- That's likely because the CDC has focused on testing the most severe cases.
- New testing standards and more widely available test kits could pick up more mild cases in the U.S. and lower the death rate.
- For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see Business Insider's live updates here.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The US has the world's highest death rate for the new coronavirus: Based on the ratio of confirmed deaths to reported cases, 5.4% of patients have died. That's far higher than the global rate of 3.4% that World Health Organization reported on Tuesday — and even higher than mainland China's 3.7%.
Only the Philippines has a higher coronavirus death rate than the US, and that's because it has only had three cases. One of them, a man from Wuhan, China, became the first known fatality outside China in early February.
It's highly unlikely that the coronavirus is more deadly in the U.S.; rather, the number is likely the result of limited testing in the U.S.
Because widespread testing wasn't possible in the country in recent weeks, the CDC held stringent standards for who qualified for a test. Until Wednesday, the agency only tested people who had recent exposure to a confirmed patient, had travelled to a country with an outbreak, or required hospitalization.
So the U.S. has not tested or diagnosed many patients with mild cases.
"There's another whole cohort that is either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a February 6 briefing. "We're going to see a diminution in the overall death rate."
As of Thursday, the US' national coronavirus case count was 221. That total includes results from state-level coronavirus testing, implemented more widely. The CDC had only confirmed 99 cases across the country as of Thursday at noon. If you calculate the death rate based on only those federally verified cases, it jumps to roughly 10%.
Because flawed tests and limited funding initially meant testing capacity in the U.S. was restricted, the CDC had tested only about 470 people in the US as of Sunday, according to the agency's official count. The CDC has since removed those testing numbers from its website, however. Alex Azar, the US secretary of health and human services, told ABC on Sunday that 3,600 Americans had been tested.
South Korea, by contrast, has implemented free coronavirus-testing drive-thrus and tested more than 136,000 people. The country's death rate is currently just 0.5% — 35 deaths out of a total of 6,088 reported infections. (It is constantly evolving, however, as patients' illnesses progress and as more people are diagnosed.)