The Truth About Covid 19 Mortality

This post is not about the virus per se. Or, is it? In the world every day we are required to discern truth from facts that may or may not be true. In fact, our lives depend upon being able to reliably sift the truth from lies. It is a task that lawyers engage in every day. It is why we published our book Fighting for Truth.

Since we all know about Covid 19, let’s use it as an example of how to find truth in a minefield of facts which may or may not be true. Let’s look at a headline commonly touted and see whether it is true. The headline is “The US has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of its coronavirus cases”. Sound ominous right? But, is it true? Partly true? A lie?

Interestingly, the article links to Johns Hopkins for the data supporting the article. Which takes you to an ominous black colored map of the world where the USA is depicted as solid red. Meaning really bad Covid 19 data right? Well, not so fast. The Johns Hopkins map can be expanded to zero in on countries. So, if you drill down on the USA, you see tiny pockets of infection, not one solid mass of infection.

But wait, there is more. There is a nice map to compare cumulative cases to active cases. The active case data helps give a clearer picture of progress currently being made. You can also see state by state data. – Let’s pause for a second, is this data true? Interesting question, just because the data is not complete, or some states, or even some countries are behind or inaccurate in data reporting, is anything in the data collected absolutely unequivocally true? No. … But it is as complete as it can be for now. We can draw some general trend conclusions, but that is indeed helpful.

But it is critical to know truth, and truth depends on accurate and complete data. So, let’s say the USA is doing lots and lots of testing, but a third world country is doing no testing, or if it does test, it is slow to report the tests. Is it a bad thing that the USA has more reported cases? Not necessarily. Especially if the USA cases are mild cases, and the death rate low and/or is not rising.

So let’s go back to the ominous headline about the USA having 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s cases, is the headline true? Partly so, but the data is so incomplete that to write such a headline (without a detailed explanation) devolves into using statistics in a way to dress up a lie as truth. Or, convey a half truth. … ‘Cases’ are less important. Mortality or death is very important.  While arguably the USA does report 25% of the global reported cases, the number is not truly helpful, because the USA is good at reporting, but China and North Korea under report.  … For general reference, read this timeless book on how to analyze statistics named How to Lie with Statistics. It will help parse out partial truth from whole truth.

The important bit of data is mortality. And even on the above linked Johns Hopkins page it is difficult to find. You need to click on the ‘tracking’ button near the top. Then scroll down and scan the right column until you see ‘Mortality Analyses’. … Mortality should be front and center, because it is the ONLY really important bit of data isn’t it? The mortality rate of the common cold is negligible, so would you ever care to look at how many cases exist in any country at any time? Ever? No, we only center on Covid 19 information because we have been conditioned to think that infection means certain death, or a really high chance of death.

So here is the Johns Hopkins link for Mortality Analyses. Now, we are getting past the scary headlines. But, the first chart is still a little frightening isn’t it? The ‘Observed case-fatality ratio’ has the USA at 3.3 %. If that isn’t broken down further to explain that the death rate is really high in older and already dangerously ill people, the 3.3% rate, which is near that of the seasonal flu, still tells us that caution and taking steps to avoid Covid 19, like avoiding the flu, makes sense. But for younger people, including school age kids, the data suggests that the virus is less dangerous than the flu.

But, the really important link you need to click on is the ‘Deaths per 100,000 Population’. You can barely tell that there is a place to click right above the chart. It should be the most important data of all, but is difficult to get to. But, when you do click the link, you finally get to the potatoes and meat. We see that 49 people per 100,000 people die. That is .049 %. … You can compare that to CDC stats on influenza. The data is from 2018. But the death rate per 100,000 for flu that year is about .029 %.

So, think back to 2018 or 2019, were the headlines about the flu scary? Were schools and businesses closed? Were people forced to quarantine? Were mask sales skyrocketing? Were people glued to TV screens watching reporters breathlessly discuss body bag counts? That said the virus is indeed comparatively worse than the 2018 flu, but is the overwhelming media focus justified?

Putting aside the media, reasonable precautions are justified to protect ourselves and others. Because every life has sacred worth (and cannot be reduced to a data point) efforts to find a cure and/or a vaccine are crucial and need to be supported as do our healthcare workers fighting on the front lines. But, is a near perpetual shutdown of many businesses justified? And, is their a human cost (suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, stunted educational development, economic turmoil, delayed cancer treatment) to decision making that through faulty threat analysis, treats the virus as far more dangerous to the human race than it actually is?

Why do we share this information? Because drilling down to the truth is part of what we do. We work tirelessly to serve each client aggressively and with empathy, to communicate regularly and clearly, and to obtain prompt and favorable results. Our team considers it a honor to be called upon to serve our clients.

If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, we encourage you to listen to our Personal Injury Primer Podcast where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law. And read “Fighting For Truth: A Trial Lawyer’s Insight Into What It Takes To Win” an entertaining and enlightening book pulling readers into the courtroom giving them a glimpse of the legal process and what it takes to win at trial.