The US has the world’s highest death rate for the new coronavirus.
Based on the ratio of confirmed deaths to reported cases, 5.4% of patients have died. That’s far higher than the global rate of 3.4% and even higher than mainland China’s 3.7%.
Only the Philippines has a higher coronavirus death rate than the US, and that’s because it has only had three cases.
It’s highly unlikely that the coronavirus is more deadly in the U.S.; rather, the number is likely the result of limited testing in the U.S.
Until Wednesday, the agency only tested people who had recent exposure to a confirmed patient, had travelled to a country with an outbreak, or required hospitalization.
The CDC had only confirmed 99 cases across the country as of Thursday at noon. If you calculate the death rate based on only those federally verified cases, it jumps to roughly 10%.
So the U.S. has not tested or diagnosed many patients with mild cases.
A Broad Cover-Up?
Because flawed tests and limited funding initially meant testing capacity in the U.S. was restricted, the CDC had tested only about 470 people in the US as of Sunday.
The CDC has since removed those testing numbers from its website, however. Meanwhile, Alex Azar, the US secretary of health and human services that 3,600 Americans had been tested.
BREAKING: The CDC has stopped disclosing the number of Americans tested for coronavirus.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) March 2, 2020
On the left is how the website looked last night. On the right is what it looks like now, with the testing info removed.
The lack of testing is a scandal.
This is the coverup. pic.twitter.com/za5w9dkEKq
South Korea, by contrast, has implemented free coronavirus-testing drive-thrus and tested more than 136,000 people. The country’s death rate is currently just 0.5% — 35 deaths out of a total of 6,088 reported infections.
“Other countries are testing much more broadly than we are. We are trotting along while they’re racing along,” said William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
To be sure, the US has a much lower case count overall than either South Korea or China, so any death significantly impacts the country’s fatality rate. But again, the low case count is likely due to how few people have been tested.
Coronavirus has been circulating in the United States for weeks. We didn't detect it because we weren't testing properly. There may have been cryptic transmission in Washington State since January. If I sound alarmed, it’s because I am.— Matt McCarthy (@DrMattMcCarthy) March 1, 2020
More than 100,000 infected in the U.S.?
The new CDC’s new testing standards are much more open-ended, saying that “clinicians should use their judgment” to determine if patients should be tested for the new coronavirus.
US officials also said they are working to distribute more tests. Azar told ABC on Sunday that “we now have 75,000 tests available.”
“The estimates we’re getting from industry right now — by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said at a White House press briefing on Monday. On Thursday, however, senators briefed on the matter said that timeline was unlikely.
Some experts say the US government should have taken steps to ramp up testing weeks ago.
“It is well within the realm of possibility that there are 100,000 people infected with this right now in the United States. Healthcare providers may be being exposed, other patients may be being exposed, and until you can give confidence to people about those answers, we are in a crisis here,” said Yale professor Howard Forman, a radiologist and expert in healthcare management.
I try to understand why the WHO hasn’t declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. You can find a few words about the subject in a recent interview on Hagmann Report below: