Can the Covid-19 numbers be trusted?

There’s a lot of debate in this forum about whether the positive case and fatality numbers from Covid-19 can be trusted. I think this should be explored further.

I believe looking at excess deaths is a good place to start. In the US, the excess death number for 2020 almost exactly matches what is being reported as the number of deaths from coronavirus.

“When you look at the number of excess deaths this year in comparison with previous years, it’s staggering,” Dr. William Hanage, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health told Live Science. That’s an estimated 228,200 additional deaths in the United States, according to the Weinberger Lab at the University of California, San Francisco. Hanage noted that many of the people who have died so far had nonfatal diseases and would not have perished but for contracting the new coronavirus as well. For instance, someone with diabetes or high-blood pressure might have lived decades longer if they had not contracted COVID-19.


What’s more, the fact that those with comorbidities are likelier to die of COVID-19 is not exactly reassuring. A huge fraction of the U.S. population has conditions that increase COVID-19 severity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and even obesity. According to the CDC, nearly 40% of all U.S. adults age 20 and older are obese.


That’s insane. I think this is a wake up call for Americans. Being obese is going to kill you, it makes you very vulnerable to things that won’t kill a healthy person.

Over half of the medical costs in the US are related to being overweight. It’s not a surprise the virus is going wreck people in the US compared to Sweden. It seems about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease every year with that number rising.


More data that appears to the fact, at the very least, this is no hoax.

Edit: I have no idea what I intended to write above. “[a]ppears to show”?

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I know quite a few nurses in the US. All of them said their hospitals were reporting deaths as Covid-19 whenever possible because they got the most money then.

Next year the drop in excess mortality will be staggering.

The Economist this week had a lengthy article on Covid-19 numbers: how many have been infected and when, and so on. They dig enough into the statistics that it becomes convincing in an eyes-glazed-over sort of way: “Whew, they’ve done a lot of work on this, so I’m going to trust them even if I can’t quite put the energy into following it.” For total global cases so far, they record 30 million as confirmed, but estimate the total actual cases as 630 million, within a margin of error from 500 million to 730 million. And it says good things about Taiwan!

It’s vaguely promising in that they predict the number of daily new cases peaked back in May; one big surprise to me is that they think daily infections were already over a million per day back in January.

This will probably be paywalled, but I think it’s free if you register (a bunch of their Covid coverage is currently like that).

According to the CDC, 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. It’d be interesting to see if that number went down significantly due to COVID-19.

It’d be also interesting to see if other comorbidity death stats changed significantly from previous years.

A million deaths from 630 million cases.

Yeah, whatever.

Everyone on Facebook or Twitter seems to know someone who knows someone who’s got the real scoop about the novel coronavirus.

Too often, though, the stories on social media are half-truths, honest mistakes or lies. Some are spread by con artists or trolls, some by well-meaning people overwhelmed by all the information.

Fact-check: Are hospitals reporting all deaths as COVID-19 related?

No, they aren’t


Same article they state “the true death toll for the pandemic may be as high as 2m” (which doesn’t necessarily contradict your usual argument that it’s overblown).

In which case it will be a .003% death rate.

0.3%, unless I’m doing the math wrong?

But still, as I said, “doesn’t necessarily contradict your usual argument”.

EDIT: another interesting factoid from the article: “the risk of death from cover increases by about 13% for every year of age, which means a 65-year-old is 100 times more likely to die than a 25-year-old”.

@marasan, the article does go a lot into excess mortality as well.

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Two million divided by 630 million. Don’t worry, the WHO aren’t much better. It actually equals my prediction of 0.3% right at the start off the pandemic. I’ll see if I can find it.

Did you read your own links? You honestly think hospitals won’t take advantage of it, especially when they are losing money on elective surgeries and laying off doctors?

I’m not talking about something I’ve read on Facebook. My cousin is a leading nurse trainer in a big US state. People testing positive but dying for other reasons are still being counted.


It’s difficult to argue with overall mortality figures compared to previous averages. Covid-19 is definitely shortening the lifespan of many people. Almost certainly the current figure of 200,000 or so in the USA.

The vast majority of deaths have been elderly or sick people who would have died soon anyway, meaning that overall mortality next year will be a record low I predict.

The death rate is also a tenth of the WHO 3.6% scare figure.

That’s a scary percentage if you ask me. For example, let’s say herd immunity is real, a vaccine not coming soon, and many in a population are against vaccination anyway (I know, lots of assumptions here but nothing too outlandish), then the death rate in the US before this is all over will be 480,000 (I’m assuming herd immunity, again if real, is achieved when 50% of a population is infected). Doesn’t sound too great.

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I’m not saying Covid-19 isn’t causing lots of deaths. I’d agree the number is underreported.

I’m just saying that hospitals are definitely milking it when they legally can.

That’s from the start of the pandemic. I’d bet the current death rate is significantly lower. Many of the people Covid was going to kill are dead.

In which case there would have to be other causes for the large increase in deaths compared to previous years.

I suppose that depends upon your definition of “soon”. Going back a few months, so I don’t know how the statistics have changed, but from Vox:

Even among older people, years of life — years of potential — are being lost. In Italy, researchers found that Covid-19 was killing people around 12 to 14 years before they might have died naturally. Even accounting for age and underlying conditions, the study found, people were dying more than five years sooner than life span estimates would suggest.

Five years may not seem like long - but my grandmother died when I was ten. Could have been better, could have been worse; but if she’d died when I was five, or if she’d died when I was fifteen, would have had a giant impact on my life either way. Never mind for my younger brother, who has almost no memories of her.

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