Joe Biden promises that if voters choose him this fall over President Donald Trump, he will take care of the coronavirus for us. He might be a bit late, though. It’s looking more and more as if the crisis is behind us.
If elected, Biden swears he “won’t wait to take action on COVID-19.”
“Minutes after the race is called, I’ll call Dr. Fauci and ask him to stay on,” he (one of his handlers, most likely) tweeted Saturday.
“During my transition, I’ll bring together experts and leaders from both parties to chart a path forward.”
Give him the White House, and “we will overcome this, together.”
It’s nothing more than an effort to stir the pot and keep the panic as close to a rolling boil as possible. Because even Biden and his aides can read simple tables, and what they’re telling us isn’t good for Democratic Party politics.
The most recent numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control for the week ending Sept. 19 show that total deaths reached only 58% of deaths expected for that week. We’ll pass over the Sept. 26 data, which shows total deaths at 13% of expected deaths, because delays in death counts skew the totals. For the same reason, the 58% figure is likely not reliable in regard to the baseline.
However, the trend is moving in the right direction. The death total was 85% of expected deaths for Sept. 12, 98% the week before that, down from 106% at the end of August.
Why use the difference between total deaths and expected deaths? Because, as we’ve pointed out before, there’s no better method for gauging the severity of an outbreak of disease than counting excess deaths.
While the excess deaths benchmark indicates that COVID-19 is losing strength, it was lethal over the spring and summer months. Total deaths exceeded expected deaths by as much as 142% during the worst weeks of April. About two-thirds of the excess deaths were caused by the virus.
But seeing those numbers in context with current numbers, and plotting a trend over the next few weeks, it appears many of the fatalities were premature losses of life by a few months or weeks among the most vulnerable. Simply put, people were dying a bit sooner than they otherwise would have. Their mortality was slightly accelerated by COVID-19.
Don’t misunderstand. We are not minimizing the tragedy of these deaths. Whether they happened in April due to the virus, or six months later with no virus, they are still heartbreaking. What we are trying to do is bring a little light to the conversation as we try to comprehend ourselves what the numbers are telling us.
None of this is to say that COVID-19 is no longer deadly. It is. For the week ending Sept. 5, there were 3,816 deaths “involving COVID-19.” Yet a week later, the death toll fell to 2,647, then to 1,045 for the week ending Sept. 19.
While the numbers are encouraging they are only part of the story. So let’s give them greater context by comparing deaths “involving” pneumonia and influenza but not COVID-19:
- Sept. 5: 2,249
- Sept 12: 1,984
- Sept. 19: 1,321
This means by the middle of the month, pneumonia and flu deaths combined had exceeded COVID-19 deaths by nearly 300.
As we have before, we acknowledge that we can’t know for sure what will happen when cold and flu season arrives. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the daily death total increase, but we don’t anticipate a sharp spike in mortality, even if there’s a surge in infections. It appears the virus has taken most of the easy targets, those with comorbidities and the elderly, and is no longer as deadly as it has been. Improved treatment should also keep fatalities low.
Should he be elected and the trend continues as we expect it will, Biden will of course take credit for “overcoming” the virus, even if his promised response has zero impact – which it likely will. But don’t count on him to lead a campaign to return to normal. Democrats have a strong appetite for controlling others’ lives and the pandemic provided them the means to do just that indefinitely.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board