Coronavirus deaths spiking … or, are they?

The liberal media has been downright giddy this week, trumpeting an AP headline:

image

The source of the gidddyness: An uptick in the number of daily new reported deaths … the 7-day average of daily new deaths troughed at 517 on July 6 … since then,  the 7-day M.A. has increased to 757 … or, as the press likes to say: “increased a catastrophic 50%”

image

Those are the numbers … and, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the huge spike in sun belt cases is finally working it’s way through the system … catapulting the death rate upward. Right?

Well, maybe.

But let’s add some perspective to the numbers…

==============

The WSJ started publishing a chart that puts the cases-to-deaths relationship in a longer-term perspective.

image
WSJ

The 2 dominant trends: (1) the sharp decline in the death rate from its peak in mid-April until early July (2) the dramatic increase in case counts since mid-June.

The death rate gets murkier heading into July.

Drilling down…

The camel hump near the end of the deaths’ line (labeled “A” above) doesn’t reflect new daily deaths.

Some states revised their counting rules for covid deaths, added about 2,000 to their cumulative death counts.

These definitionally modified deaths were “booked” in a lump sum on June 23.

Bottom line: Just pretend that the hump isn’t there.

==============

Again, a  theory of the case is that deaths lag cases by a couple of weeks (see “B” on the chart) … and, we should start to see an upturn in daily new deaths.

In fact, the death rate did turn northward post-July 4th weekend.

The question: Are this week’s numbers just a statistical blip from the timing of reported deaths … and the law of small numbers?

Or, is it that deaths are predictably lagging cases and hospitalizations … and that a huge deaths’ spike is coming.

The worst case scenario is depicted by line “C” above … that the deaths’ curve will start to parallel the cases’ curve.

My view: That’s unlikely … it’s more likely that  the cases-to-death relationship has been broken due to:

  • A substantial demographic mix change in the new cases … fewer “vulnerables” (many of whom died in the initial viral wave) …  more “near-invincibles” (younger people with milder symptoms and with much, much lower death rates.)
  • Increased therapeutic efficiency and efficacy in the treatment of hospitalized patients. (e.g. better early stage pharma interventions, less reliance on often problematic ventilation)

If that’s true, then the death curve may slope upward, but way less steeply than the cases’ curve.

My bet: daily new deaths will hover around 1,000 (zone “E” above) until the cases curve turns down.

Keep in mind: Daily new deaths peaked around 2,500 when NY-NJ-CT were the hottest of hot spots … and, seasonal flu racks up about 250 deaths per day during the flu season.

We’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

One Response to “Coronavirus deaths spiking … or, are they?”

  1. Dixie Catlett Says:

    One change I’d suggest in your analysis …
    Where testing is more available earlier in the disease cycle, like in California, hospitalizations lag behind case identification by 1-2 weeks. Deaths currently lag diagnosis by 3-4 weeks (or even a couple weeks longer, thanks to both better treatments prolonging life and to long-term ventilator use delaying the move from hospital to hospice for some hopeless cases).

    We don’t have hard numbers yet, but it is becoming apparent that many younger patients who are sick enough to reach the ICU care stage, have severe organ damage or possible brain injury, even after being deemed “recovered from the virus”. Therefore, there is a risk of understating the severity of the second surge if we focus only on “daily new deaths.”. In the early NY-NJ-CT surge, 80% of ICU-level COVID patients were 70+ and much of the community spread was among older, captive populations in nursing homes, so these patients were more likely to die rather than survive with serious complications. The July surges are very different demographics, with more entire young families infected and 40- to 50-year-old parents increasingly crowding the ICUs. Athough they may initially survive, these survivors may long suffer chronic conditions resulting from this second surge, and those patients may die of their COVID-induced complications, but much later. At the very least, their lives will be altered.

Leave a Reply to Dixie Catlett Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s