• Alysa Salzberg

Why is it so difficult to find out COVID-19’s mortality rate?

Among the many unanswered questions about COVID-19, one might surprise you: What is the virus’s mortality rate?


There are answers out there from a number of sources. But many of them don’t match up.

Some reasons for the disparity seem fairly evident. For instance, we know that a certain percentage of any given population will have the virus but be asymptomatic. That means that, with the exception of countries that test a significant portion of their population – or even, ideally, all of it – many cases will go unreported and won’t be included in statistics.


Another issue is people who have mild symptoms and decide not to report them or get medical care. These people, too, will fall through the cracks.


Those reasons alone make it seem nearly impossible to ever know the true mortality rate – and they aren’t even the only causes of the disparity.


A recent New York Times article examines the issue in-depth. Read on for a fascinating – and frustrating -- exploration of the ins and outs of statistics and determining mortality rate, as well as the different ways COVID-19 cases have been counted around the world.



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