MortalityCOVID-19 Cases Are Rising, So Why Are Deaths Flatlining?

Published 13 July 2020

COVID-19 cases have soared to terrifying levels since June. Yesterday, the U.S. had 62,000 confirmed cases, an all-time high—and about five times more than the entire continent of Europe. Several U.S. states, including Arizona and Florida, currently have more confirmed cases per capita than any other country in the world. Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic that average daily deaths are down 75 percent from their April peak. Despite higher death counts on Tuesday and Wednesday, the weekly average has largely plateaued in the past two weeks. There are five possible explanations for the case-death gap. Take them as complementary, rather than competing, theories: 1. Deaths lag cases—and that might explain almost everything; 2. Expanded testing is finding more cases, milder cases, and earlier cases; 3. The typical COVID-19 patient is getting younger; 4. Hospitalized patients are dying less frequently, even without a home-run treatment; and 5. Summer might be helping—but probably only a little bit. “After all the graphs, statistics, science, and interpretations, we’re left with a simple fact: Hundreds of Americans are dying every day of a disease that is infecting several hundred thousand of them every week,” Thompson writes. “If that’s success, let’s pray we never see failure.”