Today I have received a great deal of concern that the pandemic is not improving, especially in the US. The reasons for this are, in part, due to confusing and contradictory dialogues in the news. Some also have used graphics showing total death numbers to suggest the US is doing worse than the rest of the world, not pointing out that we will have more total deaths because we are a larger country! However, all signs are that the pandemic is waning, especially in some of the hardest hit areas of the United States. Also, when looking at deaths per capita, the US is doing better than many countries with similar weather and population densities.
The number of people who are testing positive for the virus in US areas most affected by COVID-19 is starting to decrease and the number of individuals seeking medical care has also dropped. Concerns have been raised, however, that the death rate does not seem to be dropping. The graph of daily deaths shown below indicates that total deaths continue to rise. Remarkably, as compared to what you hear in the news, the increase in new deaths (slope of the curve as defined by the arrow) is less in the US than the world as a whole.
In the above figure, the daily deaths in the United States do appearcontinue to increase. But death rates per million inhabitants tells another story. US death rates are stabilizing and are actually flattening at lower levels than most European countries. In fact, the United States will never reach the death rates per capita that were seen in Europe. Social distancing is one reason for that.
One of the things that may be most confusing is that the death rates have leveled off but don’t appear to be dropping as quickly as COVID-19 infections. This is because the death rate lags behind infection rate. The reason for this is clear; one is first exposed to the virus, five days later you develop symptoms and then sometime after that suffer a more serious illness that can lead to death. So the death statistics are inherently a couple of weeks behind infection markers in a pandemic.
I expect that in the next week deaths will decline, reflecting current declines in new illness and hospitalizations. This is really good news.