COVID death reports remain highly misleading and insufficient for fear-mongering.
The United Kingdom gives a good example of the problem with this constant reporting of COVID numbers as if they should be scary, especially when the metric is people with COVID, not people who have been assessed to have been harmed by it.
Here’s the underlying data, which shows that the United Kingdom has had 24,968 confirmed Omicron cases and another 76,705 suspected, but unconfirmed, cases. All hospitalizations and deaths have been in England, with the following numbers for that country, specifically: 23,168 confirmed cases, 62,597 suspected cases, 85 hospitalizations, and 7 deaths.
This is without context, though. The population of England in 2016 was 55.27 million. That year, there were 490,791 deaths from all causes. That’s one death for about every 113 people. The Omicron report for the 18th doesn’t make this clear, but the one the day before indicates that the clock for Omicron hospitalization data started on November 24, which means these deaths have occurred over three weeks.
In 2016, England had roughly 28,315 deaths every three weeks, which means one out of every 1,952 people died in any given three-week period. Thus, we would expect that 44 English people with confirmed or suspected cases of Omicron COVID would have died from any cause. If we look only at confirmed cases, that number would be 12.
My unanswered question has to do with the testing protocol. If everybody who dies of any cause is tested for COVID, then the seven dead people who tested positive for Omicron is lower than would be expected, as if having Omicron is associated with better health outcomes. (That sounds crazy, but it could be the case if people felt sick and so stayed in bed nursing themselves, which is not a very risky activity.)
The more targeted the testing along the lines of a diagnosis (such as presentation of COVID symptoms), the more likely the deaths are attributable to Omicron, and the more likely its death rate exceeds the average for all causes. But with England testing about one-sixth of its population every three weeks, the targeting can’t be but so narrow.
My objective, here, is not to guess the actual death rate in England from Omicron, as opposed to with it, but only to illustrate how little it tells us to hear that seven people have died while testing positive. After all, over the same period, about 1,952 Englishmen and -women have died after breathing air. Even the mainstream media isn’t trying to attract clicks by reporting that statistic.
Featured image by Adhy Savala on Unsplash.