Study: COVID-19 ‘170 Times Less Deadly than Accidents’ as Cause of Death in U.S.


A public policy research institute that describes itself as “a resource for independent thinkers” has published a study that concludes the COVID-19 infection caused by the novel coronavirus is “170 times less deadly than accidents” as a cause of death in the United States.

In a phone interview with Breitbart News, James Agresti, president of nonprofit research institute Just Facts, said his group’s research and resulting spreadsheet of data have focused on a more comprehensive measure to assess the severity of COVID-19 than those that have been presented in the media.

“Evaluating the severity of COVID-19 based on deaths in a brief timeframe is deceptive because COVID-19 spreads quickly, kills mostly vulnerable people, and then subsides,” he explained. “That short-term outlook is far less relevant than the comprehensive measure used in Just Facts’ study: the total years of life that COVID-19 will rob from all people. Put another way, are you more concerned that you may die during a specific month in your old age or that you may die anytime during your youth or middle age?”

Agresti said his analysis “accounts for the fact that, given a choice, most people would rather die at the age of 70 than 20.”

The study demonstrates that, under a worst-case scenario of 240,000 deaths in the U.S., given mitigation, COVID-19 will be about 170 times less deadly than accidents and 12 to 45 times less lethal than other common causes of untimely death.

Agresti said using the comprehensive measure of “total years of life that COVID-19 will rob from all people” to determine the infection’s lethality is in sync with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) principle that states “the allocation of health resources must consider not only the number of deaths by cause but also by age.”

Hence, the “years of potential life lost” has “become a mainstay in the evaluation of the impact of injuries on public health,” Agresti noted.

In its study, Just Facts observed “the spread of misinformation about COVID-19,” and, in keeping with the CDC’s emphasis that the pandemic is “a rapidly evolving situation,” updates its research each weekday.

According to Just Facts, the “facts” presented thus far show:

  • the death rate for people who contract COVID-19 is uncertain but is probably closer to that of the seasonal flu than figures commonly reported by the press.
  • the average years of life lost from each COVID-19 death are significantly fewer than from common causes of untimely death like accidents and suicides.
  • the virus that causes COVID-19 is “very vulnerable to antibody neutralization” and has limited ability to mutate, which means it is very unlikely to take lives year after year.
  • if 240,000 COVID-19 deaths ultimately occur in the United States, the virus will rob about 2.9 million years of life from all Americans who were alive at the outset of 2020, while accidents will rob them of about 409 million years—or about 140 times more than COVID-19.

Just Facts also stated, however:

On the other hand, elderly people and those with chronic ailments are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. Furthermore, the disease is highly transmissible, which means it could spread like wildfire and overwhelm hospitals without extraordinary measures to contain it. This would greatly increase its death toll.

Nevertheless, the institute pointed out such “extraordinary” precautionary measures to contain the infection “often have economic and other impacts that can cost lives, and overreacting can ultimately kill more people than are saved.”

Some media outlets have spread misleading information about immunity development with COVID-19 by confusing all coronaviruses with COVID-19, Just Facts also observed:

Media outlets like The AtlanticVox, and Forbes have turned the truth of this matter on its head by confusing the general nature of coronaviruses with that of COVID-19. The habit of calling COVID-19 “the coronavirus” can be very misleading because there are different types of coronaviruses, and COVID-19 is caused by just one of them. Coronaviruses are a family of RNA viruses that includes some common cold viruses. These viruses tend to mutate rapidly, but COVID-19 does not share that trait.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 ‘does not mutate rapidly for an RNA virus because, unusually for this category, it has a proof‐reading function’ in its genetics,” Just Facts noted, citing a just-published EMBO reports study.

The study also specifically pointed to a March 12 Business Insider article in which Andy Kiersz compared the “death rates” of COVID-19 from the South Korean CDC to that of the flu from the U.S. CDC.

“South Korea—which has reported some of the lowest coronavirus death rates of any country—still has a COVID-19 death rate more than eight times higher than that of the flu,” Kiersz reported.

According to Just Facts, however:

What Kiersz and his editors fail to understand is that the denominator for the Korean rate is the number of “confirmed cases,” while the denominator for the U.S. rate is based on a “mathematical model.”

Put simply, COVID-19 death rates that are based upon reported or confirmed infections grossly undercount the number of people with the disease. This, in turn, makes the death rate seem substantially higher than reality.

Additionally, Just Facts explained this comparison between the flu and COVID-19:

The primary reason why the flu takes tens of thousands of lives every year is because the viruses that cause it mutate in ways that prevent people from becoming immune to them. Per the Journal of Infectious Diseases, “All viruses mutate, but influenza remains highly unusual among infectious diseases” because it mutates very rapidly, and thus, “new vaccines are needed almost every year” to protect against it. While much remains to be seen about the mutations of the virus that causes COVID-19, the early indications are that it will not mutate rapidly and become an ongoing scourge.

The study explained that while aggressive social distancing, as is happening in the U.S. now, may “extend the timeframe over which COVID-19 patients are infected and hospitalized,” this method will not decrease these outcomes in the long-term.

“This is because COVID-19 is so contagious that another outbreak will begin and quickly proliferate as soon as the distancing measures cease,” Just Facts observed, admitting such population-wide social distancing and isolation of infected individuals may be needed now until a vaccine is developed and tested.

However, citing the UK’s Imperial College report of March 16, Just Facts quoted its observation that the “more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”

Just Facts explained further:

[I]f very few people are immune to a disease, they can transmit it to others instead of blocking it. Without a vaccine, the only way people can become immune to COVID-19 is by catching it and recovering. This means that too much social distancing may cause more deaths because young, healthy people—who would otherwise catch the disease, recover quickly, and become firewalls—remain as potential carriers.

Still, Just Facts said, in the short-term, social distancing “can keep hospitalizations at reasonable levels so that victims receive proper care, and it can also buy time to discover and mass-produce effective treatments.”