A letter published in the Coronado Journal last week (“Figures Don’t Lie”), notoriously abundant in political overtones, attempts to minimize the health impact of COVID-19 in U.S. by two arguments: the estimated total mortality for 2020 in US (although data is still incomplete) will be less than in the previous years and the mortality risk of death by the COVID-19 in the total U.S. population (331 million) is only 0.007%, “ a ridiculous low chance” of dying by the virus as the writer of the letter states.
With respect to the first argument, indeed at least since 1900 (and likely since much earlier), there is a steady decline in mortality and a progressive increase in the life expectancy in the US.
These changes have become more prominent in the last 70 years after important advancements have occurred in the management of heart disease and cancer, the major causes of death in U.S.
According to data from the CDC National Center of Health Statistics the mortality rate has decreased close to 25% in the period 2000-2018 (from approximately 1,200/100,000 to 900/100,000), decline that expectedly may show variations in any given year beyond the otherwise steady trend of changes. The CDC has not yet released definitive data for 2020 COVID-19 mortality, but if even it doesn’t reach beyond 250,000 victims its share of the global expected mortality in the U.S. population (2,850,000) will be close to 10%, mostly concentrated in those over age 60. If the 2020 global mortality in U.S. is less than in previous years it would be just in line with the general declining trend we have been observing for years in the major causes of death in U.S.
Regarding the second argument, that the COVID-19 mortality is only 0.007% in the US population, or “ a ridiculous low chance that you could die from this virus,” is one of the often proclaimed absurd arguments to disqualify all the measures that so far have proven to be effective in stopping the spread of the virus (social distancing, facial covering, testing). Similarly, if somebody wants to disqualify the importance of not smoking, exercising, healthy diet to prevent mortality by heart disease and stroke just divide their annual mortality by the U.S. population and voila! you get also another “ridiculous low risk” of mortality: 0.002%!
The reality is that for this year the mortality by COVID-19 will be close to 10% of the U.S. total mortality and the mortality by Heart Disease and Stroke near 40% of the total US deaths. These figures are not laughable matters. The risk of these deadly health threats can be effectively reduced by using well proven effective preventive measures that shouldn’t be interfered by political postures