Letter to the Editor: Comparing Death Rates from Covid and Seasonal Flu

~ Submitted by Chris Gittins

In “Kiessling Continues to Call for End to Mask Mandate; Other Health Board Members Disagree,” Mike Rosenberg reports a Board of Health member stating “breakthrough cases indicate that vaccine effectiveness is limited” and “the [COVID] death rate is now at flu level”.   Both assertions contradict available data.

Regarding COVID vaccine effectiveness, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and as reported in the New York Times [1], the COVID case rate is currently five times higher for unvaccinated people than for vaccinated and the COVID death rate is thirteen times higher for unvaccinated than for vaccinated.

Regarding COVID death rate relative to flu, the CDC reports weekly number of deaths from all causes and estimates ‘excess deaths’ based on historical trends in the weekly numbers [2].  Adding up the weekly estimates since February 2020, the start of the pandemic yields approximately 860,000 excess deaths.  One can compare that total with the estimated number of COVID-related deaths over the same period: nearly 800,000 people dead [1].   In short, most excess deaths since the onset of the COVID pandemic are believed to be due to COVID.  Conveniently, the CDC also tracks flu-related deaths [3].  During the 2017-2018 flu season, a particularly bad one, there were just over 50,000 flu-related deaths.  That’s a single-season total.  COVID has been with us for nearly two years.  Over the worst two-year period since 2010, there were roughly 80,000 flu-related deaths.  That’s approximately one-tenth of the number of COVID-related deaths of a comparable period of time.  The COVID death rate greatly exceeds flu level.

It is in the best interest of Bedford residents that all members of the Board of Health base their decisions on accurate information.   Thank you to those members who have been doing so.

References


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Ryan Mantz
Ryan Mantz
5 months ago

I commend the public health board for their courage to continue to protect the health of our community with mask mandates. Ms Porter’s information on community mask mandates vs SARS-COV-2 cases and positivity rates was enlightening to indicate that masks do prevent the spread of the virus. That conclusion is echoed in today’s aticle on NPR (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/12/16/1064668750/state-mask-mandates-omicron). The article cites public health experts and data scientists who agree that masks do prevent the spread of SARS-COV-2 postive cases.

Regardless of how one views SARS-COV-2 case counts, testing, or how the virus leads to severe cases of COVID-19, I’d ask the board to consider that the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 deaths nationwide is 1,143 (Dec 14 per the CDC (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailydeaths; 2 -3 per day in Middlesex County).

Thank you to the public health board for using their authority to continue mask mandates to stop the spread of SARS-COV-2 and protect the health of our community.

Ann Kiessling
Ann Kiessling
5 months ago

The “death rate” of an infectious agent is the per cent of infected persons who die, not the per cent of the population who die from that cause. In early 2020, because of limited testing capacity, the numbers being reported indicated 5% to 10% of infected persons were dying. As testing capacity increased, that death rate dropped to lower than 1%, more in the range of the death rate from flu infections. Recent estimates posted by the CDC (covid.cdc.gov-COVID data tracker-Estimated COVID-19 Burden) have compiled antibody surveillance data from blood banks and large commercial laboratories to reveal 3.5 times more U.S. residents have been SARS-CoV-2 infected (approximately 40% of the entire population) than positive tests reported. This places the over all COVID death rate of infected persons at 0.6%, kids 0 to 17 years old at 0.002%, and 18 to 49 year olds at 0.08%. More than 50% of Bedford’s positive SARS-CoV-2 tests reported to the Mass DPH are vaccinated adults, in keeping with the current World Health Organization’s estimate that “fully vaccinated” is approximately 40% effective against a new infection, more effective against death from that infection.
Ann Kiessling
53 Concord Road

Mark D. Cieplinski
Mark D. Cieplinski
5 months ago
Reply to  Ann Kiessling

+1 to Ann Kiessling for providing detail to the data.

Rich Madison
Rich Madison
5 months ago

+1 to Chris for keeping the debate honest

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