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Advocates for reopening economy use ‘junk’ science to make their case | READER COMMENTARY

COVID-19 cough
COVID-19 cough (David Horsey / Courtesy)

In arguing for an immediate reopening of the Maryland economy, certain advocates repeat the Fox News junk science claim that anywhere between 95% and 99% of COVID-19 cases result in full recovery. But those studies have a fatal methodological error — they inflate the denominator (total cases) relative to the numerator (fatalities).

In any pandemic, there are always many deaths that are never diagnosed at all. A large number of COVID-19 patients have died at home. Particularly early in the pandemic, they were never tested for the disease. A standard epidemiological method of estimating the total number of fatalities caused by a pandemic is to determine the number of excess deaths over the period the disease was identified in the population. Excess deaths are determined by comparing the total deaths over that time period with total deaths over a longer period and then subtracting out the number of deaths that are known to be caused by the disease.

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When comparing the excess deaths in the United States since January with the weekly total deaths since April 2017, there were at least 25% excess deaths in the U.S. since the virus was first detected here — 36% for the week ending April 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Similar results have been reported throughout the world. Granted, not all those excess deaths are due to COVID-19. But it is equally true that deaths from certain causes — automobile accidents for one — have drastically gone down due to worldwide lockdowns. The 25% excess death figure is almost certainly a conservative estimate of excess COVID-19 deaths (“The coronavirus has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide, including 61,000 in the US,” April 30).

Reopening the economy must be based on sound science and conducted in a safe manner. It must not be based on junk science and faulty math.

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Sheldon H. Laskin, Pikesville

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