Study: COVID-19 weakening as death rate falls

By Art Moore

Arizona National Guard service members direct visitor check-in and collect samples for testing at a COVID-19 testing site at the Graham County Fairgrounds in Safford, Arizona, Sept. 19, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Thurman Snyder)

Amid fears of a possible second wave, a new study finds COVID-19’s severity may be fading as the death rate falls.

Researchers at Wayne State University in Michigan say the viral loads in patients with SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, are continuing to decrease, which they connect to the lowering death rate, reported Study Finds.

Dr. Said El Zein and his team analyzed nasal swabs of COVID-19 patients at Detroit Medical Center from April 4 to June 5 and found a downward trend in the amount of virus detected in patients.

In August, the New York Times found in an analysis of data that up to 90% of people testing positive carried barely any virus.

Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli summarized her story on Twitter: “NEW: All these months into the pandemic, we may have been testing the wrong way. Data from some state labs suggest up to 90% (!!) of people who get a positive result are no longer contagious and don’t need to isolate.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control issued new estimates that showed people under 50 years infected by COVID-19 have nearly a 100% survival rate. It broke down to a 99.997% survival rate for 0-19; 99.98% for ages 20-49; 99.5% for 50-69; and 94.6% for those over 70.

Those who died of coronavirus, according to the CDC, had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning more than two chronic diseases along with COVID-19. Overall, the CDC says, just 6% of the people counted as COVID-19 deaths died of COVID-19 alone.

The CDC’s overall count shows a significant downward trend from a peak of 17,054 deaths on April 18.

Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 death count shows a downward trend from a peak on April 18, 2020 (CDC)

Last week, a study by researchers at the Houston Methodist Research Institute raised concerns about coronavirus mutations as the fall season begins. Among more than 5,000 genetic sequences of COVID-19 they found more than 90% of samples contained a mutation.

Significantly, however, the Houston researchers found the mutations did not make the virus deadlier.

Florida opens up

The CDC’s latest survival-rate figures were cited by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week at a roundtable he hosted with health experts from Harvard and Stanford prior to his decision to reopen bars and restaurants in his state to 100% capacity.

On Monday, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci called the Republican governor’s decision “very concerning,” citing an average of about 40,000 new coronavirus cases reported per day.

“Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“When you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close,” he said.

President Donald J. Trump participates in a tour Monday, July 27, 2020, at at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Morrisville, North Carolina. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

DeSantis said that along with lifting state restrictions on restaurants and bars, the state is also barring local governments from shutting down businesses or implementing restrictions without any economic or health justifications.

At his roundtable last week, DeSantis asked Stanford professor of medicine Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya about the studies showing 90% of the COVID-19 testing is too sensitive.

“We’re quarantining across the country probably hundreds of thousands or millions of people who aren’t even contagious, and I think that obviously has a huge cost to society that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of discussion now,” the governor said.

Bhattacharya agreed that “what is being amplified” in the testing is “something that is not going to pose any risk to you or to others.”

“It’s not a false positive in a technical sense,” he said, “but in a functional sense it’s a false positive.”

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