I’ve seen lots of comments about the low COVID19 fatality rate in Texas.
Although 2% seems low, it’s relatively high compared to other causes of death in Texas. If we stay on our trajectory, COVID19 will be the 7th leading cause of death in Texas this year. COVID19 would average 20 deaths per day compared to, for example, stroke that caused 30 deaths per day in Texas in 2019. This is impressive considering stroke and diabetes and heart disease take YEARS to develop. COVID19 has only been around for 109 days and is contagious.
There are a few things that can/will change Texas’ COVID19 rank this year:
1) Overflow hospitals. Many Texas metroplex hospitals are opening up “surge” units and scrambling for qualified staff. Less people will survive due to less quality of care. This will INCREASE COVID19’s rank.
2) Spread among populations. As I said in my previous post, CFR is decreasing in TX because of spread among younger populations. However, the far reach of this disease may start impacting the circles of younger populations, including those at high risk and kids. This will INCREASE or DECREASE COVID19’s rank. We just don’t know yet.
3) Other deaths will shift. The figure is comparing COVID19 deaths to 2019 deaths rates for other diseases, which isn’t necessarily an accurate comparison. A global pandemic WILL have impact on how we die other ways too. For example, some of the chronic lung disease deaths that WOULD have been in this category are now in the COVID19 category. On the other hand, unintentional injury (like motor vehicle crashes) have decreased. These shifts will INCREASE or DECREASE COVID19’s ranking, we won’t know HOW until the end of the year.
4) Counting “deaths”. This is very complicated. In short, the number of “COVID19 deaths” could (and are likely) off. The only way to “truly” know is through examination of death certificates. This is done each year by national organizations, but certainly not at a pace that the public wants. The problem is that states and hospitals and counties count covid19 deaths differently. Also, in the beginning of the pandemic, no one was getting tested for COVID19 but still dying, so we think the deaths could be underestimated. Again, this will INCREASE or DECREASE COVID19’s ranking, we won’t know HOW until more time passes.
If we stay on our trajectory in the US, COVID19 will be the 3rd leading cause of death. In other words, COVID19 would average 1118 deaths per day compared to heart disease (which killed 1,774 people per day in 2019) and cancer (which killed 1,641 people per day in 2019).
Translation: As for now, Texas’ COVID19 rank in terms of leading causes of death IS lower than the US as a whole. We should keep it this way by taking the Texas epidemic seriously.
Love, your local epidemiologist
Data source: 2019 data is from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC. COVID19 data is from DSHS (Texas) and Johns Hopkins (US). Graphs/analysis by yours truly.