Even though COVID-19 cases are through the roof (again), most areas are not seeing the same excessively high death rate they did last spring and over the summer. While this is clearly good news, the risk is that patients could interpret this as a sign that the virus is weakening. An article just published in MedPage Today points out why the data could be dangerously deceiving. With advances in both testing and treatment, more patients are being diagnosed earlier and being provided care that decreases their risk for a bad outcome; this makes the death rate appear lower even if the actual number of deaths attributed to the virus remains stable. Younger people who have a greater chance of survival are also being identified in higher numbers (again, thanks to more widespread testing). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the median age of infected patients dropped from 46 years in May to 38 years in August. Unfortunately, the bottom line reached by the authors of the MedPage Today piece is that the greater number of cases, the higher number of deaths that will occur even if the “rate” does not increase. Counsel patients accordingly.
Patients May Feel COVID-19 Is Less Threatening Because the Mortality Rate Is Down. They’re Wrong