wished away by handwaving about statistical delay. There is clearly a crisis.Indeed to the extent there is delay in reporting these data, the actual numbers are even worse than portrayed.

      PS. The personal stuff is lousy advocacy. It makes your weak arguments look weaker.

  2. Eric says:

    I think any effective discourse requires multiple viewpoints to be considered:

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