Issues & Insights

Here’s The Good COVID-19 News That’s Being Buried By The Press

The weekly average of COVID-19 deaths has been falling since late April.

I&I Editorial

Once again, the U.S. is undergoing a media-driven COVID-19 scare after a “spike” in infections. But as we noted earlier this week, the number of cases depends on the amount of testing. The key gauge to watch is deaths. They’ve been falling since April, and there’s strong reason to believe they’re lower than the official count suggests.

The dreaded Wuhan virus is no doubt a nasty bug, worthy of our vigilance and ongoing concern. That said, its virulence, as measured by the daily number of deaths, appears to be waning, as the chart with this piece, courtesy of the COVID-19 Tracking Project of the Atlantic, clearly shows.

The average number of daily COVID-19 deaths on a weekly basis has fallen from a peak of just over 2,000 to 700 or so. That’s a roughly 65% decline. And it’s no fluke. The figure has been dropping steadily since April.

Hold on. That last number for June 23 on the chart shows a huge jump. Should we be worried? Is this the much-dreaded surge some have been talking up?

Apparently not. A big part of that one-time gain came from a revision by one state: Delaware.

As Youyang Gu, an MIT data scientist who created the COVID 19-projections.com site, tweeted: “To put the increase in deaths in context, Delaware added 69 deaths today: ‘The revision came from identifying 67 deaths dating back to April.’ So if you take out those 67 deaths, the week-over-week deaths have not changed.”

Goldman Sachs’ state-level tracker shows similar trends. The volume of coronavirus tests has risen 23% in the past two weeks, but positive results have increased just 1.3 percentage points to 6.2%. Meanwhile, deaths have fallen over the past two weeks by 12%.

This is bad news for those who, for a variety of reasons, seek to plunge us back into lockdowns and social isolation, despite the proven devastating economic impacts that would have. If COVID-19 deaths aren’t rising, and they aren’t, the rationale for shutdowns evaporates.

But the rationale in the first place could be even weaker than first thought. The reason for this is that the deaths now attributed to COVID-19 might be grossly exaggerated. The evidence is substantial, and has been obvious for weeks. (We first wrote about it in late May.)

Dr. Deborah Birx, the respected physician who heads the Trump administration’s coronavirus team, reportedly argued back in May at a closed Centers for Disease Control meeting that the agency’s death estimates were 25% too high, according to a Washington Post report.

Anecdotal evidence at the state level suggests this is true. In fact, estimates may be off by more than 25%.

A review of Minnesota deaths through late May, for instance, found that of 741 registered COVID-19 deaths, fewer than 41% listed it as a “primary cause.” By that standard, George Floyd, who died in police custody and tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus, could have been counted as a COVID-19 fatality had his death not been so well publicized.

How could this happen?

In most U.S. jurisdictions, unlike many other countries, if someone dies with COVID-19, that becomes the cause of death for official purposes. That’s true even if it didn’t technically “cause” the person’s death.

But sometimes even not being infected counts. After New York reported its 10,000 fatalities in May, the New York Times revealed that “3,700 additional people who were presumed to have died of the coronavirus … had never tested positive.” 

In California, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond investigated 194 COVID-19 deaths through mid-May and found that only six could be clearly claimed as caused by COVID-19. “We’ve unfortunately had six pure, solely coronavirus deaths — six out of 3.3 million people,” said Desmond.

Washington state reported that at least five of its then 828 COVID-19 deaths were actually due to gunshot wounds. Pennsylvania had to remove “hundreds of deaths” from its tally for misreporting the actual causes.

Same thing in Colorado, where a man found dead in a park with a 0.55% alcohol blood level was declared a COVID-19 victim.

Colorado has since changed how it counts fatalities, as have many other states. But the fact remains: The death totals are almost certainly grossly exaggerated due to intentional miscounting. There are strong incentives to over-report, but few to under-report.

The Centers for Disease Control admits as much in its June 24 update of the data:

“For 7% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.5 additional conditions or causes per death.”

So in only one in 14 deaths out of the current total of 125,000 can COVID-19 be said to be the actual cause.

A recent column by economist John Lott Jr. and Dr. Timothy Craig Allen, governor of the College of American Pathologists, describes how physicians are pushed to make COVID-19 diagnoses for powerful economic reasons.

“Some doctors feel pressure from hospitals to list deaths as due to the coronavirus, even when they don’t believe that is the case, ‘to make it look a little bit worse than it is.,'” Lott and Allen wrote. “There are financial incentives that might make a difference for hospitals and doctors. The CARES Act adds a 20% premium for COVID-19 Medicare patients.”

Yet, even with an overcount, the number of COVID-19 deaths is falling sharply. As President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “Cases up only because of our big number testing. Mortality rate way down!!!”

Even the normally anti-Trump “fact-checker” Politifact was forced to begrudgingly admit that Trump’s statement is accurate “for now.”

“The number of coronavirus deaths per day has continued to fall in June even as the number of cases has risen,” PolitiFact said.

We bring all this up again to remind you: While this Wuhan bug is dangerous, it is likely not as deadly as advertised. The CDC’s own estimate for what’s called the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR), made early this month, is about 0.26%. The regular flu, by comparison, has an IFR of about 0.1%. So using the government’s own likely inflated COVID-19 death data, the IFR for the Chinese-origin virus is about that of a very bad seasonal flu — and not the 3.4% first estimated.

Subtract the impact of horrendous policy errors in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio caused thousands of nursing home residents to die needlessly, and fatality rates shrink even further.

With COVID-19 infections indeed going up due to more testing, we’ll soon be hearing the same strident voices yelling for a shutdown. But the death rates once used to scare us into an extreme reaction now appear even lower than they do after weeks of decline.

Until our national “experts” can explain to us why we should take these bad numbers seriously, don’t be panicked by phony warnings about possible increases in deaths. Manipulated numbers should never be used to make sweeping public policy decisions. That’s especially true now, with the left looking for any way it can find to shut down the economy again and end Trump’s presidency.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board.

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36 comments

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  • Don’t give the virus any ideas that it is weakening in its virulence. It will go back to the drawing board and become stronger. Shhhhhh. Let’s keep this a secret and not let the powers that hold the virus in its hands know that we know….Shhhhh

  • Unfortunately, it appears many people are not data people. Instead they are driven by emotion and therefore only read the headline and maybe a few paragraphs and then re-tweet or post the fear article to Facebook. It’s like telling a person who is afraid of flying that their odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 114, while their odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 9,821. For another perspective, that’s 1 fatal accident per 16 million flights. Also, the vast majority of airplane-related deaths are from private planes, not commercial flights. It just doesn’t matter to them. I’ve been focused on data from the beginning of this pandemic and that’s why I’m not afraid of the virus. As stated above it has a current CDC IFR of 0.26%, and vastly lower than that for under 65s with no co-morbidities. However, I have always been worried about the lockdown and the long term consequences for my kids.

  • Are positive tests specific to COVID-19 or do they represent just any of the many Coronavirus strains that have been around for years?

    • There are specific tests for COVID-19. But there’s also the idea that high T-cell counts from previous coronavirus infections (remember, COVID-19 is just one of many coronaviruses) in some people might confer partial immunity.

  • The CDC stats show that the ten year average for deaths from the seasonal flu is 40,000+ annually. Has any one seen a death total for seasonal flu for this year or are those causes of death just added to the COVID 19 numbers? If that is the case, it is another way in which they have inflated the COVID-19 stats.

    • Deaths of flu would be accounted during the November-February period where flu usually takes place. I am not sure about this year’s numbers in the US. It’s not impossible that a handful of early covid-caused deaths have been counted as flu deaths

  • Agreed that the death graph is not shown frequently by the press, and we know more than in the past what works and what doesn’t against covid complications, which has resulted in fewer deaths overall. However, don’t read in the current death trend the confirmation that the spike is simply due to more testing and asymptomatic patients. The death chart follows shifts in contagions after 3-4 weeks on average, so it is not surprising that the current surge in contagions has not yet resulted into more deaths. We see now more hospitalisations in ICU’s, which precedes by a couple of weeks increase in fatal outcomes. By the time you actually see more deaths, any measure you put in place to reduce contagions will take another 4 weeks before you see an effect, with deaths exponentially growing during this period, especially if ICU beds capacity becomes insufficient. The Inertia of these phenomena is what makes them so pernicious.

    • Something to keep in mind is that the case projection schedule within the hospitals has changed dramatically. Many things are different now. Ventilator use has been significantly modified; individuals have better understanding of how to report symptoms and obtain treatment; medical personnel have modified treatment protocols that have significantly improved our treatment results. There are more things that could be listed. The result is this – patients are screened more accurately, much of the admittance is strictly for observation, treatment regimens are more therapeutic and successful such that average length of stay for COVID admissions is declining. Yes, some will get very sick and maybe even die, almost all will be aged and/or with significant co-morbidities. Testing will continue to reduce the death rate as the denominator increases, not to mention as the number of deaths is reduced from errant classification of earlier deaths.

      There was an excuse for our earlier caution. The facts no longer support that drastic action.

  • This feels directionally correct to me. But if an IFR were to be estimated based only the 7% of ‘unique’ deaths-caused-by-CoVID-19 then we would probably (I haven’t run the numbers) be looking at a rather large and unexplained ‘excess deaths’ number for the October 2019 – June 2020 period. In the real world, some material fraction of the other 93% of ‘deaths with CoVID-19’ probably should be seen as ‘deaths from CoVID-19’, even if not all of them should.

    Then again, we (i.e. our ‘policy-makers’) should be trying to figure the relationship between the total cost of our CoVID-19 response and the ‘lives saved’. And in this we should really be comparing the cost to quality-life-years-saved. Semi-hidden within those deaths classified as “due to CoVID-19”, and especially within the 93% where other factors were present, is the reality that many people at great risk of having their life foreshortened by CoVID-19 have relatively short life expectancy and, to generalize, a lower typical quality of life too. (Don’t bother telling me this is harsh – – I know it is. But it’s true.)

    I’m guessing the cost per quality-year-of-life saved is massively above what the actuaries say that marginal value is ($140,000). Actually, I’m not totally guessing. I have tried estimating the real number and it comes out between 10 and 20 times that $140,000.

  • Is there any on-line location to determine co-morbidities, such as pneumonia, lung cancer, immunocompromised status, etc?

  • The inconsistently measured COVID-19 deaths are why it is critical to watch total excess deaths. These have been significantly higher than reported COVID-19deThs. The article should have noted this. Otherwise, it’s just defending the narrative.

  • Great article, but you continually refer to this as the “Wuhan virus”. A better understanding of history would explain why it is almost certainly incorrect to label this as a “Wuhan virus” as the place in which the virus is first documented is almost never the place in which it actually originated.

    Additionally, researchers in France, Italy, and Taiwan have all concluded that this virus was present and spreading in areas of their country prior to the Chinese governments announcements in December. The Taiwanese researcher actually claimed, without a doubt in his mind, that this virus in fact originated from the United States, as the US was the only country with the “root” of the “tree” as well as all three evolved strains. Epidemiologically, this is strong evidence that the US was the source.

    The most likely timeline for the “Wuhan” virus was an accidental or intentional release of the SARS-CoV2 virus from FT. DETRICH, MARYLAND, in AUGUST of 2019. The virus proceeded to spread at a very rapid rate throughout the US (see our “flu” data from 2019 during that time period, as well as “vaping illness” in clusters and “unexplained pneumonia” outbreaks in retirement homes in the immediate vicinity). After spreading overseas, our fearless leaders waited for China to announce the presence of the virus (delivered there likely during the Wuhan Military Games) so that we could blame the “release” of this virus and the economic damage it caused on a geo-political opponent. Machiavelli at work – take your greatest weaknesses and throw them on your opponent – no matter how they respond, you have already structured a narrative in which they lose (in the eyes of largely ignorant public).

    Not to mention that the virus was almost certainly INTENTIONALLY released to cover up the controlled demolition of a US economy which was already headed into another recession/depression. Coronavirus and its “repercussions” became the perfect scapegoat, to once again prevent Americans from understanding how the deeply fraudulent and corrupt financial institutions have been raping this country for decades.

    Food for thought!

    • I call it the Wuhan Bat Bug, because it originated from an Horseshoe Bat virus, and first flared up in Wuhan, where Chinese labs had been playing with those viri for years. The idea that it was intentionally released by Americans to cause a “controlled demolition” of the US (and world) economy is wild-eyed rumor mongering at best, and malicious disinformation at worst. Find some documentation from reputable scientists or stop making stuff up.

    • Texas has increased it’s testing to find the ground truth on the spread of the virus. Increased testing equated to increases in infections found in the population. Remember, 80% of those people are asymptomatic, meaning they didn’t even know they were infected, so at least and 80% survival rate. This increase in infection rate will also give more data to calculate the death rate, or mortality rate, for the virus. Rising number of infections with level, or dropping, deaths means the virus is much less deadly than the media is portraying. The belief in asymptomatic transmission has already been attacked as wishful thinking and the mandate for masks are being called into question as well.
      Bottom line; What about Texas? Is it just a straw man for more lock down to deflect criticism from the governors that mandated the elderly, with the infection, were to be admitted into hospice facilities? I think that is a much better question and more worthy of debate.

  • Has anyone noticed that all of the dire articles touting the uptick in cases neglects to discuss the continuous reduction in deaths and the fact that we are now testing 3 times the number of people per day than we were testing in mid April? To make matters worse none of these articles have comment sections where this can be pointed out. If all you listen to, read, or watch is CNN, MSNBC etc. you would never know that the average daily death rate is at about one third of what it was a month ago.

    This is so deceitful it makes me furious.

  • The Cash Cow of COVID19

    Some facts:

    Follow the money and you will find the truth behind Coronavirus spike in numbers!

    HHS is distributing $22 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act’s provider relief fund to rural hospitals and those that treated large numbers of COVID-19 patients. 
    HHS announced May 1 that it is sending $12 billion to 395 hospitals that provided inpatient care for 100 or more COVID-19 patients through April 10. The agency is also disbursing $10 billion to hospitals, clinics and health centers in rural areas. 
    Below is a breakdown of how much funding hospitals in each state received from the latest slice of COVID-19 aid.
    Alabama 
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 5 hospitals received $70.1 million
    Rural provider payments: 175 providers received $191.4 million 
    Alaska
    Rural provider payments: 208 providers received $68.9 million 
    Arizona 
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $23.2 million 
    Rural provider payments: 84 providers received $83 million 
    Arkansas
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $8.9 million 
    Rural provider payments: 198 providers received $205.5 million 
    California
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 13 hospitals received $231.6 million 
    Rural provider payments: 369 providers received $311.6 million 
    Colorado
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 5 hospitals received $99.5 million 
    Rural provider payments: 135 providers received $188.6 million 
    Connecticut
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 12 hospitals received $290.7 million 
    Rural provider payments: 16 providers received $16.2 million 
    Delaware
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $32.3 million
    Rural provider payments: 6 providers received $17.8 million 
    District of Columbia
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $44 million 
    Florida
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 15 hospitals received $286.3 million 
    Rural provider payments: 200 providers received $108.9 million 
    Georgia
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 18 hospitals received $377.2 million 
    Rural provider payments: 240 providers received $328.1 million 
    Hawaii
    Rural provider payments: 56 providers received $58.2 million 
    Idaho
    Rural provider payments: 92 providers received $122.8 million 
    Illinois
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 33 hospitals received $694.3 million 
    Rural provider payments: 228 providers received $352.2 million 
    Indiana
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 12 hospitals received $240.5 million 
    Rural provider payments: 140 providers received $249.3 million 
    Iowa
    Rural provider payments: 177 providers received $383.3 million 
    Kansas
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $18.3 million 
    Rural provider payments: 201 providers received $382.4 million 
    Kentucky
    Rural provider payments: 542 providers received $372.3 million 
    Louisiana
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 15 hospitals received $399.9 million 
    Rural provider payments: 218 providers received $223.9 million 
    Maine
    Rural provider payments: 121 providers received $131.5 million 
    Maryland
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 10 hospitals received $101.1 million 
    Rural provider payments: 37 providers received $25.4 million 
    Massachusetts
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 22 hospitals received $494.7 million 
    Rural provider payments: 22 providers received $24 million 
    Michigan 
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 30 hospitals received $900.1 million 
    Rural provider payments: 249 providers received $326.2 million 
    Minnesota
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 3 hospitals received $49.5 million 
    Rural provider payments: 118 providers received $384.6 million 
    Mississippi
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $15.4 million 
    Rural provider payments: 282 providers received $316.9 million 
    Missouri
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 5 hospitals received $82.7 million 
    Rural provider payments: 347 providers received $296.2 million 
    Montana
    Rural provider payments: 121 providers received $199.5 million 
    Nebraska
    Rural provider payments: 109 providers received $272.2 million 
    Nevada
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $18.8 million 
    Rural provider payments: 21 providers received $51.5 million 
    New Hampshire 
    Rural provider payments: 40 providers received $115.4 million 
    New Jersey
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 53 hospitals received $1.7 billion 
    Rural provider payments: 12 providers received $8.1 million 
    New Mexico
    Rural provider payments: 160 providers received $114.2 million 
    New York 
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 90 hospitals received $5 billion 
    Rural provider payments: 155 providers received $264.2 million 
    North Carolina
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 4 hospitals received $79 million 
    Rural provider payments: 254 providers received $282.6 million 
    North Dakota
    Rural provider payments: 59 providers received $135.2 million 
    Ohio
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 4 hospitals received $56 million 
    Rural provider payments: 216 providers received $369 million 
    Oklahoma
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $35.8 million 
    Rural provider payments: 163 providers received $281.8 million 
    Oregon
    Rural provider payments: 165 providers received $172.1 million 
    Pennsylvania
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 17 hospitals received $323.6 million 
    Rural provider payments: 156 providers received $231.1 million 
    Rhode Island
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 1 hospital received $19.8 million 
    South Carolina
    Rural provider payments: 180 providers received $140.7 million 
    South Dakota
    Rural provider payments: 90 providers received $167.2 million 
    Tennessee
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $35.4 million 
    Rural provider payments: 289 providers received $240 million 
    Texas
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $27.4 million 
    Rural provider payments: 393 providers received $634.4 million 
    Utah
    Rural provider payments: 56 providers received $82.9 million 
    Vermont
    Rural provider payments: 80 providers received $74.6 million 
    Virginia
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 4 hospitals received $75 million 
    Rural provider payments: 105 providers received $134.4 million 
    Washington
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 7 hospitals received $102.5 million 
    Rural provider payments: 151 providers received $199.5 million 
    West Virginia
    Rural provider payments: 283 providers received $159.6 million 
    Wisconsin
    COVID-19 high impact payments: 2 hospitals received $32.1 million 
    Rural provider payments: 170 providers received $363.5 million 
    Wyoming

    Rural provider payments: 43 providers received $99.4 million 
    More articles on healthcare finance:
    US hospitals losing $1.4B in revenue per day
    HHS doling out $22B to COVID-19 hotspots, rural hospitals
    Physicians urge CMS to restart Advance Payment Program

  • The amount of infections is immaterial. Every single person carries corona virus around in their sinuses. So what? If you are asymptomatic it means your immune system reacted so quickly that the viruses were disabled before they could infect many cells. The more testing the greater the number of infected will be revealed. Again, so what? That’s a good thing. It means focus all your resources on protecting the elderly and infirm and let the rest of us go on about our lives.

  • How many [ Covid ] deaths being reported today are still not Covid deaths. NY needs the
    marathon. Quit the hype media. You will pay for it.

  • So, OK everybody–les get this virus over with. As long as it’s out there, the power hogs are going to misrepresent every case that comes up. Maybe it’s political and you are making a stand for freedom by not wearing a mask and going aabout life as usual. But the virus lives on, is creating havoc,, and it’s going to deliver the Democrats a victory if we don’t beat it. Please, everybody, just wear your mask properly and keep your distance. It’s just for a little while and it’s not that hard. And it could help us to beat this virus before it beats us.

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars a going to each State for COVID19 if they can show the numbers.

    The dragging out of the COVID 19 flu doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out.

    First, our government gets control of States by huge amount of cash. That states are losing millions of dollars because everything has been shut down for weeks.

    Hospital after hospitals are shutting down because they could not do business as normal during the shut down. The governors of the states; it doesn’t matter Republican and/or Democrat are trying to survive in a budget crises.

    Hospitals are complaining, business are complaining, people are complaining to the politician’s right? But how can the governors get their hands on government money. Well, lets see, how about dragging this out while the government gives everyone more money, but if it all sudden that stops they have a really big mess because it might take 10-years to recover, who knows at this point, right?

    The news media is complicit they already hate Trump their looking for anything to keep the ciaos going. Moreover, the chance to make red states look bad by getting them to go back into a slow down for government money is a weakness they can exploit. What politician won’t sell their soul for free funding they all want some of the cash cow to get re-elected.

    Perhaps, the reason the politician are so quiet over all the violence and take over by blacks lives matter is its hooked to the government money they need for their state, ya think so?

    So the tight rob has been strung and its very small, the sheep people went for it once before so the politicians will take both side of the issue and ignore the destruction of our history of their state until they get all the funding they can get than they will start telling the truth and talking tough to get re-elected.

    Follow the money!

    State and local governments on the ropes by Rex Nutting

    The most immediate concern is the huge decline in state and local governments’ tax receipts, especially sales and hotel taxes. Current estimates suggest state government’s receipts for the upcoming fiscal year may be down by 10% to 20%, or about $500 billion, with local governments down an equal amount.

    The fiscal year for most states starts next week, and without massive support from Congress, most will be cutting services and employment severely. Already, 1.57 million state and local government workers have lost their jobs.
    “It can really weigh on the economy if the states are in tight financial straits,” said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, at a congressional hearing last week. Already, states and local governments are cutting back on their infrastructure spending and other services.

  • Remember when the media would report both the number of new cases as well as the number of deaths? Seems to me that now it is only the former and not the both.

  • Data quality, data quality, data quality. When there is no consistent method of counting there cannot be consistent data quality.

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