Governments and media have hyped the number of new COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths of those who tested positive for the virus prior to death. These numbers, while striking, don’t tell the whole story. The only number that is really informative is the change in the death rate of the population.
For example, assume the average number of deaths from respiratory issues — such as complications from the flu or pneumonia — for the period January through March in a region is 10,000, with each death being attributed to only one cause. Using that baseline, compare the total number of deaths from respiratory issues this year, including COVID-19 deaths.
If the number of deaths attributed to diseases like pneumonia or complications from the flu go down in proportion to the increase in deaths attributed to COVID-19, we can say there was no statistical change and that the threat from the new virus is minimal, meaning those who would have died from other respiratory issues were merely counted as COVID-19 deaths. However, if there is a net increase in deaths, then we need to weigh this increase in determining how to react. So far we don’t have conclusive numbers that indicate a significant change.