Beware of Definitive Statements

Reader Steven Kopits disputes the idea that the US per capita fatality rates can approach those of Italy:

Reporting for the day May 8, the US had the 5th highest death rate (for this day alone, not cumulatively), at 6.8 per million. Interestingly, Sweden was No. 2 at 9.7 per million.
Here’s the top fifteen in order (worst at top) of 84 countries reporting deaths today:


Italy’s cumulative death rate is 14%. The US stands at about 6%. There is no possibility that the US death rate will approach Italy’s.

I will merely note that the US is currently logging about 2000/fatalities per day at roughly constant pace, while Italy’s fatalities per day is declining. That is why gradients/first derivatives are of interest.

Using the IHME estimates as of today, the August 4 cumulatives for the US is 134,475, for Italy it’s 31,458. With US population at 328.2 million (2019) and Italian population at 60.36, this implies 409.7 fatalities/million in US versus 521.2 fatalities/million in Italy. Since the upper bound for the IHME forecast is 242,890, implying a cumulative fatality rate of 740.1 fatalities/million, I think it very possible the US cumulative fatality rate will exceed that of Italy’s.

For more on Mr. Kopits’ previous forecasts, see here.

56 thoughts on “Beware of Definitive Statements

  1. Moses Herzog

    These filthy dirty immigrants invading our nation are what frightens me, some of them have invaded the White House and put at threat our dear orange leader:

    And once the diseased immigrants get in, we see they ALL become a deadweight on our nation, lazing around, contributing nothing, and mooching off the white man, and sucking off the hard-working taxpayer:

    Well, 500,000 COVID-19 testing kits from the one nation that has done a decent job battling the virus really won’t help any Americans will it?? The important thing is the orange creature, Stephen Miller, and Stephen Bannon have to keep all these rodents and rats out of our hygienic MAGA-land. With “consultants” like “Princeton”Kopits swimming around the White House smelling blood in the water and possessing lots of self-fabricated data points to make FOX viewers happy, it shouldn’t be hard to keep the rodents out.

    1. pgl

      Korean baseball is played on ESPN at 4AM, which is often when I wake up to consume coffee and get ready for my pre-sunrise run. It is the only game on and it is quite good.

      I saw some party where all the Trumpsters were hanging out in expensive wear. RUDY came with his latest ugly gold digger and Stephen brought Katie. I swear to God that RUDY was hitting on Katie. He would. And if RUDY got COVID-19, it would serve him right.

  2. Alan Goldhammer

    Personally I think all of this conjecture is a fool’s errand. I’ve been reading modeling papers until my eyes glazed over. I do a daily newsletter covering the clinical/vaccine/drug and other developments for fellow pharma industry retirees (reports are all archived here: for those who are interested. The problem with any of the statistics is the numbers are all too squishy. Even the fatality numbers might have to be adjusted upwards when serum samples from autopsies are tested. I would note that when this was done in Santa Clara county in CA they found the earliest death from COVID-19 was in early February, before it was thought that it had spread to CA. How many more fatalities? I don’t know. Similarly, we have no clue about the infection rate. Attempts to do this are met with routine criticism by people who have no clue about field epidemiology. I think the New York City study is pretty decent as they have a very good serology test that was developed there.

    In my meager opinion, the current CRF of 6% is an order of magnitude too high. Until we have a lot more testing it is all seat of the pants.

    1. Moses Herzog

      One of the things I would like to know (from you, or anyone knowledgeable on the issue) is, is “Worldometers” a reliable source?? Mostly I trust WHO and John Hopkins coronavirus website, and that is what I would go with if it was easy to pull up numbers. But for some nations it’s semi-difficult to pull up individual nation’s numbers. I often get “Worldometers” numbers on Google searches, but I don’t feel comfortable quoting them if I don’t know who the hell is putting them together or a rundown on “methodology”.

      If anyone knows a site where it’s easy to pull up individual nations’ numbers, and is also trustworthy please pass it along. I would appreciate it.

      1. Alan Goldhammer

        The Johns Hopkins site is probably the best one to use. But you have to take into account the caveats that I mentioned.

        1. Moses Herzog

          Thanks Mr. Goldhammer. I still think some of the countries’ numbers are hard to find, but maybe if I peck through their original sourcing material I can find one. I found one I thought was quite good for the individual states, so I will peck through it again,

    2. Dwight L. Cramer

      I hope your order of ‘magnitude’ comment is right, but who knows? Right now we appear to have embarked on a continent-wide experiment in developing herd immunity, and if, God forbid, the current CRF holds, you’d be looking at a pre-Industrial era experience. It won’t (knock on wood), but having much confidence in any projections based on the current, squishy data, is as crazy as putting much faith in the economic projections of some political lackey.

      Oh well, so far this has all been a big exercise in confirmation bias. Be interesting to see if it gets bad enough that people start abandoning their narratives and opening their minds.

  3. pgl

    Secret Service hit hard by Coronavirus:

    Trump went off that one member of the White House had this virus. Now it is also an aid to Pence, a close aid to Ivanka, and a widespread issue with the Secret Service.

    Recall when the North Korean leader disappeared for weeks? Rumor he went into deep self isolation over fears of getting this virus. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both Trump and Pence just disappeared for months? After all – neither one of these clowns are leading.

    1. Willie

      I wouldn’t miss either of them. But, Karma isn’t doing its job if it just hits the underlings who are stuck doing their jobs.

  4. Bruce Hall

    Under the heading “Counting Are Hard”…

    Fact check: Hospitals get paid more if patients listed as COVID-19, on ventilators
    Change to death certificates could boost COVID-19 counts
    “If you died of a clear alternate cause, but you had Covid at the same time, it’s still listed as a Covid death,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of Illinois’s Department of Public Health, explained to reporters.

    There’s an old axiom (I made it up 50-years ago as an analyst): What gets measured gets manipulated.

    1. pgl

      Hey Bruce – keep telling us that the death count is inflated. That worked real well for Steven K. during the Maria crisis.

      Whenever we think we have found the most pathetic weasel on the planet, Bruce Hall pops up his little head saying “what about me”?

    2. pgl

      What gets measured gets manipulated.

      This is a riot from a Trumpster who has a long record on misrepresenting everything in sight. But come on Brucie – you have to try a lot harder to out manipulate Lawrence Kudlow!

    3. 2slugbaits

      Bruce Hall (I made it up 50-years ago as an analyst)

      You as an analyst? That’s a hoot. You were flummoxed by logarithms and don’t seem to understand even basic statistics & time series analysis.

      BTW, your story is an old one and you are misrepresenting what the actual public health directive said. I shot down that story of yours several weeks ago and I even included a copy of the actual instructions to Minnesota doctors.

      As to ventilators, wouldn’t you expect hospitals to get paid more since keeping patients on ventilators is very expensive? But what’s really shocking is that you clearly did not read your own link. The actual story debunked this doctor’s suggestion that hospitals were putting people on ventilators unnecessarily just to run up the bill. Here’s what the article actually said:

      There have been no public reports that hospitals are exaggerating COVID-19 numbers to receive higher Medicare payments.

      Jensen didn’t explicitly make that claim. He simply suggested there is an “avenue” to do so now that “plausible” COVID-19, not just laboratory-confirmed, cases can be greenlighted for Medicare payment and eligible for the 20% add-on allowed under the relief act.

      This isn’t the first time that you’ve been caught linking to stories that actually undermine your own argument. I suspect you’ve taken to frantic trolling around the internet looking for clickbait headlines that sorta, kinda sound like they might support your argument. Is that the kind of analysis you did 50 years ago?

    4. Moses Herzog

      If we are to assume that Bruce Hall is sincere (that’s a large chasm of uncertainty to leap across there) we might advise Bruce to read the following:

      Yes, there are gray/ visually fuzzy areas in life. Issues which even educated and informed people can be confused on. But if certain techniques are applied, you will happily find yourself being fooled rarely. But this does take a decent amount of self inventory. Checking your own biases, (which everyone has) and trying to eliminate wishful thinking from the equation. If “you” (“you” read as read “anyone” here) are honest with yourself, in those visually fuzzy areas it is a constant battle you should be fighting inside yourself. If you are not fighting that battle inside yourself, in your own internal mind’s voice—then YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

      1. pgl

        Plandemic is so off the wall insane – I doubt Bruce Hall would even repeat its nonsense. Of course I could be wrong.

  5. ltr

    May 9, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    Belgium   ( 740)
    Spain   ( 566)
    Italy   ( 503)
    UK   ( 465)

    France   ( 402)
    Sweden   ( 319)
    Netherlands   ( 316)
    Ireland   ( 289)

    US   ( 238)
    Switzerland   ( 211)
    Luxembourg   ( 161)
    Canada   ( 123)

    Portugal   ( 110)
    Denmark   ( 91)
    Germany   ( 90)
    Austria   ( 68)

    Finland   ( 48)
    Norway   ( 40)
    Greece   ( 14)
    China   ( 3)

    1. Barkley Rosser

      Alan Goldhammer’s warning applies to these numbers as well. Looking at excess deaths the US has probably been undercounting, especiallly given our low rate of testing. OTOH, Belgium’s numbers are especially high as they apparently count various “imputed” cases that other nations do not count.

    2. Steven Kopits

      Sweden has been proposed as this great model, but really, it’s pretty bad in statistical terms.

      1. baffling

        that fact has been pointed out by just about everybody on this site, except for bruce hall, who will refute your argument with garbage.

  6. Steven Kopits

    Mea culpa. The number I referred to was cumulative confirmed deaths / cumulative confirmed cases. As of May 9th, the US rate is 6.0% and the rate for Italy is 14.3%.

    If we translate this into per capita (let’s make it per million capita), then the US cumulative confirmed death rate as of May 9 is 236 / million and Italy is 514 / million.

    However, Italy is about two weeks ahead of the US on the curve. If we project out to the end of the pandemic (end July as a more practical matter), I project Italy’s deaths at 579 / million and the US at 413 / million, that is, the US is projected to suffer 29% fewer deaths per capita.

    The US does, however, look quite poor in comparison in terms of confirmed cases / capita. In Italy, as of May 9, the cumulative confirmed cases are 3,594 / million, while the US figures is 3,924 / million, 9.2% higher than Italy. By the end of the pandemic (end July), I project Italy’s confirmed cases at 3,872 / million and the US at
    5,655 / million, 46% higher than Italy.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Steven Kopits: Why should we be interested in cumulative fatalities/cumulative positives?
      And you think the pandemic will be over by end-July?

      1. Steven Kopits

        Well, if you’re not interested in cumulative numbers, then ltr above is showing you state of play: the US is in the middle of the pack for the OECD, and it’s way better than Italy to date. I showed the number to ‘end of pandemic’, because it was more favorable to your line of argumentation. But, hey.

        I don’t know when the pandemic will end, but we can see a gradual decrease in the growth of new cases. Italy should be under 1,000 / day this coming week and the US is tracking about two weeks behind in terms of percentage growth. I think the tail though is just incredibly difficult to predict. Is the decline linear, exponential, or kind of meandering plateau, where we have 50 or 100 cases on and off for months? Don’t know.

        For this phase, however, I think we can materially see the end to July. Will there be another outbreak in the fall? If I had to guess, yes. And then we start the meter all over again, for the US and Italy and everyone else. How that will go, absolutely no idea. Right now, two weeks is still a long time.

        1. baffling

          many parts of the us have reached at best a plateau. and that has been with significant social distancing and a closed economy. neither of those are in force going forward, as it now stands, so i would not expect much of a decay over the next couple of months. when a disease has an exponential spread, and it already has a foothold, the lack of social distancing and other quarantine measures simply keeps the fire burning.

      2. Moses Herzog

        @ Menzie
        Hopefully I have made clear I am avidly on your same side on this issue (I am against premature re-opening of the economy). But I was genuinely curious your thoughts on this paper which is highlighted in April 17 WSJ:

        At the risk of causing your coffee or tea to come out of your nose as you involuntarily chortle, I was wondering, based on the high amount of sunshine they see in Santa Clara County vs say, Buffalo New York, if average Vitamin D levels in Santa Clara being much higher than the average American’s that their higher levels of Vitamin D might lower the death rate directly due to COVID-19 in Santa Clara?? I thought it interesting that the percentage of African Americans did not seem to be specified, but appeared to be extremely low relative to the USA population. The affluence and education levels in Santa Clara imply that citizens have more personal resources for travel, which would cause more antibodies in the Santa Clara vicinity.

        Information on County-wide data of Santa Clara (which the City of Santa Clara would obviously be a sub-set of)

        The multiple biases in sampling is the obvious problem, still, you’ll give me credit for quoting better research than “Princeton”Kopits has authored?? Or maybe not……

    2. 2slugbaits

      Steven Kopits One problem with your ratio is that it doesn’t account for the ultimate status of those who are still recovering. Their final fate is, as yet, undetermined. You should think of these as akin to censored observations in a survival model. Presumably the availability of healthcare resources would have some effect on the percent of those still recovering who will ultimately survive. As of right now in the US there have been 1.33 million confirmed cases, 79.2k deaths and 188k recovered. In other words, 80% of the results have yet to be determined. For Italy those numbers are 218K infected, 30.4k deaths and 103k recovered, leaving only 38.8 percent yet to be determined.

      1. Steven Kopits

        If we were two weeks into the crisis, Slugs, you might be right. But not now. A month ago, Italy’s death rate was 13.3%. Today, it is 14.3%. So the ratio has hardly budged in a month, and it is beginning to hold very steady in 14% range. For example, two weeks ago, the rate was 13.9%, now 14.3%. Could it go up yet a bit? I expect it to, but not a whole lot. I’m modeling with 15.1% to EoP.

        For the US, the rate two weeks ago was 5.75%, today was 6.01%. The increase in the last week was 0.1% (pp). Go out ten weeks, and you’re at 7.0% at that pace. I’m modeling with 7.3% to EoP.

        1. baffling

          i don’t think italy has been reopening and relaxing social distancing like is occurring in the usa, steven.

          1. Steven Kopits

            The US, by and large, has been tracking Italy with a two week delay regarding growth of new cases. This hasn’t changed with today’s data, which is actually pretty good.

        2. Ulenspiegel

          To model with death /confirmed cases is tricky as the latter depends on testing strategy and may change in countries.

          If the testing capacity hits a ceiling the ratio increases, because you cannot follow the infection chains any longer, you switch from containment to protection. However, if a country like Austria can drastically reduce the new cases by social distancing the strategy may change to containment again. I would expect a decreasing ratio.

          As the virus kills around 4 of 1000 infected people an analysis of deaths, excess deaths minus confirmed corv-19 cases gives IMHO a better picture.

          You have countries with a high excess mortality that is much higher than the number of confirmed corv-19 deaths. And you have a few countries in which the excess mortality can completely be explained by corv-19 deaths.

          1. Steven Kopits

            I use Italy as a template for new cases, in terms of percentage growth, and by and large, it has been a good model for the US. There could be better, I just didn’t use them.

            In terms of mortality, I am examining not the mortality rate, but rather the trends in mortality, ie, the change in the mortality rate. Italy has not been too bad a guide there either. But again, there could be better models. But we’re no Singapore or South Korea, are we?

          2. Ulenspiegel

            “In terms of mortality, I am examining not the mortality rate, but rather the trends in mortality, ie, the change in the mortality rate. Italy has not been too bad a guide there either. But again, there could be better models. But we’re no Singapore or South Korea, are we?”

            But what is the goal of your analysis? Italy has a high excess mortality that is not explained by official corv-19 numbers.
            Do you assume the same for the USA? What is the point of using numbers that are not near the reality to describe the situation in the USA?

            We know that the mortality of infected people is 0.4-0.8% (age corrected data from Diamond Princess, data from Austria, Germany), by analysing official corv-19 numbers and excess mortality gives an estimate of real deaths numbers (i.e. accounts for underreproting) and allows to estimate the immunisation of the people.

          3. Steven Kopits

            I am trying to get a sense of 1) is there a trend in the data?; and 2) what is that trend? The public’s behavior will be determined by principally these two factors. If the public sees the wave subsiding, then they will leave their homes. If the virus persists, but can be treated adequately, they will also leave their homes. For the moment, I am working on oil issues again, and the public’s behavior is central to oil demand. Hence the interest in the path of the pandemic (beyond my own personal interest).

        3. 2slugbaits

          Steven Kopits I would agree that it’s unlikely the US will approach Italy’s deaths/infection ratio. Italy got hit early and their hospitals were quickly overwhelmed. While we still don’t have a silver bullet therapeutic, it is the case that since Italy’s peak doctors have started to find ways that improve outcomes. OTOH, if you look at deaths/infections by US states you’ll see that they range from almost zero to almost 10 percent. And the ratios are more or less uniformly distributed across that range. We don’t know how much of that variance is due to things that affect the denominator (i.e., testing for infections) or how much is due to things that affect the numerator (i.e., demographics, availability of healthcare, number still recovering, etc.). One thing we do know is that states that were hit the earliest also tend to be states that have the highest ratio. That might be for the same reasons that Italy’s ratio is so high. Or it might be because those who had been categorized as “in recovery” for a long time finally died.

          One thing that continues to bother me is the tendency for some people to discount the seriousness of the virus by only looking at the number of deaths as a percent of the total population. Mortality is an important statistic, but so is pain and lasting disability. A lot of otherwise healthy people who do recover only recover after a long (many weeks) of a very painful recovery. And the will suffer lasting damage to their lungs that will not only leave them disabled, but will likely shorten their life expectancy. So instead of dying at age 75 they might die at age 65 but we won’t see that statistic for many decades down the road.

          1. Steven Kopits

            I don’t discount serious damage caused by the virus to survivors. The problem is that we don’t have any regularly reported statistics on that.

          2. baffling

            steven, there are more people with long term damage from the virus than have died from the virus. that is a statistic you can count on. there will be multiple people with long term disabilities for every person who died from the virus. so use the death count as a proxy and apply whatever multiple greater than 1 that you want.

  7. pgl

    Come on man. Steven Kopits must downplay US deaths because if he does not – Fox and Friends will not invite him to appear. Have you not figured out by now that is all that matters to Steven Kopits?

  8. ltr

    Confirmed cases in the US are above 1.34 million and deaths are above 79.9 thousand:

    May 9, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    Belgium   ( 740)
    Spain   ( 566)
    Italy   ( 503)
    UK   ( 465)

    France   ( 403)
    Sweden   ( 319)
    Netherlands   ( 316)
    Ireland   ( 293)

    US   ( 242)
    Switzerland   ( 211)
    Luxembourg   ( 161)
    Canada   ( 124)

    Portugal   ( 110)
    Denmark   ( 91)
    Germany   ( 90)
    Austria   ( 68)

    Finland   ( 48)
    Norway   ( 40)
    Greece   ( 14)
    China   ( 3)

  9. pgl

    More bad news for Bruce Hall and his promotion of snake oil:

    Large Study Suggests Malaria Drug Hydroxychloroquine Doesn’t Help COVID-19
    Yet another clinical study, this one analyzing the use of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, suggests the drug is not helpful in treating COVID-19. The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, May 7.
    The authors write: “Hydroxychloroquine has been widely administered to patients with COVID-19 without robust evidence supporting its use.”

    Oh well – Brucie can continue to promote that other intellectual garbage about how Trump is doing such an incredible job controlling this virus and promoting economic growth. MAGA!

  10. Dwight L. Cramer

    Deaths per million is an interesting statistic, but not much more informative than total deaths unadjusted for population. At least, not when being used the way it’s being rolled out here. Is the point being argued here that China’s public health system is 80x better than the American one? Is the point that the age structure of the Italian population is so different from that in the United States. that it’s meaningless to compare outcomes between the United States and Italy? Deaths per hundred thousand tests might be the start of a trip somewhere interesting. Or, just including some of the less developed countries in that sample list above might raise some interesting questions.

    I’m still waiting for some evidence that somebody, somewhere, is liberating themselves from their narrative. But I guess the comment section of a website (not just here, but anywhere) is a lousy place to go looking for intellectual humility.

    1. Baffling

      Your argument would be fine if not for the trend of us to catch up with italien statistics. That trend make your argument appear incorrect dwight.

  11. ltr

    What the data clearly show is that countries that quickly responded to the WHO alert on January 3 on the pneumonia cluster that was reported by China on December 31, 2019, and that used the Covid-19 genomes posted on January 11 to ready testing, fared best in public health terms. The United States has unfortunately fared significantly poorly.

    1. Ulenspiegel

      “What the data clearly show is that countries that quickly responded to the WHO alert on January 3 on the pneumonia cluster that was reported by China on December 31, 2019, and that used the Covid-19 genomes posted on January 11 to ready testing, fared best in public health terms. ”

      You do NOT set up and validate a PCR protocoll for a new virus in 8 days. :-))

      The truth is that the involved groups, mainly in the Charite Berlin, used a series of SARS-1 and bat coronavirus sequences for primer construction and validation BEFORE the covid-19 seqjuence was published. They only used the new sequence to pick the most promising primer. The validated test was available 15th of January.

  12. Moses Herzog

    I recommend all of the staff/Cabinet members of the West Wing along with the leadership of the Justice Department volunteer to test the efficacy of Clorox Bleach. We start with anyone with the last name Miller, Bannon, Barr, Or Trump. We need to see exactly how this works. Have them all do a trial run drinking an entire bottle of bleach at midnight, and then, in order to check on the long-term effects, have them sit alone in isolation for a solid month after drinking the bleach before we check back in on them. It’s like doing a 7-day average on deaths, We need to wait an entire month before checking in on them to make sure the numbering is accurate. No need for any placebo or “control group” here—let’s just have them ALL “give this one a go”.

    If a “control group” is demanded in the name of science, just have Senator McConnell and Kevin McCarthy try a different brand of bleach.

    1. Willie

      Just to make your head explode: if both Trump and Pence die without replacements, you will have to learn to say President Pelosi. I personally would not mind seeing her run the country for a few months. It would be a vast improvement.

      It also will not happen, so your head is safe.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ Willie
        Are you kidding?!?!?!?! It’ll be a blast—Nancy’ll be handing out 4 ounce cups of ice cream for $200 each. I’m all set for Nancy’s “Democrats for the 1%” reign to commence. She’ll have her daughters doing pelvic grinding on the “resolute” desk 4 minutes after being sworn in. Nancy’s mental faculties will be bobbing in and out of reality as she watches her daughters play on the desk: “I took them to kayak lessons when they were little”.

    2. Barkley Rosser

      Of course, on Mother’s Day Moses posrs something and makes anti-Pelosi statements. Of course.

      1. Moses Herzog

        Your dementia has you confused again. You and Nancy’s designated holiday is September 13.

        Thanks for setting me up for the overhead smash Junior. You’re the best.

        1. Barkley Rosser

          Huh? Sorry, but I am unaware of anything of any significance regarding September 13. Is that Pelosi’s birthday? Do you think any reader here is going to get why this sets you up to have some imaginary “overhead smash”? You are becoming seriously delusional, Moses, quite aside from obsessed.

          BTW, did you send your mother a card or flowers or candy or give her a call? Or is she no longer among the living?

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Better yet, Mose, if your mother is still alive, did you visit her or even call her? You have gone on and on about your beloved father, but with the exception I think of one vague mention, not a whisper about your mother. What did she do to you that has you constantly claiming Pelosi is “demented” when not a single person here agrees with you and many have openly disagreed with you on this, including Menzie?

  13. baffling

    for all the trumpeters out there who are pushing for fast reopening and an end to social distancing, and believe face masks and self quarantine are for sissies, think about his for a moment. if trump and pence continue to follow their own instructions, you most likely will end up with president pelosi by the fourth of july. consider this for a moment.

    in related news, i think it is disgusting that the white house goes all out to test every person in the building daily, while saying the rest of the country has sufficient testing capability when they are an order of magnitude short in capacity. to further ruffle ones feathers, is seems quite hypocritical for trump to tell citizens to go out and mingle while he fears encountering anybody who has not been tested or is not wearing a face mask absent a camera. trump has become paralyzed with fear of infection, but has no problem if others become infected, so long as he has no interaction with them. why so much fear in the whitehouse? why can whitehouse officials self isolate, but the rest of america should continue to mingle and spread the disease? perhaps rick stryker could provide some of his twisted insight on trumps behavior here?

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