The United States now has so few deaths due to COVID-19 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday it is approaching the threshold for dipping below the level of an epidemic.
The CDC defines an epidemic as an outbreak from which the number of deaths per week exceeds a given percentage of total deaths within the nation. The number of deaths from COVID-19 has steadily declined since hitting its peak in early May after it began spiking in the second week in March.
That threshold death rate for COVID-19 and other diseases such as influenza and pneumonia fluctuates, ranging typically from 5 to 7 percent at the height of flu season. The CDC said the Wuhan flu death rate had, during the last week in June, become equal to the epidemic threshold of 5.9 percent, reaching its lowest point since the end of last year.
The agency warned this is likely to change as more death certificates from recent weeks are processed, but it could mean hopeful news for the upcoming weeks. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 has been declining for 10 straight weeks, concluding with week 26 that ended June 27. This suggests the United States could be on the verge of not being considered in an epidemic.
“Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9.0% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26, representing the tenth week of a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC,” according to the CDC’s website.
Fear over an impending second wave of cases and subsequent deaths due to COVID-19 has generated caution in reopening businesses. In the parts of the country that have reopened, however, death rates haven’t widely spiked.
Despite the United States reaching its highest single-day surge of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the death rate continues to remain stagnant, relatively unaffected by the increase in diagnoses. Cases have increased for week 26 in most regions nationally, but still remain lower than peaks in March and April.
While policymakers toy with the idea of a second shutdown, the CDC is reporting a lower death rate even while COVID-19 cases are recently on the rise.