Stanford study finds COVID-19 death rate may be far lower due to higher number of asymptomatic infections  

covid 19 death rate

Photo via Palo Alto Online.

 

 

 

A recent sampling of antibodies for the virus of 3,330 people living in Santa Clara County, California found that 50 to 85 times more people have been infected by the coronavirus than official testing statistics have previously stated. 

While that may sound like bad news, many are viewing the results of the study as good news because it may illustrate that the actual death rate due to the coronavirus is much lower than previously thought.

This new perspective on the current situation has led to much debate and a revisiting of the true death rate among those who contracted the virus, which can lead to COVID-19, a potentially fatal respiratory disease. 

The vast majority of those who have died from COVID-19 in the United States had previous underlying medical conditions. 

While much of the mainstream media has published articles questioning the landmark Stanford study, the Wall Street Journal has hailed it as a major positive in light of the ongoing crisis.

“That may sound scary, but it’s great news,” the Wall Street Journal reported, analyzing the study. 

“It suggests that the large majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover without ever knowing they were infected, and that the U.S. infection fatality rate may be more than an order of magnitude lower than authorities had assumed. 

“Based on this seroprevalence data, the authors estimate that in Santa Clara County the true infection fatality rate is somewhere in the range of 0.12% to 0.2%—far closer to seasonal influenza than to the original, case-based estimates.” 

A similar study by the University of Southern California backed the Stanford study’s conclusions as well.

Some researchers have questioned the Stanford study’s results because of the possibility of false positives that may have resulted from using a particular laboratory for testing kits, however, and a UC-Berkeley study has challenged the results as well.

I think the authors of the above-linked paper owe us all an apology, said Andrew Gelman, the director of the applied statistics center at Columbia University. We wasted time and effort discussing this paper whose main selling point was some numbers that were essentially the product of a statistical error.

The study’s authors told the Mercury News that they would release a detailed appendix that would address many of the constructive comments and suggestions that the researchers had received.

 

 

Fauci’s original editorial suggested lower death rates 

The data also brings to mind Dr. Anthony Fauci’s own editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 26, which pointed out that the reported case fatality rate at that time was approximately 2%. 

The statistics are based on case definitions requiring a diagnosis of pneumonia, i.e. only those acutely ill with pneumonia are counted as COVID-19 infected, and not the potentially vast pool of people who are asymptomatic carriers or only suffering from mild symptoms, GreenMedInfo.com noted in an analysis of the paper. 

“If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%,” Fauci stated in the editorial. 

He went on to add that the true fatality rate could be approximately .0.1%, or “ultimately…more akin to those of a severe season influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%, or a pandemic influenza similar to those in 1957 or 1968. 

Other diseases including SARS and MERS have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively, Fauci continued. 

 

 

Pennsylvania removes 200 deaths from its count over accuracy concerns 

Also worth keeping an eye on: Pennsylvania recently started including “probable deaths” in its fatality rates for COVID-19, which has caused its death rate to almost double in two days

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) subsequently removed 200 deaths from its count after facing mounting questions about the accuracy of the count. 

A “probable death” is one that a doctor believes is caused by COVID-19, even though the patient is never tested for the virus.

While there is much debate over just how common the virus really is, how many people are developing antibodies to it, and when to reopen the economies in each state, the biggest concern among governors and other political leaders like Whitmer is protecting those who are most vulnerable health-wise, namely the elderly and people with potentially serious underlying conditions. 

Perhaps that’s why Whitmer said recently in another one of her executive orders that those who are most at-risk may have to follow her stay-at-home order at home longer than others (although sunshine and other outdoor elements are also highly beneficial, if not essential, for health, the orders are said to prevent the spreading of the virus in public places). 

How long that may be is unknown, but the hope is that more people begin to take their health seriously during this challenging time, to limit the disease’s damage and to allow for better outcomes across the board. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult a doctor and follow all guidelines for the coronavirus in your local area. 

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About Katie Preece

Born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised on the outskirts of the Motor City, Miss Preece spent her early years studying radiology, diagnostic imaging and procedures. But serious health issues forced her to abandon her training. In order to regain her vitality, she began to explore natural alternatives.

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