Israeli Expert: Trump Right, World Health Organization Wrong on Coronavirus Death Rate

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AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In the final analysis, mortality rates for coronavirus originally cited by President Donald Trump are going to be proven more accurate than the higher numbers claimed by the World Health Organization, according to an Israeli expert in epidemic modeling.

“Do you know what’s most absurd?” asked Dr. Dan Yamin. “That in the final analysis Trump was right. Not that the coronavirus is just plain flu – it absolutely isn’t – but as he put it: ‘This is just my hunch – way under 1 percent’ [will die].’”

Yamin heads the Laboratory for Epidemic Modeling and Analysis in Tel Aviv University’s engineering faculty, where he has developed models for predicting the spread of infectious diseases.

In an interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Yamin agreed with Trump’s assessment earlier this month that the World Health Organization’s 3.4 % global fatality rate for coronavirus is too high.

“Well, I think the 3.4% is really a false number,” Trump told Fox News on March 4.

“Now, this is just my hunch,” Trump said. “Based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild – they’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor.”

“You never hear about those people, so you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population, in terms of this corona flu, and/or virus. So you just can’t do that.”

Trump added:

So, if we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better. And then, when you do have a death, like you have had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California — I believe you had one in New York — you know, all of a sudden, it seems like 3 or 4%, which is a very high number, as opposed to — as opposed to a fraction of 1%. But, again, they don’t — they don’t know about the easy cases, because the easy cases don’t go to the hospital. They don’t report to doctors or the hospital in many cases.

Yamin questioned the data being used to divine global mortality rates.

“When we look at the dry data, we see a very high mortality rate, of 4 to 7 percent, in countries like Italy and Spain, alongside far lower numbers in countries like Germany and South Korea.

“And then there’s China, though it’s very difficult to believe the numbers coming out of there – and in any event no country in the West can allow itself to adopt the measures that China adopted to contain the spread. Now ask yourself: How do you check the mortality rate in all those countries? You take the total number of deaths and divide it by the total of reported patients.”

Asked whether the research for mortality rates was biased, Yamin responded that it is “very biased.”

The doctor continued:

If I can only carry out few tests, I will test those who have the highest chance of becoming ill, and then, when I check the mortality rate among them, I will get very high numbers. But there is one country we can learn from: South Korea. South Korea has been coping with corona for a long time, more than most Western countries, and they lead in the number of tests per capita. Therefore, the official mortality rate there is 0.9 percent. But even in South Korea, not all the infected were tested – most have very mild symptoms.

The actual number of people who are sick with the virus in South Korea is at least double what’s being reported, so the chance of dying is at least twice as low, standing at about 0.45 percent – very far from the World Health Organization’s [global mortality] figure of 3.4 percent. And that’s already a reason for cautious optimism.

Yamin joins a chorus of other experts who agree that the mortality rate is likely lower than the WHO estimate and that as more testing is carried out the rate will fall.

“I think Trump is right,” said Paul A. Offit, who holds the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gary Kobinger, director of the Infectious Disease Research Center at Laval University in Quebec, pointed to mild or symptom-free infection numbers and said it would be unusual if those cases were not being missed. “There are mild cases that are undetected. This is why it’s spreading. Otherwise it would not be spreading because we would know where those cases are and they would be contained and that would be the end of it,” Kobinger told health website STAT.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus taskforce and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, coauthored an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing the mortality could be less than 1% due to the large number of people whose cases went unreported.

Fauci surmised that if the death rate is indeed lower then “the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza.”

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

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