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Whenever I hear about a CCP Virus outbreak at a nursing home or similar seniors facility, I wonder how these especially tragic episodes have been influencing the national data. The issue matters greatly, because the numbers could reveal much about the virus’ spread and virulence among Americans not so aged and confined – i.e., the vast majority of the population.

Of course, avoidable and unavoidable testing shortcomings are making all the statistics dodgy.  And state and local authorities’ standards for identifying and reporting CCP Virus cases – and therefore deaths – are both highly diverse and constantly changing.  What’s emerged so far, though, shows that nursing homes and the like are indeed where the disease’s worst effects are appearing, and by wide margins. As a result, however, these statistics also strongly indicate that the virus is much less dangerous for other Americans than originally thought.

The most comprehensive picture we have of nursing homes’ role has come from ABC News. Its examination of state-level numbers concluded that, as of yesterday, at least 10,631 of nationwide CCP Virus-induced fatalities had been long-term care residents. That’s about a fifth of the U.S. total. But the “at least” in the previous sentence is really important. For the ABC numbers are based on information from only 28 of the states plus the District of Columbia. That leaves the nursing homes’ share of fatalities unknown for 22 states. ABC didn’t say which states were and weren’t included in the count, but it’s almost certain that the more state figures are examined, the higher the nursing home share will rise.

One reason for confidence in this conclusion: The World Health Organization (WHO) stated on Thursday that as many as half of all of Europe’s coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. Of course, WHO’s performance during the pandemic has been roundly criticized. But you have to assume that it’s found it much easier getting reliable data from Europe than from dangerously secretive China.

It’s also important to note that Europe’s populations are significantly older than the United States’, which no doubt explains much of that towering European estimate. In addition, Europe was hit by the virus earlier. But along with the incomplete nature of the U.S. data, the the demographic gap is narrow enough to suggest that nursing home residents’ share of American deaths will continue growing.     

Combined with mounting evidence (see, e.g., here and here) that the CCP Virus has infected many more Americans than first estimated – meaning that the disease’s lethality looks considerably lower than once feared – the apparent concentration in nursing homes is unquestionably good news for most of the nation (except, of course, if any of your loved ones lives in these facilities). One possible implication:  With the right, targeted, precautions, a more extensive earlier reopening of the U.S. economy is warranted. The bad news, however, is that the virus’ impact is most deadly in one of America’s most vulnerable populations. Let’s all hope that, if this finding holds up, one result will be more mitigation where it’s needed most.