It’s not yet widely appreciated by the public, but the rate of death due to infection by covid-19 is declining with time. This phenomenon is not limited to the current disease. It is well known in epidemiological circles.
The US CDC has issued new best estimates of the death rate from Covid-19:
- 0.4% of people who show symptoms die (1.3% of those over 65).
- 65% of people who are infected show symptoms.
- 0.26% of those infected die (65% of 0.4%) (0.85% of those over 65).
Two months ago, in late March when most western countries decided to lock down, the best estimates were that 0.5% to 1% of infected people would die. Even then, the inevitable downward movement in this figure was apparent in the evidence, down from estimates of 2%+ just a few weeks earlier.
That it is down to 0.26% already is indeed good news. It drops because:
- Medical treatments improve. Doctors know a lot more about how to treat covid now, and the original treatments are considered to be somewhat misguided and ineffective. Ventilators? Not if it can be helped.
- People learn to avoid the virus by socially distancing. Two months ago it was thought that contact was the big spreader and hand washing would reduce its spread. But now we know that what really matters is being in the same room as an infected person and re-breathing their air — the more virus particles you catch, the greater the chance of coming down with the disease.
- Older, fatter, or more unhealthy people have changed their behavior to reduce their vulnerability. For example, Michael Moore — the tubby 66-year old film maker — writes that he has now spent 71 days alone in his New York apartment, with supplies dropped off at the door. So the percentage of people being infected who are vulnerable is dropping.
- The disease has already killed many of those most at risk. Culling leaves a more resistant population. Eventually this will be a significant factor.
- Most viruses become less lethal with time (though not all). There are hundreds of mutations of covid-19 already. Presumably the more lethal ones are spreading less because the victims present at hospitals where they stop infecting others. The more benign varieties scarcely produce any symptoms and are more freely spread without the “victims” or their contacts noticing they even have it.
Covid’s death rate will drop further — especially if a biotech solution becomes available.
The media aren’t exactly trumpeting this drop to 0.26%. This omission is so glaring that it rather tells us that the media are playing up the dangers. Perhaps they rather like the apparent increased role of government, and the resulting lurch towards economic communism? They certainly like everyone locked down at home watching their broadcasts — ad revenue is way up!
Perhaps this ideological agenda also accounts for the other glaring omission by the media. Except in the US — where it has anti-Trump implications — the media in the West is avoiding asking why governments were so slow to shut the borders to the virus. The media are happy to castigate China for its naughtiness in covering it up and assisting its spread. But here in Australia, for instance, there hasn’t been a peep about the role of Western governments in allowing us to be infected. Just silence. The incompetence and complacency of Western governments in not protecting us from this foreseeable danger is not helpful to the leftist agenda of “government is good, do what the government says, and we are the people who are naturally best suited to run the government.”
This ongoing drop in lethality naturally calls into question the value of a lockdown. The US anti-lockdown sites are ideologically driven: all anti-lockdown information is good, anything favoring lockdown is bad. (Echoes of the immigration argument here. Before Trump, US right wingers were in favor of mass immigration! Business wanted cheap labor and funded the thought leaders, think tanks, and websites of the right. Elon Musk etc. need their factories producing now.)
Those sites are pointing to the lowering death rate as more evidence that the US lockdown should be ended, and even that there should never have been a lockdown. After all, every great civilization is built on an ethos of letting the oldies look after themselves — or did I get that the wrong way around, and now is not the time to mention western civilization? More seriously, the economic and health effects are still unknown, so perhaps it’s premature to do a cost benefit analysis.
It’s not just death that matters. There are numerous reports of neurological and other damage in recovered victims, some due to blood clotting and mini-strokes. There is much about this virus that is unknown. We have almost no idea of its long term effect on a person’s health. Covid-19 probably came from a Chinese weapons laboratory, so it may well be designed to degrade or injure people rather than kill them. Heavens knows, but the Chinese take covid-19 very seriously.
The lockdown in the US is failing. The US has not crushed the curve, because infected people care still flying into the country. The US lockdown is going on too long to be tolerated. It seems likely that the US will open up soon, in which case the infection might resurge. If so, the US will be in that part of the world (along with the UK, Canada, Mexico, South America, Africa, Sweden, the middle east, …) where covid becomes endemic. Other parts of the world are — so far — pretty much eliminating covid (China, much of east Asia and Europe, Australia and NZ). Until a biotech solution comes along, the implications are obvious.
With most people in the US, UK, and Canada apparently now fated to catch it eventually, I suppose we will find out in a couple of years what the long term health problems of covid are.
Even at 0.26%, covid is still much more lethal than the flu. Flu death rates are usually quoted as 0.1%, but that figure has been systematically inflated abut 6-fold: the true figure is nearer 0.02%. (Road fatality deaths are officially a bit lower than flu deaths each year, but how many people do you know who have died due to flu compared to died on the road?)
The US anti-lockdown sites ignore outcomes other than death, and they ignore the fact that lockdowns work for those who close their borders to the virus. They will not even admit that there is a third strategy beyond let-her-rip and “flattening the curve” enough to avoid overloaded hospitals. The rest of the world moved on to “crush the curve” months ago.
Progress report: Italy had a big, nasty, early infection. Then it locked down and closed its borders. If the Italians can crush the curve, surely anyone can:
Successful lockdown, borders closed to the virus, crushing the curve
Failing lockdown, borders open to the virus, not crushing the curve fast enough
Finally, here is a country whose leader is in tune with the US anti-lockdown sites, and who waves off covid as “just a little flu”. Sure hope he’s right.
Minor lockdown only. What’s a few mass graves?
Brazilians will increasingly learn to take appropriate measures, despite their leader at the federal level. Hopefully these measures will arrest the upward trend soon.
Be aware that there is a 12 day delay between imposing or lifting a lockdown and the corresponding changes in the daily new cases curve. This makes a nonsense of correlation studies that ignore the delay.
hat-tip Stephen Harper