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Taking a closer look at the data surrounding COVID-19 deaths

Posted at 4:15 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 19:37:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — Across the country and in Idaho, the cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise.

We wanted to look at data associated with COVID-19 deaths. The first thing we figured out was the survival rate, by looking at the number of cases and deaths. Here is what we figured out:

Ada County: 99.4% survival rate

Idaho: 99.1% survival rate

United States: 96% survival rate

"It's really a dangerous way to look at it a lot of people will say there is a one percent chance of dying," said Dr. David Pate, the retired CEO of St. Luke's.

Even with a high survival rate, there have been approximately 138,000 deaths in the United States, showcasing how dangerous the virus is because of how quickly it can spread.

"That death count is going to be much higher in a month, and unless we change what we are doing, it will continue to grow," said Dr. Pate.

Another example comes from data from the CDC's most recent report that shows how many people died and what caused those deaths in 2017.

The coronavirus would rank 6th on that list behind heart disease, cancer, accidents, respiratory diseases and stroke, but the United States has only dealt with COVID-19 for about six months.

As the cases rise in Idaho, the death toll has lagged behind. According to the CDC, it takes an average of three weeks from the time a person starts showing symptoms to when they pass away and when that death gets reported.

"Looking at a death rate at a particular time, frankly, isn't very helpful because this death rate will change," said Dr. Pate. "Cases will give you a good idea on what has happened in the past week; then a week or two later, you will see hospitalizations increase, and then a week or two later, you see the deaths."

Dr. Pate pointed out other factors: the demographic with the most cases of COVID-19 in Idaho are people between the ages of 18-29.

While this demographic is unlikely to die because of the coronavirus, it doesn't mean young people won't spread the virus.

"I think this virus will go through several intermediaries before reaching the older population," said Dr. Pate. "In the first surge, a lot of older people were getting exposed because we really didn't understand this virus."

It is also superficial and naive to categorize the virus as life versus death because there are so many different outcomes in between.

"There are a lot of people that include 20 to 40-year-olds who are having devastating consequences even though they survive," said Dr. Pate "We still don't know what the long-term effects of this are."

We all know about the strains this virus has put on the economy, and the virus is something we will have to continue to deal with moving forward.

Dr. Pate recommends wearing masks and social distancing, it is not a new message, but we certainly stopped taking the virus seriously after Governor Little ended the stay-at-home order.