The United States has the 9th* worst COVID-19 death rate in the world! At 199 per million population as of 8:00pm EDT May 1, it is exceeded by only Belgium (665**), Spain (531), Italy (467), the United Kingdom (405), France (377), the Netherlands (286), Sweden (263), Ireland (256), and Switzerland (203). At recent rates, the United States will pass Switzerland to take the 9th worst spot within a week. How is this a record to be proud of?
Meanwhile, conservative darling Sweden (the first time Sweden has been a conservative darling!) is zooming up the list, and is doing far worse than its Nordic neighbors Denmark (79), Norway (39), Finland (39), and Iceland (29).
The global average death rate is 30.7 per million; the U.S. figure is more than six times that. Even if you doubt China's numbers (only 4,633 deaths, 3 per million), the figure when you remove China is still only 37, leaving the United States at more than five times the world average.
With such a wide divergence between the U.S. and world averages, it is not surprising that there are many countries with much lower death rates than the United States. Notable are Canada (90), Brazil (30), Mexico (14), Japan (4), Australia (4), India (0.9), and Taiwan (0.3). Moreover, Vietnam, with a population of 95 million, has had zero deaths. And we're supposed to think the United States is doing well?
Why is Sweden suddenly a conservative darling? Because it has not locked itself down like most of the rest of the world. As shown above, however, not only does it have a substantially worse death rate than the United States (its extra 64 deaths per million would translate to another 21,056 U.S. deaths), but it doing drastically worse than its most similar neighbors. Why Sweden is considered a success by conservatives is beyond me.
Georgia's reopening of the state beginning April 24 has generated substantial controversy. One reason this is surprising is that Georgia has a death rate of 113 per million, sixteenth highest in the country, three times the world average. One leading theory for the end of Georgia's lockdown is that it will force workers to go back to work or lose their unemployment benefits. It is certainly not a medical decision, given the state's low level of testing and inconsistent case decline (click on "daily cases" in the right bottom corner).
Don't be fooled by the goalpost moving, which we're going to see over and over as the death rate rises. The U.S. response to the coronavirus isn't "very, very strong" just because it isn't the worst in the world. No, this is just one more aspect of "winning" to get tired of.
P.S. While I was writing this, Rachel Maddow did a great segment on the sidelining of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is definitely a worrisome development to keep our eyes on.
* Excluding microstates (San Marino, Andorra) and dependencies (Sint Maarten, Isle of Man, Channel Islands,
** Unlike other countries, Belgium likely overcounts deaths rather than undercounting them. As The Independent notes:
According to Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Health, just 46 per cent of the country’s total official deaths were in hospitals where coronavirus cases were confirmed. But 53 per cent of the Belgian tally, or 4,100 people, were from care homes, and of these, 84 per cent are suspected but unconfirmed coronavirus deaths.A University of Ghent virologist, Steven van Gucht, therefore says that to compare Belgium with other countries, one should "divide by two." Of course, even a 332 per million death rate is a very poor outcome. Moreover, the better other countries do at incorporating non-hospital deaths into their data, the less Belgium's death rate should be cut to be comparable.
UPDATE: On May 3, the United States passed Switzerland to move into the 9th-worst spot.