How do we know we are getting the right numbers to make informed decisions?

I have been reviewing the coronavirus death statistics over the past couple of days. I am hearing the terms deaths ‘due to coronavirus’ and ‘deaths with coronavirus.’ That bothers me a bit to lump in a person who dies of pneumonia or heart attack as a coronavirus death. Are the real numbers reported for coronavirus deaths accurate and meaningful?

If a Medicare patient dies from pneumonia (for example) in the hospital, Medicare pays approximately $5,000. However, if they are lumped in with COVID-19 pneumonia, then the hospital gets $13,000. Furthermore, if the Medicare COVID-19 patient was on a ventilator at death, then the hospital gets $39,000.

I know that it costs money to treat patients. I have no problem with that. Like many things in our lives, it is the administration of things that sometimes comes under scrutiny. We want to see coronavirus deaths having been increased for either extra money for that death, or for the scare tactic to keep coronavirus in the headlines.

The hospitalization rate in the United States is 4.6 patients per 100,000 in population. Those patients over 65 years of age are hospitalized at a rate of 13.8 per 100,000. The next segment down (50-64 years of age) is 7.4 per 100,000. We know that this virus attacks the elderly with a vengeance.

In the first four months of 2020 (not quite on the last day of April, but remarkably close), the overall statistics show the following. The 85 years of age and older group has 6,500,000 (note: I rounded numbers to keep it easy to read) members in the United States. 10,300 (0.16%) have died from COVID-19. However, deaths from all causes are 222,000 (3.3%). Deaths due to pneumonia only are 20,000 (0.3%) and deaths due to pneumonia and COVID-19 are 4,600 (0.07%). Influenza deaths in this grouping are 1,200 (0.018%).

This data comes from
I also noted that this data represents the totals when a grand total of 33,500 COVID-19 deaths were reported. We are approaching nearly 60,000 at the last look I had today. There is a lag in the data and the analysis of that data. Even with that, there is something not quite right. We have been told to expect 8-15% death rates for those over 80 years of age due to COVID-19. Yet, the percentage of 85+ and older represent 30.7% of the total COVID-19 deaths and 2% of the population (327,000,000 estimated).

I could go into the exact same analysis for the other age groups and the percentages would be less than the grouping above for 85+ years of age because the overall population totals are so much greater and the actual number of deaths in the other groups are less. For example, the 75-84-year-old age group has a US population of 15,400,000 and COVID-19 deaths of 9,100. The 65-74-year-old age group has a US population of 30,500,000 with 7,200 COVID-19 deaths.

The notes accompanying this data detail the following. There is a lag time from a reported death and cause and the death certificate is received by NCHS and processed. They report the delays can be from one to eight weeks.

They do state that the pneumonia death counts exclude pneumonia involving influenza. The death counts for influenza do include both pneumonia and COV-19 which seems a bit more confusing since those death totals are so small compared to the rest of the data. The estimates of US population are extrapolations based on the 2018 postcensal estimate of the U. S. Census Bureau.

From what I am seeing, the percentages of older people are still very susceptible to coronavirus. They should be protected, especially those with pre-existing conditions. If the 85-plus-year-old-age group is the most vulnerable in terms of coronavirus and age in general, we are seeing nearly normal death rates attributed to influenza in previous years.

Yes, the is a great difference between seasonal influenza and COVID-19 in terms of hazards to our health, but the numbers just are not adding up based on the CDC’s data. I will continue to track
In closing, we see a huge percentage of COVID-19 death (30.7%) in the COVID-19 death counts only. The 75-84 age group has 27% of the COVID-19 deaths. 22% of the total COVID-19 deaths come from the 65-74-year-old-age group. Approximately 80% of all deaths from COVID-19 come from those over the age of 65 years of age.

Within the COVID-19 death realm, age is an indicator of risk. Pre-existing conditions exacerbate that risk. We have seen recent headlines (Stanford University and the University of Southern California) about the real number of new cases being under-reported. Real cases of COVID-19 are most like to be 55 to 85 times the number of currently reported real cases of COVID-19.

These people do not have symptoms and aren’t being tested but have or have had the virus. Multiplying the ‘new cases’ of coronavirus by 55 to 85 times will make the numbers we see become nearly insignificant.

Is COVID-19 as deadly as we think it is for the general population? I do not know and do not want to speculate. There is a wealth of data in the reported deaths by cause and age segment and we are not hearing about these distinctions, nor are we hearing about the successful recoveries from those who suffered through it with some terrible symptoms.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –

9 Responses

  1. Thanks, Red, for this data. I have felt the reports we are getting are skewed numbers. Statistics as we know can be manipulated to show what the presenter wants them to show.

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