Death rates have dropped sharply
Amid a pandemic of bad news, there’s a bright spot: Survival rates among Covid-19 patients, even those with severe cases, are improving.
One New York hospital found that death rates among Covid-19 patients dropped to 3 percent from 30 percent between March and June, while a British study reported that survival rates of those in intensive care units jumped to 80 percent from 40 percent during the same period.
While it’s true that over time more young adults, who have better survival rates, have been hospitalized, studies have shown that the drop in fatalities is real, even when accounting for the shift in age. Researchers at NYU Langone Health recently studied 5,000 virus patients and controlled for differences in age, sex, race, underlying health problems and severity of symptoms. They found that death rates had dropped significantly, to 7.6 percent in August, from 25.6 percent in March.
Some have speculated that the coronavirus has become less virulent, but experts say there is no evidence for that. Instead, they think the survival rate has improved because clinicians learned how to treat the disease, incorporating the use of steroids and non-drug interventions. Patients are also seeking care earlier and hospitals have not as overwhelmed as they were during the first wave.
Still, medical experts caution that the death rate from Covid-19 is many times higher than that of the flu, and that the disease has long-term damaging effects on the body.
There’s also no guarantee that deaths will continue to decrease. One of the reasons the death rate was so high in the spring was that hospitals were overwhelmed. And as hospitalizations have surged 40 percent in the U.S. over the last month, experts are worried that hard-won gains may be lost.
“If hospitals that aren’t prepared for large numbers of people have to deal with a large influx of Covid patients, or small hospitals get pulled into it, we should expect that mortality could change unfortunately,” said Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. “That’s a warning.”
Trump’s closing argument and the pandemic
With just five days until Election Day, President Trump is crisscrossing the country to make one last pitch to the American public about the coronavirus.
On the campaign trail, the president maintains that the country is “rounding the corner,” he attacks Democratic governors for keeping restrictions in place and blames the news media for what he says is outsize coverage of the virus. In reality, a third wave of cases is breaking records, hospitalizations and fatalities are climbing, and a fresh outbreak has hit the staff of Vice President Mike Pence.
Our colleague, Alex Burns, who covers politics, told us that the president’s message boils down to asking voters to ignore the disaster unfolding before their eyes and trust his word that the disease will soon disappear as a threat to their lives and pocketbooks.
But is it working?
“The short answer is no,” Alex told us. “We’ve seen for the last few months President Trump and the Trump campaign try to shift attention away from the pandemic to a number of other subjects — whether it’s civil unrest, or diplomacy in the Middle East, or the Supreme Court — and none of those efforts managed to sideline the pandemic as a political issue.”
“And so what you’ve seen in the close of the campaign is him trying to sideline it by force of will and wishful rhetoric,” Alex said. “There’s clearly a population that is embracing that, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that population includes people who weren’t already supporting the president.”
Joe Biden is promising action. “I’m not running on the false promise of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch,” Mr. Biden said. “But what I can promise you is this: We will start on Day 1 doing the right things. We’ll let science drive our decisions. We will deal honestly with the American people.”
Public health experts are coalescing around Mr. Biden’s call for a national mask mandate, even though they say it would require more than a presidential order. Such a mandate would certainly face legal challenges, but if elected, Mr. Biden would have other ways of making mask wearing a cultural norm.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
For the first two months of the pandemic I wore a different pair of earrings each day. I didn’t realize I owned so many earrings, but I kept uncovering more. I went nowhere, but at least it gave my husband something to look at across the breakfast table every morning. The incongruity of chandelier earrings with a sweatshirt or Christmas earrings in May was lost to the rest of the world, but the two of us got a much-needed laugh out of it.
— Virginia Borg Wolfe, Middletown, N.Y.
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