On Monday, April 27th, Covid-19 became the 8th leading cause of death for the year 2020, finally surpassing the Flu.
Week Ending April 11th: 12,136 new deaths, and 221,522 new cases
Week Ending April 18th: 18,288 new deaths, and 204,307 new cases
Week Ending April 25th: 15,392 new deaths, and 223,466 new cases
Weekly new deaths are down for the first time since the first U.S. death on February 29th.
The ratio of total deaths to total cases is now flat. It had been rising steadily since March 23rd. That ratio can go flat for two reasons, a good one or a bad one. The good reason would be if new deaths decreased. They did, but that is not most of the cause for the change in ratio. The main cause is that new cases is way up. And these extra new cases are going to result in extra new deaths, peaking in about 20 days.
2017 Yearly Stats (CDC Fast Stats)
Number of deaths: 2,813,503
#1 Heart disease: 647,457
#2 Cancer: 599,108
#3 Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
#4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
#5 Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
#6 Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
#7 Diabetes: 83,564
COVID-19 on 4/26/2020: 56,009
#8 Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
#9 Kidney Disease: 50,633
#10 Intentional self-harm: 47,173
Those numbers are from three years ago, but they don’t usually change much from year to year. It’s always heart disease and cancer, first and second, without a close third cause of death. But this year, 2020, COVID-19 is posed to change those numbers, for the worse. And it begins with the Coronavirus disease of 2019 replacing intentional self-harm on the top ten chart. As I’m writing this article, Worldometers has just closed the figures for April 21st with 45,318 total deaths in the U.S. from Covid. And the daily tally of new U.S. deaths is often above the 1,856 additional deaths needed to exceed 47,173.
Therefore, in all likelihood, on Wednesday, April 22nd, COVID-19 will become the 10th leading cause of death in 2020, surpassing the number for tenth place (47,173) by not very many more deaths . But in a few days, it won’t be a photo-finish. COVID-19 will be the clear tenth place cause of death for 2020 before the end of this week.
And it won’t be long before “the Coronavirus” surpasses the 9th and 8th leading causes of death: 50,633 death from kidney disease, and, most notably, 55,672 deaths from influenza (the flu) and pneumonia. Those two causes, the flu and pneumonia, are always counted together because death from the flu usually includes pneumonia. At about 2000 to 2500 new deaths per day from COVID-19, that should happen by the end of this same week, or the very beginning of next week.
By then, COVID-19 will be the 8th leading cause of death for 2020. And please understand, this count only includes deaths from the Coronavirus so far. The number of new cases and the number of new deaths have both been relatively flat for the past week or two. But these numbers will push higher, perhaps sharply, if the nation begins to open up. Assuming the best of the more likely case scenarios, that is, if numbers remain at the current pace, the United States will have over one million COVID-19 cases, with deaths exceeding 86,000, by the end of April. And at that point, “Covid” will be the 7th leading cause of death, surpassing diabetes at 83,564.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news. If the current trends in cases and deaths remains flat, the U.S. will see two million cases of COVID-19 by the end of May, and 200,000 deaths. The reason for the higher proportion of deaths at the end of May, at 10% of cases, than at the end of April, at 8.6%, is that the ratio of total deaths to total cases has been steadily increasing since about March 23rd. That day saw 553 deaths against 43,734 cases, for a ratio of 1.26%. By the end of March, the ratio of deaths to cases was just over 2%. On April 13th, the ratio hit 4%. And now, on April 21st, the proportion of total deaths to total cases, in the U.S., is 5.53%. (Percentages were calculated from Worldometers.info stats using Archive.org for archived pages of that site.)
The pace of increase means that total deaths will equal 10% or more of total cases by the end of May, 2020. That is an increase in the ratio of total deaths to total cases of almost 8-fold versus March 23rd. Why the increase? One reason may be that the health care system is overburdened by the influx and continuing rush of one patient after another. And these patients, the ones who are hospitalized, are very, very sick. Another reason is that the hospitals are still unsure what the best treatment regimen may be. Knowing that there is no effective treatment may be keeping sick persons away from the hospitals, until their case is so severe that death has become more likely. As with any illness, the sooner a person receives treatment, the better.
By the end of April, COVID-19 will be near the end of the list of top ten causes of death in the U.S. at 7th place. By the end of May, the disease will have taken about 200,000 deaths, putting Covid third after heart disease and cancer. Coincidentally, the number of cancer deaths each year is about 600,00. On average, about a third of the way through any year, which is the end of April, cancer will have taken 200,000 lives so far that year. But it will take COVID-19 until the end of May to reach the same mark.
But the numbers for all these diseases, except Covid-19, are from 2017. What will the number of deaths from each of these causes be for 2020? Without Covid-19, we would ordinarily expect numbers to be about the same. But the pandemic may well change the number of deaths from other causes. The number of deaths from flu and pneumonia are likely to be much smaller. Those deaths are much more common in the elderly. But if you are at risk of dying from the flu, you are very much at risk of dying from the more severe disease, which is also respiratory, COVID-19. So I would expect the deaths from flu and pneumonia to fall off of the top ten list entirely.
Many of the patients dying from Covid have “co-morbidities”, they have other diseases at the same time, serious chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. High blood pressure increases risk of death from stroke and heart disease. But these conditions also increase risk of death from COVID-19. Basically, the Coronavirus is going to take the lives of many persons who probably would have died this year, or within several years, from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. So the number of deaths from all those causes will be lower, not only in 2020, but for at least a few years.
Therefore, COVID-19 need not take 600,000 lives to be the second leading cause of death in 2020, nor 650,000 lives to be the first cause of death. The disease will take numbers away from both those causes, and so Covid could become the leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020 with fewer than 600,000 total deaths, if it happens that heart disease and cancer both have lower numbers this year.
What will the total number of Covid deaths be for the entire year? That number could exceed one million in the U.S. alone. If the ratio of total deaths to total cases hits 10% by the end of May, the ratio itself might continue to increase. We could see 15 or 20% of deaths versus total reported cases.
Now I realize that many have theorized that there are a vast number of unreported cases, as many as 10 or 20 times higher than reported ones. But that theory is unproven. If it is true, then the nation might quickly accumulate a vast number of recovered and unreported cases, and those persons would hopefully be immune to any further Covid infection. But given the extent of the lockdown, I think the theory is at least overblown, if not entirely mistaken.
In any case, the numbers in this article are from reported cases and reported deaths. If the ratio of total deaths to total cases continues to increase, we could reach 5 million cases by October of this year. This assumes a steady flow of about 30,000 new cases per day for about 5 months. Ten percent would be half a million deaths. But if the death rate continues to increase, as it has been, at an additional 0.11 percentage points (just over a tenth of one percent) increase per day, the ratio will reach 15% by sometime in July and 20% by sometime in September.
In all likelihood, this increase in the ratio of deaths to cases will flatten or perhaps decrease. But if it does not, the number of deaths will become staggering. Hopefully, that will not happen. Meanwhile, we wait patiently for a vaccine or a highly effective treatment — both of which are desperately needed as soon as possible.
I don’t want to speculate further. There are too many uncertainties to put a number on the whole year. Remember that God has a plan for us all, and He hears all our prayers. I recommend the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet to everyone. I’ll be writing more on this topic as the weeks pass.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
 U.S. CDC.gov, Fast Stats, Deaths and Mortality;
 Data is from Worldometers.info, “Coronavirus Update”;