US Corona-virus figures in perspective

It has become routine for various media outlets around the world to highlight the high number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA. Given the very low rate of deaths in New Zealand (and Australia which is even slightly lower than NZ), it has become common place for NZ media (and many New Zealanders on social media) to also comment on the high number of US deaths and to link to foreign media making this point.

Almost all such articles and posts focus on the raw numbers coming out of the US with rare attempts at balancing these statistics by rendering deaths as a percentage of population. With a pall of suspicion over the official figures coming out of China and Russia and with Indian in a stringent lockdown, the US’s large population of over 330 million always meant the numbers of raw cases and deaths in the US would be high.

However, a different picture emerges when you look at deaths per million population with a number of countries in Western Europe showing considerably higher virus death rates when the figures are rendered per million. Media that report on such high US figures also often fail to put the US figures into any proper regional context. The tables below attempt to do this.

Anyone studying the spread of the virus in the US will acknowledge that New York is a major global hotspot. The concentration of cases and deaths in a handful of states is quite dramatic as the tables show. If you take the greater New York metropolitan area, when you incorporate the adjacent urban areas of New Jersey and Connecticut, shows that a huge number of US cases are found in that one urban conurbation of about 20 million. Add in the next 4 states with major outbreaks (Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania), these 7 states comprise a whopping 72% of all US deaths which means the remaining [EDIT: 43] US states share the remaining 28% of deaths!

The first table calculates the death rate per million for those 43 states and shows that the average of these less hit states is near the bottom of the 1st world rankings. The second table also demonstrates what an incredible hotspot New York is. The whole of the US sits somewhat in the middle of the 1st world pack and the 43 states are lower than Germany (considered somewhat of the European gold standard of results). Finally, as a comparison I have included Hawaii which has the lowest death rate of all 50 states explained by much the same reason why Australia and NZ have such low rates; it is an isolated island state where almost all incoming possibly infected people come by plane into a few airports where passengers could be more easily checked.

[EDIT] Japan’s figures in the table are their total cases per 1 M, the Japanese deaths per 1 M population is only 3.

Hopefully these tables give some clearer and more factual context to the actual virus death figures. I will do other posts in due course covering the US response to the coronavirus, China’s handling of it and finally some external views on New Zealand’s attempt at elimination and the financial impact of differing degrees of lockdown adopted by different jurisdictions.

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