One of the hottest debates in medical circles these days is about the real death rate from COVID-19 infections.
You would think this would be a simple calculation, right?: List everyone who dies from COVID-19 and compare that to the number of people who are infected with this coronavirus, and presto, you have a death rate.
Only problems are these: 1) We have no idea how accurate the determination of death is in many cases – was that old person who was never tested yet who died of a pneumonia a victim of coronavirus or not? Or was that heart attack victim infected with coronavirus, and did that infection produce his terminal heart attack Even the doctors of those people can’t be sure.
And 2) we certainly have no idea how many people in the community at large are infected yet have no idea about their infection.
In other words, in this seemingly simple calculation, both the numerators and denominators are unknown to a great extent. so what researchers often do is use other data sets that might help them make sense of this, such as, for example, the total number of deaths in a community (Italy, for example) during the worst months of the pandemic compared to the deaht rate in that same community when this novel coronavirus had not yet emerged.
Hence, the statistical struggle over what’s really happening out there.
On the one hand, some groups have argued that the death rate from COVID-19 is pretty low, not that much higher, some estimate, than the toll a pretty bad flu season would take.
On the other hand, a study from American researchers in California claims that coming down with a coronavirus infection will – and this is show-stopping – double your odds of dying that year.
And this is true, they say, for all age groups, so that even a 40- and 50-year old has twice as high a risk of dying during the year if they get infected than would have had had they stayed infection-free.
Don’t know about you, but I sure hope the first guys are right.