We need a little perspective here. I get the feeling that to most people numbers like 0.0006% means about as much as Sagan’s billions and billions – nothing, in other words. But, here I go again…
Not an epidemiologist, just a numbers guy – and the numbers guy wants to know:
100 Italian doctors died – how many fell into the elderly/preexisting condition group? So far, about 95% of deaths fall into one or the other or both categories. So, if anything like 95% of the doctors fell into that group, it would be tragic, of course, but tell us nothing new about the virus. If, on the other hand, the dead were predominantly younger, healthier doctors, that would tell us something – what, exactly, isn’t so obvious. Perhaps extended exposure under nasty conditions is to be avoided? We didn’t already know that? Seriously, what would it tell us?
All those younger people dying, the ones that make the news – perspective: about 5% of all deaths so far have not happened to people who are elderly, sick, or both. That would be about 1,900 deaths in the US so far. While, again, tragic, it’s a little over half of the annual total of drownings in backyard pools, or 75% of annual motorcycle deaths. And those deaths happen year after year, adding up to truly appalling numbers over the decades. Somehow, we have come to accept the trade off – backyard pools and motorcycles are fun, so we accept these death totals, even though banning backyard pools and motorcycles would save more people’s lives in one year (theoretically) than the number of otherwise healthy people who are dying of COVID 19.
But healthy people in low-or no-outbreak areas going to work, going to the park or beach, celebrating a birthday with friends, etc. – those activities are not important enough, across a population of 330M, to risk an increased chance of death, so far, of under 0.0006%?
Meanwhile, 250,000 people die each year from medical errors – third leading cause of death in the US. So we could, theoretically again, save more lives by reducing medical errors by 1% than the number of healthy people we’ll lose to COVID 19.
Finally, all signs so far point to massive rates of infection already, with huge numbers of people infected, just with no or minor symptoms to show for it. A random sample of people in England found nearly 1/3 had antibodies to COVID 19 in their blood. If this is a representative sample, it suggests around 23M English people have already caught the virus. Two things fall out from this: that efforts to contain the virus have already failed, even as the number of cases and deaths are falling; and, eventually, assuming having COVID 19 antibodies doesn’t protect you from all other causes of death, 1/3 of all deaths in England will be attributed to COVID 19, as all deaths where the virus is present or suspected to be present are now required under English rules to be classified as COVID 19 deaths.
The Swedish doctor reference yesterday says at least half the populations of Sweden and Britain have likely been infected already. If this carried over to the US, and we were to follow the British rules as New York already is. we’ll end up with that million COVID 19 deaths by the end of the year after all. It just won’t mean what any sane person means by ‘died from COVID 19.’
As I harp on here: it is important to know what you are counting.