Are we stuck with worrying about the coronavirus forever?

As we don our masks and venture forth into the world, we wonder if the dreaded coronavirus is going to get us.  We look at the latest statistics and see that about 600 poor souls in the U.S. lose their lives to this virus every day.  We should realize that 600 lives out of 330 million people is not that much, so we should get more information about the subject.

Please forgive me for listing death statistics like a cold-hearted actuary.  I will stick to the concepts and minimize the numbers.

The CDC lists the probability of death from various causes.  For all causes, 7,708 Americans die each day.  Some of the individual causes in descending order are heart disease, diabetes, and suicide.  To avoid the first two, please do not overeat.  For those who are suicidal, I give best wishes.  Keep reading.  There is a silver lining in the data.

Influenza was not singled out, but WebMD says 22 to 55 Americans die each day from the flu.  This is far below the 129 per day from suicide.  I suspect that we will eventually learn that COVID-19 causes about as many deaths as does the flu.  Meanwhile, what can we say about COVID-19 now?

Tests for COVID-19 antibodies are now available.  Based on a Stanford University study, perhaps 10% of us have been exposed to the virus and recovered.  As mentioned before, 7,708 of us die every day.  The hospital will check these people for the virus.  Presumably, 771 of them will test positive.  The hospital will put them down as COVID-19 cases, regardless of their cause of death.  Hospitals are incentivized to do this.  Hospitals get $13,000 per Medicare patient with COVID-19.  The 771 people who just happened to have had antibodies to COVID-19 at the time of death is close to the previously mentioned 600 lives estimate.  If nobody died of COVID-19, we would still have about this many people listed as dying of it.

Should we doubt the official numbers?  Please take another look at the latest statistics.  Under "Reported coronavirus deaths, per day, in the U.S.," there is a curve with oscillations.  These oscillations are not random.  They have a seven-day cycle.  There is a low every Monday, and it peaks around Tuesday through Thursday.  Why?

As more people get infected with COVID-19, recover, and later die of something else, more people will be listed as dying of COVID-19.  Eventually, all people will have antibodies and, upon their demise, be listed as COVID-19 deaths.  Ironically, if we get a vaccine, the statistics will become worse much faster.

What is the silver lining?  As with the virus itself, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Now that we realize that the hospitals are listing the cause of death inaccurately, we should have them correct the listing — something like "The patient was hit by a garbage truck and he had COVID-19 antibodies, too."

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