Posted by Curt on 6 October, 2020 at 12:14 pm. 3 comments already!


by Jordan Schachtel

Talk about burying the lede. The WHO held an entire summit this week without telling anyone the most important news about their new calculations: their COVID-19 death rate estimate has plummeted.

On Monday, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official released the organization’s  “best estimate” for global COVID-19 infections, placing that number at 10 percent of the world’s population, or around 760 million people.

The Associated Press reports:

The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization said Monday the agency’s “best estimates” indicate roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus — more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases — and warned of a difficult period ahead.

Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking to a special session of the WHO’s 34-member executive board focusing on COVID-19, said the figures vary from urban to rural areas, and between different groups, but that ultimately it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.” He said the pandemic would continue to evolve, but that tools exist to suppress transmission and save lives.

The WHO, remaining on brand, used this opportunity to continue to fearmonger about the potential danger posed by COVID-19, with several WHO officials at the conference issuing dark warnings about how that means 90% of the world is still “threatened” by the virus.

As you can see in the dashboard below, WHO estimates that there are about 20 times more infections than reported cases worldwide, which is how they got to their 10% of the world population number.

The most important part of the WHO estimate, the statistical elephant in the room, remained unspoken.

With just over 1 million with/from COVID-19 deaths registered worldwide, that drops the WHO’s COVID-19 infection fatality rate (IFR), to just 0.13 percent, which is significantly lower than WHO literature assessed just two months ago.

(Quick explainer: IFR is understood as an estimated proportion of deaths among *all* infected individuals. CFR is the death rate among all *reported* cases)

WHO infamously placed the original COVID-19 case fatality rate estimate at 3.4 percent. It was unclear at the time whether there was much of a separation between confirmed cases and the total number of cases. Early literature from WHO on COVID-19 estimated that there was somewhere between 2-7 times gap between IFR and CFR. That would place WHO’s IFR number, based on a CFR of 3.4%, at somewhere between 0.5-1.5%.

The 3.4% CFR number was based on early “data” they compiled with the Chinese government, and used by epidemiologists worldwide to model their COVID-19 responses. And early on in the outbreak, top WHO officials were sowing confusion in comparing apples and oranges by placing COVID-19 CFR numbers with seasonal influenza IFR numbers.

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