MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned the COVID-19 corner?

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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Cutting to the chase, I’ve concluded that the most reliable number being reported is the number of COVID-19 related “Daily New Deaths”.

According to Worldometers – the best data aggregation site that I’ve found so far – there have been almost 100,000 COVID-19  related deaths in the U.S. so far.

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Keep in mind that “COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and that, along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

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From an analytical perspective, the chart of total deaths will, by definition, never crest and turn down. It’s rate of growth will eventually slow down, though, but that’s hard to read that from a chart.

So, I think it’s more useful to look at “Daily New Deaths” …. if that number keeps going up then, by definition, we haven’t turned the corner.

When Daily New Deaths start trending down then, by definition, we have turned the corner.

Here’s our charting of what Worldometers has reported since the first coronavirus cases were identified.

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The dotted line is the 7-day moving average which smooths some of the day-to-day “noise” in the data.

Based on the 7-day moving average, it appears that the rate of growth of COVID-19 deaths trended downward since about April 21.

Bottom line: If you want to know if we’re starting to turn the corner, keep your eye on the number of COVID-19 related “Daily New Deaths”.

Choose the level of aggregation based on your specific interest … world, nation or state.

Note: I’ll be focusing on the U.S. national number … and the national number less the 3 state hot spots: NY, NJ, CT

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More specifically, why “Daily New Deaths”?

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Why have I centered on Daily New Deaths (DND)  as my key metric?

First,  saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, it should be our focus metric.

Second, I think that most other metrics that are being bandied about are quite problematic.

Counting deaths — while a bit macabre — is a more reliable process than counting, say, the number of infected people.

Sure, I’d like to know the number of people infected with COVID-19.

But, unless everybody — or at lest a large statistical sample — is tested, number of confirmed cases is subject to lots of statistical issues.

Most notably, who is being tested and who isn’t? What about the asymptomatic “hidden carriers”? What are the criteria for confirming a COVID infection? What about false positives (and false negatives)? How to standardize the reporting processes across states? How to keep governmental units from fudging the numbers?

Importantly, if testing increases, then confirmed cases goes up.

Is that an indication of more virus spread or just a reflection of more testing?

I sure can’t tell.

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Again, counting fatalities is probably the most reliable metric.

Fatalities are discrete events – so they’re countable.

Still, even deaths may have some counting imperfections.

For example, many non-hospitalized people die and are buried without autopsies.  Some may be uncounted COVID victims.

On the other hand, some people may die and be diagnosed with COVID infections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID killed them.  That’s especially true with COVID since it’s  most deadly for people with other health problems.

And, as we stated above, the definition of COVID deaths has changed:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and that, along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

Further, COVID deaths are a function of two drivers: the incidence of the virus … and, the nature, level and timing of therapeutic healthcare.

Said differently, more effective therapeutic healthcare will dampen the death toll.

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Why not focus on the death rate?

Simple: If you divide a reasonably reliable number (the number of deaths) by a wildly unreliable number (the number of confirmed cases), you get an unreliable number (deaths as a percentage of cases).

To try to standardize numbers across countries and states, we report deaths per capita — more specifically, deaths per million population

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Bottom line:  “Daily New Deaths” is the number we should be watching.

If it stays stable or shows a consistent downward trend, then we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

 

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