"The Number of Recoveries Continues to Rise Above Its Death Toll"

An odd statistic.


Newsweek writes: "While cases continue to soar in Italy, which has now reported more than 12,000 infections, the number of recoveries continues to rise above its death toll, with 1,045 recoveries versus around 800 deaths in the country."

Does that mean something that I'm missing? Of course the number of recoveries should eventually rise above the death toll, so long as the mortality rate is under 50% (and the evidence seems to suggest it's much lower than that).

Now at any particular time, the ratio may be sharply different, depending on factors such as how long it takes for those who recover to recover (and perhaps how one defines recovery), and how long it takes for those who die to die. But that right now in Italy the recoveries barely exceed the deaths strikes me as telling us very little; or am I mistaken?

NEXT: Now There's a Real Royal Family Dispute for You

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Does that mean something that I’m missing?”

    Any legitimate reason to care? Go look up the CDC numbers on the impact of the seasonal flu in the US. It’s orders of magnitude worse than the current global impact of corona19.

    1. It’s a measure of how much society values the health of the old people. If the old people’s lives are valued a lot, then the “adjustments” made for corona19 should be made permanent, to blunt the yearly effects of the flu.

    2. MatthewSlyfield: I noticed that word “current.”

      1. Apparently you missed orders of magnitude.

        It might eventually get bad enough to warrant the kinds of measures that are being taken now, but there is no way to know for sure. China is already claiming that new cases are dropping. If that’s true, then it will burn itself out long before it’s a real issue.

        These decisions are being made on the basis of panic predicated on speculation.

        If it eventually gets as bad as the seasonal flu in the US, it might warrant some response.

        But then ask yourself, why we don’t take these measures for the seasonal flu.? Why does corona19 warrant such responses, but seasonal flu does not?

        1. Assume new cases are truly dropping in China. Would it be reasonable to conclude that the disease will simply “burn itself out” or is that a testament to the efficacy of the measures the Chinese eventually took (the quarantines, shutdowns, etc.)?

          1. That was my question as well. It seems reasonable (without further data) to assume that the draconian measures China put in place (many of which would be politically impossible in a democracy like ours) have been helpful in lowering their re-transmission rate.

        2. Perhaps instead of sharing your ignorance with those of us unfortunate enough to have to read it, you should go listen to what epidemiologists have to say on the issue.

          The measures being taken right now, are being done in an effort to flatten the curve so that our hospital systems MIGHT have a chance at treating the number of patients the EXPERTS are saying will come.

          If you don’t do anything, and the transmission curve isn’t flattened, our health care system will be overloaded, just like Italy right now. Pull your head out of your ass and pay attention to the struggles other countries are having right now. We’re almost exactly one week behind where Italy currently is based on reported cases.

          Their health care system is collapsing because they don’t have enough ventilators. They don’t have enough hospital beds. They don’t have enough people to even take care of the dead bodies. If you knew anything about the health care system in our country, you’d actually give a fuck about what’s happening there, and what’s coming here.

          Because our system can’t handle that shit either.

          My mother works at the local hospital, and is responsible for supply ordering for at least 3 hospitals in Northern Colorado. Her words – when describing what would happen if the hospital had to deal with even SIXTY ICU patients?

          “We’d be…fucked.”

          Why? Because there just isn’t enough medical personnel to take care of that many critical, infectious patients at the same time.

          There’s a good reason the experts are out talking about this, and how to slow the transmission down. It is not the seasonal flu, and has a mortality rate currently around thirty times higher. Start goddamn listening for once.

          1. This is a very intemperate post with vile language not befitting this forum. Shame on you for that. Grow up, will you! It’s possible to make important points in a decent manner. In fact, you are making an important point. My son is a neurologist specializing in intensive care at a major hospital in Seattle, and he told me the following. The hospital system in WA state will not have enough beds to treat severely ill patients if the spred of the China virus goes as predicted. There are 450 ventilators in the entire state, and each patients who needs one requires it for two weeks. Thus, patients with severe lung problems will die from lack of beds and lack of ventilators. This is reality. Therefore, it’s critical to slow the spread of the virus, it’s the only realistic chance to save some severely affected people from dying.

            1. I’ve been called “faggot” ’round here.

              I think this “forum” is pretty tolerant of “vile language”.

            2. You are allowed to use the f-word if you are quoting your own mother. Sheesh!

        3. Matthew, this is an opportunity for you. You could learn something. Print out your comment, and stick it in a drawer. Go back in one month, and see how the judgement you are using now looks then. Then take note. Whatever you conclude about the accuracy of that comment, will apply alike to the judgement you use to evaluate politics.

        4. Everything is fine. Until it’s not.

          We don’t take these measures for the flu for the same reason we don’t require passenger cars to have roll cages, but do require them in Nascar. It’s about balancing the cost and risk, and Covid-19 is a hell of a lot more risky than seasonal flu.

          If we waited until Covid-19 reached seasonal flu numbers, there will already be millions of carriers. Simple math says that there will be hundreds of thousands needing hospitalization (as roughly 15% of cases do). We simply don’t have that many hospital beds, which means many people will be untreated, dramatically increasing the risks of spread and death. Statistically speaking, if you have a 25-person office, and they all get the flu, everyone will be fine (and not require anything beyond some time off). If it’s Covid-19, an average of 3 people will require hospitalization, and one of them will die.

          This whole, “c’mon, it’s just the flu” bit shows me just how inept Americans are at understanding statistics, applying them across large numbers of people, and understanding the limits of available resources.

      2. With respect Professor, compare and contrast Coronavirus with Influenza virus.

        Note that, as with Influenza virus, there are a number of versions of Coronavirus with which we have some experience, beyond even SARS and MERS.

        1. He doesn’t need to; medical experts have. And they say it’s at least 30x’s more deadly than influenza. And unlike influenza, there is no subset of people who have been vaccinated. It also means you can expect that lots of people are going to require ventilators, hospital beds (including many ICU beds), and other resources.

          If all of those hit at once, we don’t have sufficient hospital capacity to treat everyone.

          I do not understand why people refuse to look at the reality of the situation.

          1. Also there is the difference between a pandemic and something endemic. We know what to expect from the flu, more or less. There are certainly going to be surprises as this new thing does it’s go-round.

          2. “And they say it’s at least 30x’s more deadly than influenza.”

            They say all kinds of things. I’ve also seen them say its only expected to be 10xs as dangerous as the average flu, or 5xs as dangerous as a bad flu season. Notably the danger levels seem to be dropping with additional information.

            The scary numbers are largely a result of the choice to use the mortality rate as the basis of the comparison. Because the mortality rate is such a small number to begin with, small absolute changes seem large in comparison. It’s just as valid to look at the survival rate as it is the mortality rate. Even using your 30xs number, that changes the survival rate from 99.9% to 97%. So you are 0.03xs less likely to survive coronavirus than the average flu.

            1. What part of ‘the health care system can’t handle the expected number of critical patients’ don’t you understand?

              Stop being a moron.

    3. The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1% and far fewer people get seasonal flu than are likely to get COVID-19 because we have a vaccine. The lowest COVID-19 mortality estimate is for South Korea, which has tested a lot of people and has an advanced medical system. That is 0.5%. Estimates in China go up to 3.6-5%. But that does not tell the whole story since a lot more people are likely to get than get the flu every year because it is highly contagious and we have no vaccine or immunity. The reality is no one can know what the mortality rate is in a situation like this until it is over. The choices are to sit back and hope for the best or to take action to minimize the risk. The later seems like the obviously sensible choice, especially given what we are seeing in Italy, where the healthcare system is being overwhelmed by the number of cases. This drives up mortality as there are not enough resources to treat those who become seriously ill.

  2. Does that mean something that I’m missing?

    No. It hardly means anything at all.

  3. Maybe the recovery rate is not the natural recovery rate, but the tracked recovery rate. When the virus started no one was tested so no one tested recovered, with a recovery rate of 0%.

    1. In other words, more people are getting detected before falling seriously ill.

  4. It may depend on how long it’s taking the various agencies that report this data to declare someone “recovered.” I suspect in most cases this takes two weeks or more.

  5. It’s irrelevant. Pay attention to the day over day growth rate in new cases. Currently running at 18% meaning the number of new cases will double every 4 days. Reaching over a billion in 60 days.

    1. Currently running at 18% meaning the number of new cases will double every 4 days. Reaching over a billion in 60 days.

      Ah, the joys of simplistic extrapolation.

      See you in a couple of months.

  6. Well, if you do a direct comparison of Italian recoveries v. Italian deaths, the death percentage is really high. And all the other cases seem, logically, to be in process, as it were, awaiting sorting into one of those two bins, recovery or death. If the rule were to sort according to the current percentages, the outlook would be bleak indeed. Presumably, that isn’t what is going to happen.

    1. lathrop, the deaths are statistically higher in Italy because of the population age. Italy has a very high proportion of elderly. COVID-19 is a very serious health threat, owing to its transmissability. The anomaly Professor Volokh notes [But that right now in Italy the recoveries barely exceed the deaths strikes me as telling us very little; or am I mistaken?] is more likely due to limited testing.

      Glad to see that recoveries are outpacing deaths. With that being said, our media is doing citizenry no favors. At a time where calm and rational communication of information is needed, they are running around ‘andar como loco’.

  7. Yes. What it means that you are missing is that the “journalists” covering this “global crisis” are mind-numbingly stupid, and couldn’t count to twenty on their fingers and toes.

    1. Yeah, why not massively generalize, so long as it fits your small, angry narrative!

      1. I apologize for massively generalizing. *You* are mind-numbingly stupid, and couldn’t count to twenty on *your* fingers and toes. Oh, and you’re small and angry.

        1. Ah. So it’s all just empty spleen.

          Well then, vent away; I shall not take what you say as what you mean in the future.

  8. I think it just means it takes longer to recover than to die as a result of the virus.

  9. I would expect a high mortality rate if you are only testing people in the intensive care unit in isolation.

  10. Until testing for the virus is much more widespread, any of the numbers being bandied around right now don’t mean a whole lot. We can’t really even establish a baseline for how many people have been exposed to the virus, and then how many people exposed to the virus actually get sick, much less accurate mortality rates.

    But what little we know so far is more than enough to alarm epidemiologists, and justify much of the actions that have been taken. I’m not so sure about the whole buy all the toilet paper and bottled water thing.

  11. The fact is that we will never know the death rate or the rate of severely affected patients from the Wuhan virus, because we cannot track the denominator of how many people actually get ill but only show minor symptoms, i.e., the majority of cases. What we can track are the severe cases that require medical assistance and compare that with the availability of proper medical care. The Wuhan virus seems particularly deadly for certain populations, and that is why the only means we have to match demand to the supply of care is to slow the spread, in order to minimize the very severe cases. For the rest, getting a bit ill is no big deal. The problem lies in treating the severely affected.

  12. Iran and South Korea saw similar numbers one-and-half and two-and-half weeks after the initial cases were detected respectively. Italy is now three weeks out from initial detection.

  13. Forget it, Eugene, it’s Newsweek.

Please to post comments