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Health Politics Science

CDC provides some good news about COVID-19

American Wire
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Amid the fog of the national media’s unrelenting efforts to promote bad news about COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its fatality rates with some positive results.

The new numbers are encouraging in bolstering the case for reopening the economy, as President Donald Trump and some Republican governors are doing.

A CDC report released May 22 revealed that its newly revised figures estimate 0.4% of people who show coronavirus symptoms will die from the disease. That translates to four of every 1,000 people. 

Yet the health agency also estimates that 35% of people with COVID-19 never show symptoms. Once they are factored into the mix, the overall fatality rate drops to 0.26%.

The CDC’s breakdown by age groups is even more dramatic. For people under 50, the overall fatality rate among those showing symptoms plunges by nearly 90%, to just 0.05%. For folks between 50 and 64, it rises but still remains relatively low, to 0.2%. People 65 and over remain most vulnerable, with a death rate of 1.3% — which highlights the need to continue protecting the elderly and keeping intense attention on nursing homes.

To its credit, CNN stood out among the major media as being willing to report the positive trend. But the cable network was quick to ladle in doomsaying. Its article quoted Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, who argued the new ratios “shaded far too low” and were “deeply problematic.” 

“As I see it, the ‘best estimate’ is extremely optimistic, and the ‘worst case’ scenario is fairly optimistic even as a best estimate. One certainly wants to consider worse scenarios,” Bergstrom told CNN of CDC’s numbers.  

Yet he cited the death rate in New York City as evidence that the CDC’s projections were overly optimistic. 

But we should probably look at New York, where conditions were ripe for tragic results and where the approach to coronavirus was terribly mismanaged, especially in nursing homes, as the outlier rather than the foundation. 

Exclude New York, and America has one of the lowest death tolls in the world, on a per capita basis.

Jacob Sullum, a columnist with Reason magazine, noted, “Those (CDC) numbers imply that the virus kills less than 0.3 percent of people infected by it — far lower than the infection fatality rates (IFRs) assumed by the alarming projections that drove the initial government response to the epidemic, including broad business closure and stay-at-home orders.” 

He further noted that the CDC two months ago was projecting a death rate that would kill 1.7 million Americans — a far cry from nearly 100,000 who have succumbed to the virus. That current, actual total is admittedly tragic and awful, but still far better than the worst-case scenario U.S. health officials were bracing for at the beginning of the outbreak.

One has to add the caveat that the numbers may change and worsen, although they seem to have accounted for the peak of the illness. Still, the CDC’s new data — since we’re told ad nauseam to adhere to science and data — suggest that the country can, and must, continue moving forward with prudent, measured reopening steps.  

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