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.
- It neglects the law of large numbers; and
- 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.