Virginia’s COVID Death Rate Is Remarkably Low

by Kerry Dougherty

Beware of former English majors wielding calculators.

Nevertheless, here goes.

Every single day it seems we see newspapers publishing hysterical headlines about “sharp increases” in the number of Covid-19 cases in Virginia.

Why is anyone surprised?

After all, the governor wasted weeks wringing his hands and whining about how he couldn’t get any tests. Coronavirus testing has finally increased in Virginia and so has the number of cases.

Death tolls are a better measure of the severity of the pandemic and harder to manipulate. Ironically, that’s where we can find reassuring news.

According to yesterday’s tally on the Virginia Department of Health website, 1,338 Virginians have died of COVID-19 since that first death on March 21. Every single one of those fatalities is a tragedy.

But it’s worth noting that of those people, 755 – about 56 percent – were nursing home residents.

That number is an absolute scandal.

Nursing homes across the country have turned into death camps where the virus runs rampant, picking off scores of frail and helpless residents day after day. Governors simply shrug and say that nothing can prevent such carnage. In Virginia, the Northam administration stubbornly guards the “privacy” of these long-term care facilities, keeping the public in the dark about where most of the deaths are happening.

All we have is the daily death count. And it’s ugly.

Here’s where a calculator comes in handy. Let’s figure out Virginia’s overall death rate from the coronavirus:

It’s about 15 deaths per 100,000 residents.

By contrast, New York’s death rate is 152 per 100,000 and New Jersey’s is 128 per 100,000. Maryland’s rate is 40 per 100,000 and North Carolina’s is 8.

Let’s try something else. If we subtract the nursing home fatalities from Virginia’s total we get a rough estimate of just how deadly this virus is to the general population. Without those nursing home deaths, that total is 583.

According to my calculations, the death rate for the general population works out to about 7 deaths per 100,000.

That’s heartening. And ought to be enough for the commonwealth to reopen.

Yet, in spite of this modest death rate, the governor has kept a stranglehold on Virginia. He finally opened all of the beaches today – but beachgoers are inexplicably forbidden to play music or toss Frisbees – and he continues to ban indoor dining. Gyms are closed and pools are only open for lap swimming. Oddly enough, Ralph Northam waited until this point in the pandemic to suddenly demand that everyone wear masks in public buildings.

While we were focused on figuring out how this new mandate would work, Northam quietly amended his March 12 Public Health Emergency order that was set to expire on June 10.

It took almost full day before members of the press noticed that the governor had extended his emergency declaration INDEFINITELY.

That ought to be illegal. Giving a governor unlimited powers with no expiration date is a huge mistake.

Northam has bad judgment. We saw that with his appalling blackface yearbook photo and we saw it again last weekend as he sashayed down the Virginia Beach boardwalk ignoring his own rules on social distancing.

This arbitrary extension of emergency powers signals that Northam intends to continue to drag his feet on reopening the state, without regard for businesses that are dying or the commonwealth’s alarming numbers of unemployed workers.

Given the fact that the most dangerous place to be during this pandemic is a nursing home, the governor ought to turn his full attention to saving what’s left of that vulnerable population and stop worrying about whether 10-year-olds are masked up or kids are throwing Frisbees on the beach.

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19 responses to “Virginia’s COVID Death Rate Is Remarkably Low

  1. To revisit the CDC estimate I’ve cited before: Case Fatality Rate of symptomatic infections is 4 tenths of 1%, 4 deaths per 1000 WITH symptoms. This kills those over 65, and those with vulnerable conditions. But that is still alot of people.

  2. I’m having difficulty understanding why there are so many negative comments about your posts on this blog. It seems to me you are spot on with just about everything in this post, with the possible exception of “Governors simply shrug and say that nothing can prevent such carnage.” I haven’t seen such comments by governors, but I stand ready to be corrected.

  3. The one really big bit of information, and I know somebody someplace is gathering it, that I would like to know is the percentage of “recoveries” that aren’t. How many lives are irreparably changed because of having conditions that are aggravated by an infection? How many 40-year olds are developing chronic lung conditions, for example?

  4. Presumably NoVA is the COVID transition zone between DC/MD . I tentatively calculate about 33 per 100,000 here. Wish I knew how many are nursing homes locally.

    We are in Pittsburgh as my nonagenarian mother had a non-COVID medical emergency. Ordinarily the next step from the hospital would have been a week or two of skilled care in a nursing home. But we intervened and took her to her home.

    I don’t listen to Fox News, but Mom does. Laura Ingram was saying NY, NJ, PA and others were guilty of sending COVID patients to the nursing homes. But use caution, I don’t know if that is true or what.

    Maybe I write an article, it is so hard to manage a sicker elderly person right now.

    • It was true. Sort of. Cuomo was asked about this issue. His response — as I understood it — was that the nursing homes were sent people from hospitals with COV2. That the nursing homes were aware, and that it was their responsibility to either accept and isolate, or reject the patients.

      One of BR’s usual suspects can probably clear this up, but I understand that sometimes nursing homes use “hospitalization” to rid themselves of patients who are either unruly or poor. They can refuse a returnee.

  5. My problem with this is not the people exploring, it is constantly trying to get a handle around data that is conflated, confusing and extremely changeable. The GOP types ( not all) want the economy open right now and grasp at data that tends to support that goal. I am suspect and concerned. Of course I want the economy opened as soon as it is safe to do so. I had been running through a good number of projects, but most were negotiated before the pandemic really broke. It is very dry now

    • Peter – obviously, you haven’t heard Jeff McKay, Democratic chair of the Fairfax County BoS. While McKay advocates following safety measures, one of his top priorities is getting Fairfax County open to stage 2. Some people, on both sides of the aisle, recognize the need to navigate the narrow path between two bad things — more COVID-19 infections and deaths and intense suffering from a non-functioning local economy. And McKay never appeared in blackface as an adult.

      But I continue to rejoice at the continued and growing loss of journalist jobs. Even CBS is axing top level national reporters. They can cheer the bad economy from the unemployment line.

    • You’d be surprised by the polling on how many R’s are quite happy to see the economy to stay shut down, quite happy with the mask mandate. Last I saw was maybe two weeks ago, but I’d say the “Open it all now/to hell with masks” cohort is maybe 30-40% of identified R’s. Might be a bit different now.

  6. TNT I started my career as a professional journalist two weeks after I graduated from college in June 1974. I have been doing it since. I love the profession and resent your remark. Over the years I have personally known several journalists who have died in the line of duty. I have no idea what you do and don’t care. Have you had work colleagues shot, hit by shrapnel or poisoned? I have. You might want to
    Think about that.

  7. TMT
    You hit a nerve with your comment about journalists.
    Here’s more information about what is really going on with them.

    The Committee to Protect Journalism does a great job advocating for global journalism safety and freedom. I have been a member of the Overseas Press Club of America which works with them.

    Here are three people I have known who have suffered for their profession.
    Yuri was a long-time friend who was known as one of the best investigative reporters in the USSR/Russia.He died under mysterious circumstances and is believed to have been poisoned . Putin has been linked to two other instances of poisoning.
    I did not know Paul, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, well but he was murdered for digging too deeply into the doings of Russian oligarchs
    Malcolm Linton, a Briton, is also a long-time friend. We worked together in Russia and he even came with me to photograph a coal mine when I was at Virginia Business. Malcom is a veteran of many conflicts in Africa, Georgia and was wounded during the 1993 uprisings against Boris Yeltsin in Moscow in 1993.
    I never know her personally, but Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist, was shot to death outsider her apartment.

    I can provide more examples if you like.

  8. Most mainstream journalists are dirt bags with their noses up the XXXXX of Democratic officials and candidates. They hide facts when it doesn’t fit their political narrative. Did you read Van Gordon Sauter’s recent Op-Ed in the WSJ?

    A local reporter I know from the Post tried to pass on information that I sent on the failure of the GA to raise fees on overweight truck permits when it raised the gas tax. Last time taxes were raised for transportation, Delegates May (R) and Keam (D) pushed through legislation raising permit fees. The reporter was told that this wasn’t the type of message the Post wanted to send. Good journalism?

    The Post wrote article after article on Roy Moore but just seemed to miss the rape allegations against Justin Fairfax. The Post wrote article after article on George Allen’s stupid macaca remark but just seemed to miss Northam’s blackface picture and yearbook nickname “Coonman.” The Post should change its Masthead to “Rape and Racism Is OK from a Democrat.” After all, it gave much more play to Kavanaugh’s accusers than Juanita Brodderick, the woman Post’s goddess Hillary called trailer trash. How many times has the Post endorsed a Clinton?

    The Media ranted and raved about Trump imposing restrictions on immigrants receiving welfare but neglected to mention that every American that adopts a kid from overseas must submit tax returns and financial records to prove that the child is unlikely to become a public charge. Why the difference? Wouldn’t real journalism discuss the entire issue?

    The Post properly gave Congresswoman Comstock hell because she stopped having community meetings but has written nothing about the lack of similar meetings by her successor Congresswoman Wexton. Integrity abounds in journalism.

    CNN claims more than a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in the United States, which requires Zucker the FXXXXXXX to ignore the questionable reporting by China and Russia.

    I’ve spent most of my career operating under a standard that requires the advocate to identify and address all arguments raised by opponents. Most journalists operate under a standard that allows them to ignore any fact or claim that doesn’t fit the reporter’s personal political narrative.

    The fewer journalists, the fewer lies and distortions.

  9. No, after nearly 50 years, I doubt I will ever “understand.” At least not on Bacons Rebellion

  10. “It took almost full day before members of the press noticed that the governor had extended his emergency declaration INDEFINITELY.”
    QUESTION… Exactly what is the emergency… It’s interesting that not a single person on BR has an answer…
    And BTW,,,, I’m not interested in what you think the emergency is,,, I want to know what the governor says the emergency is. Because it’s not the medical system being overwhelmed (the original claim).

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