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New COVID-19 infections rising, but new deaths flat as younger patients recover

Some public health policy experts fear spreading unfounded alarm about rising infection rates risks deep harm to Americans' livelihoods and mental health due to prolonged, widespread shutdowns.

Updated: June 25, 2020 - 8:55am

Even though new coronavirus infections are rising in America and around the world, new coronavirus deaths are largely flat, a trend largely missing from most mainstream media coverage.

Experts say the fact that new coronavirus deaths appear to remain flat is driven by more younger patients getting infected and recovering amid reopenings as the worst of the pandemic passes. 

On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post issued a breaking news email alert headlined "New coronavirus cases in the U.S. soar to highest single-day total."

"Across the United States," reported the Post, "more than 36,000 new infections were reported by state health departments on Wednesday — surpassing the previous single-day record of 34,203 set on April 25."

Yet the article failed to mention that even while new infections are on the rise, new COVID-19 deaths are not. 

This vital information gap in the media is causing some health policy experts to worry that fear about the coronavirus — evidenced, for example, by Wednesday's sharp stock market drop — is not founded in facts, particularly about how the virus disparately impacts different age groups. The spreading of unfounded alarm, the experts fear, could risk deep harm to Americans' livelihoods and mental health due to a prolonged, widespread shutdown. 

The coronavirus has ravaged elderly populations in nursing homes and those with underlying comorbidities, but now the virus appears to be striking those who are younger and healthier and more able to withstand the disease and return to life normally. 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor Dr. William Schaffner, who specializes in preventive medicine and infectious diseases, noted in an interview with Just the News that for example, in Florida, reports indicate that it is middle-aged and younger adults now being hit with COVID-19. 

Data from Oxford University show that even though the confirmed daily reported COVID-19 cases have been ticking up in the United States in recent days, daily confirmed deaths have not risen. 

 


Similar trends are seen worldwide, according to Oxford: Daily confirmed cases have been rising, but daily confirmed deaths have not. 

 


"The data has made it clear that the impact of COVID-19 on those in long-term care facilities or older adults with underlying conditions has been devastating, and more cautious policies are suggested," Joshua Archambault, a senior fellow in healthcare policy at the Foundation for Government Accountability, told Just the News. "But for younger adults, if local hospital capacity is not an issue, then more open policies can be recommended, as long as they are paired with the common-sense best practices that most know to follow already." 

Archambault recommended that to find a sustainable "new normal" leaders should analyze data daily or weekly to update any advice to citizens, instead of blanket recommendations or mandates for citizens based on older data. 

"Without nuance, individuals' economic lives are ruined, and the negative impacts of isolation can set in, leading to more domestic violence, and suicide," Archambault said. "There are two sides to pandemic shutdowns. This will mean different recommendations for different groups and will reflect local concerns related to hospital capacity. That is why looking at just one data source is not enough. Leaders should be looking at running averages for hospital admission rates, mortality rates, and infection rates by different groups to make recommendations." 

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