The real death rate of COVID-19 in the U.S. may be 140 times smaller than what is being reported

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

March 30, 2020

It’s possible that the number of people in the U.S. who are infected with COVID-19 is much bigger than the number that is being currently reported, but many of those people haven’t gotten substantially sick, and so haven’t gotten tested.

The death rate is calculated by dividing the number of people who die by the number who get infected.

But while we do have accurate information about the numerator, we really have no idea what the denominator is. It’s possible that the real denominator is magnitudes bigger than what is being reported, because most infected people have either no symptoms or minor symptoms, and thus, don’t get tested. If this is indeed the case, then it’s possible that the real death rate is far, far lower than the one that is being reported.

As of this writing (early March 30, 2020), in the U.S., 142,735 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and of those, 2,489 have died from it. (I got those numbers from this link, which is continuously being updated.)

Based on these numbers, the fatality rate in the U.S.  is 1.744%

Meanwhile, Iceland tested a large segment of its population, including people with no symptoms, and found that 6.3% of them have COVID-19.

The U.S. has 328 million people. If we extrapolate Iceland’s figure of 6.3% to the U.S., it would suggest that more than 20 million people in the U.S. have COVID-19. (I realize that extrapolating Iceland’s test results to the U.S. is not the ideal way to determine the rate of infection in the U.S. But given the absence of this particular type of widespread testing in the U.S., it’s probably the most accurate guess that we can make at this point in time. Hopefully, such widespread testing will be done in the U.S., and we will then have a more accurate number.)

So for the U.S., the real denominator may be 140 times bigger than the one that is being reported.

Which, if true, would indicate that the estimated real death rate in the U.S. is more than two magnitudes smaller than what is being reported.

And, if true, would mean that the estimated real death rate in the U.S. is 0.01246%.

Note from Daniel Alman: If you like this blog post that I wrote, you can buy my books from amazon, and/or donate to me via PayPal, using the links below:

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March 30, 2020. Tags: , , , . COVID-19, Health care, Math.

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