Science

US virus death rate is world’s worst among developed nations

Bloomberg October 13 | Updated on October 13, 2020 Published on October 13, 2020

The count was 2,14,776 as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

The proportion of Americans dying from coronavirus infections is the highest in the developed world, according to a study of global mortality rates that shows the US pandemic response left citizens exposed to the lethal disease.

Early in the outbreak, the US mortality rate from Covid-19 was lower than in many other hard-hit countries, including the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, according to the report on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But as spring turned to summer, the US largely failed to embrace public-health and policy measures that have helped other countries reduce death rates.

If US deaths after May 10 had occurred at the same pace as in Spain, the US mortality rate would be 47 per cent lower, with 93,247 fewer people dying, the report found. More than 100,000 fewer Americans would have died if the US had the same mortality rate as the Netherlands. Sweden’s mortality rate was 22 per cent lower, though it took fewer steps to curb the virus’s spread.

The US leads the world in total coronavirus deaths, with 2,14,776 as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Brazil ranks second with 1,50,488 deaths.

Costly failure

America’s failure to control the outbreak is forecast to be costly. When lost output and health setbacks are taken into account, the economic toll of the pandemic is expected to exceed $16 trillion, or about 90 per cent of US annual gross domestic product, according to a separate report in JAMA on Monday.

Other ripple effects are also expected. On average, nine family members are affected by the loss of each person who dies of Covid-19 in the US, creating a pool of 2 million mourners, according to another article in JAMA by psychiatrists from NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

The number of US deaths caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic is 20 per cent higher than the public counts of virus deaths detailed daily in the news, said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Wolf said excess deaths occurred mainly in States that reopened earlier and experienced outbreaks that persisted into the summer.

 

Human cost

More than 4,00,000 excess deaths are expected to occur in 2020, said Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, and Phil Fontanarosa, the executive editor, in an editorial in the medical journal on Monday.

These deaths reflect a true measure of the human cost of the Great Pandemic of 2020, they wrote. These deaths far exceed the number of US deaths from some armed conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and deaths from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and approach the number of deaths from World War II.

Covid-19 deaths in US crosses World War-I death toll: Report

Even when medicines, like those given to President Donald Trump, and vaccines are widely available, Americans will have to continue to use measures like social distancing and mask wearing to limit transmission of the virus, Emanuel said. Such steps will be particularly critical in the winter and spring, when colder weather pins much of the country indoors.

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Published on October 13, 2020
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