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The Demographics of U.S. COVID-19 Deaths (and Why They Matter)

Using frightening figures without putting them in context borders on disinformation.

The announced number of projected COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. ranging from 100,000 – 240,000 may have some Americans reeling. Let’s face it: That sounds like a sizable amount of people. Looking at it another way, out of a population of 330 million, that’s a mortality rate of 0.03% to 0.07%. Notice the crucial placement of the decimal point in those percentages. Of course, every life matters – but when announcing figures and showing charts in a time of a national health crisis, putting those numbers in perspective is vital.

In this period of confusing data regarding the Coronavirus crisis, perhaps it’s wise to look deeper into the figures to obtain a more realistic picture. The CDC’s latest demographic information on COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. goes from Feb. 12 – March 16. Despite the two-week lag, there is still much to be learned from the trends evident in the statistical analysis.

Age remains the most significant factor when discussing the mortality rate. At the time of the only data published by the Centers for Disease Control, there were 2,449 deaths in the U.S. The CDC separates the demographics into seven age groups. Each is further broken down into three categories: hospitalization, ICU admission, and finally, case-fatality. So, between the age of 0 – 19, there were 123 cases of Coronavirus reported. Hospitalization of this group ran from a low of 1.6% to a high of 2.5%. None were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and no deaths were reported.

It’s easy to see that those numbers rise as age increases. Still, there are a few surprising revelations. The 45-54 and the 55-64 categories reveal the same amount of cases – 429. While the hospitalization and ICU figures are about the same, the death rate more than doubled for those in the 55-64 category. Nevertheless, that number is still quite low, ranging from 1.4-2.6%.

Even when you get to the next age category – 65-74 – the mortality rate at its highest is still less than 5%. Only when you get to the 75-84 age range do the numbers begin to spike. For instance, the 75-84 age classification carries a wide range in deaths from 4.3% to 10.5%. Those above 85 have a case fatality of 10.4% – 27.3%.

This graph reveals the danger zone is for people 75 and older. And while one can understand that elected officials and medical experts want to lower the number of overall deaths in the U.S., skeptics might legitimately counter that using frightening figures without putting them in context borders on disinformation.


Read more from Leesa K. Donner.

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