U.S. COVID-19 Death Rate Remains Low

Brian Sullivan has updated his chart that shows per capita Wuhan virus death rates for various countries. He writes:

The total number of Wuhan virus cases in the US surpassed the total in any other country yesterday. It is no surprise the media and their Democratic allies are using this data to cudgel the White House and mislead Americans. But anyone with fifth grade math (which apparently excludes most of the media) knows how irrelevant and misleading such a comparison is.

As we have pointed out, the only way to compare the status of the pandemic across countries is to analyze the number of deaths and cases on a per capita basis. The number of deaths per capita is most important, but per capita case rates provide a leading indicator that is also important to watch.

Despite what the media would like everyone to believe, this past week continues to bring good news for Americans. The number of per capita deaths reported in the United States remains amongst the lowest in the world. As of today, the US has recorded 5 deaths per million from the Wuhan virus, one-fifth of the total in Western European countries as a whole. Only Germany and Norway are recording lower deaths per capita, and that is only by a small fraction.

One issue with the case numbers is that they largely reflect the amount of testing that has been done. Brian continues:

With the significant ramp in US testing (526,000 tests were run this past week), it is also reasonable to start comparing relative per capita case rates across countries. Again, the US is doing well relative to Western Europe. Except for the UK, the US has fewer reported cases per capita than every Western European country. Some will argue that our per capita test rate is too low to make such a comparison legitimate. Since the number of per capita tests run in the US is now comparable or better to every European country other than Italy’s and Germany’s, that argument is losing weight. Tracking case rates over the next few weeks will tell us a lot.

Finally, it is interesting to note that, outside of New York, the percentage of positive tests relative to total tests run is only 12%. This is comparable to the level the CDC reports for flu tests. The outlier, of course, is New York. Over 30% of all tests report a positive result. This test positive rate is relevant because epidemiologists use it in their models to project the true incidence of an infectious disease in a population. With the convergence of test positive rates for Wuhan virus and influenza in most parts of the country, better projections of total infection rates should follow.

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