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

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
This is a relevant excerpt from a long ago prior post (May 2020)

From the begining of the Covid pandemic, I’ve focused on Daily New Deaths (DND) as my key metric.

Why is that?

First, saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, caused fatalities 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 least a large statistical sample — is tested, the number of confirmed cases is subject to disqualifying 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 … and, I doubt that anybody else can with any degree of reliability.


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 over the course of the pandemic:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and , 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.


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

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

If it stays stable (at a high level) or turns upward, we’ll know that we’re in deep yogurt.


Next up: So, how are we doing?

One Response to “MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?”

  1. gtstartup Says:

    You are right on infections not being a good indicator of current state, especially since it is a function of testing. Counting new deaths might be a decent indicators but is flawed in its own way. I would think Covid is non-issue if its stopping hogging up hospitals/ ICU capacity, and if it reaches a point where covid is comparable to other communicable diseases we are familiar with such as Flu. This accounts for the not-so-edge-case scenario of covid deaths falling but coming at an expense of quality of life issues as well as loss of access to essential medical help resulting in additional non-covid related deaths.

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