Researcher drops bombshell, says 1.2 million Americans may still die from COVID-19
06/15/2020 // Michael Alexander // Views

The United States may be facing a far more grim outcome in its fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

In his research, health economist and statistician Anirban Basu said there is a possibility that, if left uncontrolled, the COVID-19 pandemic could kill anywhere between 350,000 to as many as 1.2 million Americans.

According to Basu, this study, which was published in the journal Health Affairs, confirms what many health officials have repeatedly warned: The Wuhan coronavirus is deadlier than the seasonal flu.

“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” said Basu, a professor of health economics and Stergachis Family Endowed Director of the CHOICE Institute at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy.

Basu, in an interview with community news portal King5, noted that the U.S. only logged 30,000 to 35,000 deaths from the flu in the first two months of 2020, in stark contrast to the body count left by COVID-19, which amounted to more than 100,000.

In his study, Basu looked at the current statistics concerning COVID-19 to determine the projected infection and fatality rates.

According to Basu, the current national fatality rate among people infected with COVID-19 is logged at 1.3 percent. The seasonal flu’s national death rate is pegged at just 0.1 percent.

This means that if the number of people in the U.S. infected with the coronavirus by the end of the year matched the number of those infected with the influenza virus -- roughly 35.5 million in 2018 to 2019 -- then around 500,000 people will die of COVID-19.


Basu noted, however, that the Wuhan coronavirus is more infectious than the influenza virus. This means that if 20 percent of the U.S. population becomes infected by the end of the year, the number of deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could end up climbing to between 350,000 and 1.2 million.

“This is a staggering number, which can only be brought down with sound public health measures,” Basu said.

Basu's findings came in the heels of several locations reporting spikes in their daily COVID-19 infections, such as Harrison, Texas whose cases have spiked by 900 percent since mid-April, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin where cases have increased by 360 percent since early April.

The same spikes in infections were also noted by Reuters, who have since published their own analysis of the data concerning 20 states.

As part of his study, Basu and his team of researchers developed a website that explored the infection and fatality rates across the U.S. by county. According to Basu, they used publicly available data from 116 counties in 33 states in order to gain a closer look at what is currently happening in communities across America. The site’s projections will be updated as new data becomes available, Basu noted.

In a statement published on the UW website, however, Basu stressed that this website is not a forecasting tool since it does not predict what will happen in the future.

Basu said the website will only use the estimated death rate among symptomatic COVID-19 cases to project what is happening currently in these communities, in order to identify the likely numbers for total infections and symptomatic cases, as well as detail how the daily incidence of COVID-19 infections changes.

According to Basu, identifying the likely numbers of the infected is important, especially since only 25 percent of the actual number of infections are being reported. (Related: Are U.S. states covering up coronavirus death data?)

"The interesting thing that we have found here is that once we take those death rates and back-calculate how many symptomatic patients are there, and how many true infections are they in the community, we can get some sense of what the true spread of the infection is in the community," Basu explained, adding that their team’s goal is for their research to inform local and national policies in order to save more lives in the future.

“Ultimately, we want this work to advance the health of people around the world.”

As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected 5,695,968 individuals and killed 355,701 others across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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