By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
President Trump, based on what he called a “hunch,” suggested Wednesday that the World Health Organization’s coronavirus fatality rate was incorrect, but also erroneously said that he believed that there had been a coronavirus-related death in New York.
“I think 3.4% is really a false number,” he told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show . “This is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor. You never even hear about those people so you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this coronavirus flu, or virus. You just can’t do that.”
“So if we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that just get better just by sitting around, or even going to work — some of them go to work — but they get better and then when you do have a death, like you had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California, I believe you had one in New York, you know, all of a sudden it seems like 3% or 4%, which seems like a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1%,” he added. “But, again, they don’t know about the easy cases.”
As of Thursday, no one in New York had died from the coronavirus. In the U.S., 11 people have died — 10 in Washington State and one in California. There are around 165 confirmed cases. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that he is following in Washington state’s footsteps by declaring a state of emergency. Coronavirus has an incubation period, during which people may be asymptomatic, of up to two weeks.
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‘I think 3.4% is really a false number. This is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor.’
President Trump, on Fox News
The current WHO fatality rate estimate could be related to officials underestimating the number of actual cases. If coronavirus infections are actually higher globally, the fatality rate would obviously fall. The more time asymptomatic people spend going about their daily lives, the more people can become infected. Writing in Slate , Jeremy Samuel Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, said, “These frightening numbers are unlikely to hold.”
“The true case fatality rate, known as CFR, of this virus is likely to be far lower than current reports suggest,” he added. “Even some lower estimates, such as the 1% death rate recently mentioned by the directors of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, likely substantially overstate the case. We shouldn’t be surprised that the numbers are inflated. In past epidemics, initial CFRs were floridly exaggerated. For example, in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic some early estimates were 10 times greater than the eventual CFR, of 1.28%.”
By Thursday morning, Trump’s Twitter account was stating defiantly that the president had “NEVER” suggested those potentially ill with COVID-19 continue going to work:
As COVID-19 spreads, scientists are learning more about the disease’s fatality rate. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a press briefing in Geneva this week. That’s higher than previous estimates of around 2% and the influenza fatality rate of less than 1%. Tedros previously said the fatality rate in Wuhan, China, considered the epicenter of the outbreak, was between 2% and 4%.
The fatality rate of the novel coronavirus so far appears to be a fraction of that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (9.6%) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (34.4%). “The incubation period for SARS was typically 2 to 7 days, although in some cases it may be as long as 10 days,” the CDC said at the time; most SARS cases occurred between November 2002 and July 2003. “In a very small proportion of cases, incubation periods of up to 14 days have been reported,” the CDC added.
Worldwide, there were 97,750 COVID-19 cases and at least 3,346 deaths as of Thursday; about 53,783 people worldwide have recovered, according to data published by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The medical journal JAMA released this paper analyzing Chinese data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and said the sample’s overall case-fatality rate was 2.3%.
How the coronavirus is transmitted