Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing?

That’s a question that a couple of readers have asked, so…
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Daily, we’ve been posting a graph showing the Case Fatality Rate (CFR%): the ratio of COVID deaths to Confirmed COVID cases.

That number has been increasing … and, is now at 2.9%.

image

So, what’s going on??

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Let’s zoom in on the on the boxed part of the graph — the period from the beginning of November (when the CFR% turned upwards) and now.

We’ve indexed the 2 CFR component series — confirmed cases (the yellow line) and deaths (the red line) — back to their early November levels … which, conveniently for mental arithmetic, were roughly 1,000 deaths and 100,000 confirmed cases per day … a CFR% of about 1%

image

Note that both confirmed cases  and deaths appear to have peaked in mid-January.

Confirmed cases roughly doubled from early November to the mid- January peak (2.25 times to be more precise).

But, daily new deaths roughly tripled over the same period (3.33 times to be more precise).

Doing the arithmetic, the CFR% went from roughly 1% in early November to 1.5% in mid-January … a 50% increase in the rate.

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Mid-January is when things got really interesting.

For the past month (mid-January to now), daily new deaths have apparently plateaued at around 3,000 deaths per day.

Confirmed cases, though, have steadily (and significantly) declined … from over 200,000 per day in mid-January to under 100,000 recently.

Again, doing the arithmetic, the CFR% roughly doubled from mid-January to mid-February  … from 1.5% to almost 3%.

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So, the simple arithmetic answer to the question: The CFR% is going up because daily deaths have plateaued (i.e. stabilized at their peak level) … while confirmed cases have fallen sharply.

OK, that numerically characterizes the situation, but begs the real question:

What the hell is going on?

More specifically…

> Why did daily deaths and confirmed cases increase so much from early-November to mid-January?

Dr. Fauci — our Chief Political Scientist — simply chalks the increases up to people ignoring the masking, distancing and travel rules during the holiday season.

> Why has the number of confirmed cases dropped so sharply since mid-January?

There are conspiracy theories on both the left and the right.

Some on the left hypothesize that red states are testing fewer people (and, thus, getting fewer confirmed cases) to justify re-opening businesses and schools.

Some on the right theorize that testing diagnosis standards are being tightened (i.e. fewer amplification cycles allowed to confirm the presence of the virus) to demonstrate a “Biden miracle” that’s already crushing COVID.

I haven’t seen any credible evidence to support either of these two hypotheses.

> Why isn’t the number of daily deaths dropping commensurate with the declining case counts?

The easy “brush off” answer is that there’s a lag between cases being confirmed and deaths … and the death count will soon start declining, too.

My hunch: There’s more to the story. 

Perhaps, more of the confirmed cases are consequentially severe (i.e. not just minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic).

If true, that’s a potentially a very big deal.

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Bottom line:

So, “Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing?”

Regrettably, my answer boils down to “I don’t know” …  but, I’m working on it.

Any helpful hints?

7 Responses to “Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing?”

  1. Feb.13: COVID Tracking Stats | The Homa Files Says:

    […] News & Views on Marketing, Economics & Politics « Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing? […]

  2. Feb. 14: COVID Tracking Stats | The Homa Files Says:

    […]     See Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing? […]

  3. Feb. 15: COVID Tracking Stats | The Homa Files Says:

    […]     See Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing? […]

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    […]     See Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing? […]

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    […]     See Why is the Case Fatality Rate increasing? […]

  7. Why are COVID deaths continuing at a high level? | The Homa Files Says:

    […] a prior post, I took a stab at the […]

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