The COVID-19 Death Rate: Why It Hasn’t Caught Up To Us Yet

Politicians in the United States are continuing to congratulate themselves as the death rate of COVID-19 is still significantly lower than it was in the spring, despite recent surges in new cases across the country.  We should remember, even when we are around 800 deaths a day, that it is a horrible and preventable tragedy.  Experts have been quick to warn against spreading a false sense of security due to a currently lower death rate. There are several reasons for the lag but rest assured, the deaths will start to catch up.

The recommended quarantine time, if you have symptoms of the virus or a confirmed case, is two weeks.  If people are going to have symptoms, they usually appear sometime in the two weeks or so after having contracted it.  The lag between contracting the virus and dying, however, can be much longer and is not as easily estimated. “This particular part of the epidemic is just taking off, and we’re still on the runway,” said Thomas Giordano, chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “The last thing to happen is the death. We just aren’t that far along with this one yet.”

Another reason for the lag is data collection and reporting.  Sometimes reporting a death can take up to three weeks, so deaths may be far ahead of what is being broadcast at the time.  And some states aren’t reporting important information like COVID related hospitalizations and other data points useful for predicting where the death rate is heading.  We’re only as good as our data, and thanks to our leadership’s inability to handle logistics and start an effective testing initiative, we don’t have much.

A third reason we have lower instances of death despite the continued spikes, is that more young people may be getting it (and spreading it!).  But as we’re starting to realize, COVID-19 can have horrible, debilitating and scary lasting effects that we are just learning about.  From increased heart rates to diminished lung capacity and brain trauma, the long term effects will still be hugely significant even if not as many people are dying.

“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” said Dr. Fauci at a press conference. “There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don’t get yourself into a false complacency.”  Even if you are young and healthy, no one knows how this virus will affect you, personally.  There are plenty of young people in serious conditions and many people who have survived COVID-19 but are living with terrible side effects.

Wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance, and stay home as much as possible.

Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team

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