COVID 19: Putting the Data In Perspective

Recently we hear that the incidence of COVID 19 has been increasing. The question is whether this incidence is simply the number of positive tests that are being performed, or is it the incidence of the actual infection? The CDC follows many parameters of the COVID 19 pandemic. After looking at their graphs and others, it becomes quite apparent what is happening, which gives you an idea of what you should do.

Incidence of COVIT 19 or Number of Tests Performed

The graph below is the incidence of COVID 19 since March, which is the number of tests performed noted in the bar graph. It’s obvious that the number of tests is definitely rising. The line graph represents the number of tests that are positive for COVID 19. Obviously, we are doing more testing, but the number of positive tests has markedly decreased. One can assume that most of the tests performed were done on people who were symptomatic, since most people don’t like a swab up their nose. Thus, even though symptoms may have been there, obviously most are now showing that they do not have COVID 19 and can rest assured for the symptoms may have been due to other problems

There are Fewer Patients with Symptoms

Here is the incidence of people seeing physicians with symptoms of potential viral infections of which both the flu and/or the corona virus can cause. The graph obviously shows that during the initial few months of the pandemic a large number of patients saw physicians for symptoms of viral illness, including COVID 19. However, there has been a significant drop off in people having symptoms of viral infections over the last few months no matter what age group. In other words, there are much less people getting “sick”.

Death Rates from COVID 19 are Declining

The next graph is the deaths from COVID-19. Obviously there has been a significant decline in deaths from COVIT 19 and other flu viruses since the beginning of the pandemic in March. This is especially important because the biggest fear of COVID 19 for most people is a fear that they will die of the disease. Obviously, from this graph, the risk of dying, even if you get COVID 19, is exceedingly low. In Texas, mortality rates are at around 1.2% overall, including symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. In comparison, death from the flu is about the same, around 1%.

The following graph illustrates this even further, showing new deaths per day since the end of April.[1] Once again, it is obvious, daily fatalities have been decreasing. Note that at the beginning of June (marked B on the graph), the CDC started a new rule requiring that “probable cases” be added to the total incidence rates. In other words, if a test is positive, they add more cases to this a potential spread of the virus that would be those people who would “probably” acquire the virus from a COVID 19 positive person. Even these added cases did not stop the downward slope of deaths.


Fatalities Occur Mostly in Those Persons with Comorbidities

The next graph illustrates that 90% to 95% of the hospitalizations and deaths from COVID 19 tend to occur in those people who have comorbidities. In other words, they are not healthy. The biggest comorbidities are obesity, hypertension, COPD, diabetes (metabolic disease), and heart disease.

Put these Graphs all Together.

To put all this information together, we can say that although the incidence or number of positive tests performed is increasing rapidly, the number of people seeing their physician for complaints of viral illnesses have markedly decreased and appear to be staying very low. One can assume, therefore, that a high percentage of the positive cases for COVID 19 therefore have very minimal to no symptoms, and do not cause harm.

In addition, although the incidence (or positive tests) appears to be increasing, the fatality rate is dropping significantly. It is important to realize this lowered fatality rate when it comes to doing your normal routine and with respect to the chance of you getting COVID 19. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide the risks you want to take.

Finally, the hospitalizations and fatal outcomes from COVID 19 are primarily in those with comorbidities. A healthy person rarely has these outcomes. If you want to reduce your risk of getting severe COVID 19, you need to decrease your risk of these comorbidities listed in the last graph: lose any excess weight, stop smoking, and get as fit as you can. Doing so will decrease hypertension, heart disease and diabetes problems that are due to being overweight and/or smoking.  If you are healthy, do everything you can to stay healthy, including maintaining a normal weight, exercise and do not smoke. It is relatively rare that a healthy person under the age of 65 will have fatal COVID 19.

Another way to look at this is to use an analogy. You drive a car, either to work or play or both. You know that driving a car increases your risk of death from an accident that was not your fault; yet you accept that risk and continue driving your car. You also know that this risk is very low, so you are careful, you do all the actions you can do to prevent an accident, and you decide to proceed with driving your car. And most of the time, everything goes fine, so you feel fine continuing to drive your car.

The same thought process occurs with COVID 19. There will never be a totally “safe” environment for any of us; there is always a risk of having a problem or dying no matter what we do. Whether it is going to work or sending our kids to school, there is always some type of risk. The benefits of doing these things versus the risks, or in this case, the chance of you getting a severe form of COVID 19 need to be weighed. If the benefits outweigh the risks, and from the graphs it would appear that the large majority of us would have exceptionally low risk, while the economic and lifestyle benefits would be remarkably high.

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