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Is Trump Right About Covid-19 Death Rates?

When you run the real numbers, the coronavirus death rate may be like that of the seasonal flu.

The real corona virus death rate for a developed nation may be as low as 0.1%.

Recently, President Donald Trump said that he had a “hunch” that the death rate of Covid-19 is lower than what is officially reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). The partisan media are slamming him over this and other comments. Is the criticism justified, or is Trump correct?

Confusion About Numbers

When WHO in March reported that the death rate was 3.4%, many people became alarmed because this is around 30 times higher than the regular flu and nearly twice previous estimates. This percentage is calculated by dividing recorded deaths by confirmed cases of the virus. At the time of writing, these numbers globally are 4,004 and 114,078, respectively, giving a confirmed death rate of 3.5%.

The keyword here is confirmed.

It is far easier to identify if someone is severely ill or dead from the virus than detecting it in people who show no symptoms. Therefore, we can say with great certainty that the confirmed death rate is a max number. The real number is almost certainly lower, and it depends on how many cases go undetected.

If the real number of infected is, for instance, ten times higher than recorded, the death rate is 0.35%, not much higher than the ordinary flu.

A Realistic Estimate

So far, we have only one group of people in which the infection can be fully documented, and that is those on the cruise ship Diamond Princess. Of the 696 cases, only seven have died, which gives a death rate of 1%. Complicating the matter considerably, however, is the demographics of the ship. According to statistics from Northern Italy, 99% of the people who die from the virus are 60 years or older. This age demographic made up 58% of the passengers on Diamond Princess. Thus, the correct death rate in a more representative population is lower than 1%.

South Korea, the developed country affected earliest by the virus, may give a more accurate picture of how lethal it is. As of writing, 7,478 cases have been identified, of which 53 have died, which yields a death rate of 0.7%.

Many developed countries, such as Singapore, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and Australia, have not had a single death, which indicates that in rich, healthy countries, Covid-19 may be no more deadly than the regular flu.

These low numbers prompted Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Admiral Brett Giroir, to say that “the best estimates now of the overall mortality rate for Covid-19 is somewhere between 0.1% and 1%.”

Trump’s Handling

Thus, not only was Trump’s hunch that the death rate was lower than 3.4% correct, it would have been irresponsible of him not to make this comment. A panic is potentially far more dangerous than the virus itself. So far, the decisive actions of the Trump administration have kept the infection at a meager rate of only 1.9 cases per million. Compare this to Italy, which has 151.7 cases per million for the whole country, and nearly 330 documented cases per million in Northern Italy.

No other Western nation has handled the crisis better than the United States. Ideally, its residents should be worried enough to improve their hand hygiene and reduce unnecessary exposure, but not so scared that it causes panic, stock market crashes, and unnecessary anxiety.

Covid-19 demonstrates that the mainstream media seem unable to talk about  any topic without politicizing it. Not even a virus escapes their partisanship.


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