In an interview over the weekend, President Trump stated that “99%” of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.” This comment comes as over 130,000 Americans have succumb to the virus and at least 2.8 million have been infected with the number of cases starting to surge again. In addition, public health officials estimate that the real number of infections could be 10 times higher than what’s reported.
Many experts feel that the president is estimating the death rate to be around 1% or less. Yet, this doesn’t take into account the full impact of the disease because it leaves out the individuals, which there are thousands, who have been in the hospitals for weeks or battling the virus at home with many having incapacitating outcomes. Furthermore, the calculation of the death rate actually shows that at it closer to 4.5%, but some authorities speculate that this is higher than the actual number since so many cases have gone unaccounted for. If there are more cases, then the percentage of deaths goes down. As far as the actual death rate, experts feel that it’s above 1%, but less than 4.5%.
However, one thing is for certain, the idea that the virus is harmless is false because even if someone doesn’t have any symptoms, they can still transmit it to others who are more vulnerable and these at-risk individuals could end up experiencing a more serious version of the illness. These are the folks who’ll most likely have long-term effects, like impaired lung function, neurological problems and cognitive deficits. In some cases, they may necessitate lifelong care and not be able to get back to being fully independent. Also, some people who have had only mild forms of the virus are dealing with significant issues that are preventing them from returning to their pre-COVID lives. The experts point out that we just don’t know what the long-lasting impacts are going to be yet.
Scientists are saying that COVID-19 is being spread through airborne transmission, which is different from how it has been believed to disperse. Many agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have been indicating that the virus is spread by large respiratory droplets. These types of droplets usually fall quickly to the floor or surface after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Instead, airborne means that the droplets are small enough that they actually float around in the air, which allows for it to be inhaled very easily by others.
This could help to explain why the virus is able to spread so easily. Prior to this explanation, the thought was that individuals were exposed to the virus through direct contact with a sick individual or a surface that had the virus on it from an infected person coughing/sneezing. This is why the recommendation to prevent the virus has been frequent and thorough handwashing. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other scientific establishments from around the world are saying airborne transmission is more likely occurring.
When it comes to combating airborne transmission, it’s a whole different ballgame. One of the big factors is that masks are incredibly important in preventing the spread of the virus. Additionally, ventilation systems need to be altered so that they minimize the amount of air that is recirculated and the standard filters need to be replaced with those that are more powerful. On top of these changes, ultraviolet lights may be needed in order to kill the particles that are lingering in the air.
As the method of transmission is still being worked out, there has been some good news as far as the number of people dying each day from the virus in America. Back in April, there were almost 3,000 people a day dying. The number has dropped to around 550 deaths per day. While this might seem like a reason to celebrate, experts say don’t get too excited. The reason is that the volume of cases are starting to surge again, which means the number of deaths will too. It usually takes a few weeks between the increase in cases to see the rise in deaths.
Experts do say that the elevation in cases is due to a couple of factors and while a rise in deaths is expected, it might not be as bad as before. One reason is that more young individuals are being infected. This part of the population is less likely to get seriously sick, and potentially die, from the virus than older Americans. Another factor is that testing has increased to 600,000 – 700,000 tests being done each day with many of these being mild cases or those with no symptoms. This indicates that we’re doing a better job of capturing a more accurate number of how many people are infected by the virus.
Despite these thoughts, there are signs emerging that the number of deaths is already increasing. When looking at the seven-day average of daily deaths in two of the hardest hit states, Florida and Arizona, the number has risen almost 50% and 54%, respectively, when compared to data from two weeks ago. The other part of this equation is that hospitals, particularly ICUs, in these areas are at or nearing capacity. The lack of appropriate beds could lead to more deaths occurring. Public health experts are saying that as deaths go up, it could get to a point where it might be too late to shift the trend in a better direction, which is why they’re pronouncing that we’ve got a very limited window to get this under control.