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VERIFY: Twitter posts not depicting accurate COVID-19 survival rates

The COVID-19 survival rate in the U.S. isn't quite as high as some social media users say.

A claim asserting that the survival rate of COVID-19 is over 99% in every country has made the rounds on social media in various forms. 

Credit: Twitter

But the claim does not depict survival rates properly. And the information it does depict is rapidly changing day-by-day.


Is the COVID-19 survival rate in the United States and other countries higher than 99%?


No. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's data shows the mortality rate for COVID-19 is about 6%. That means the survival rate is about 94%.


To answer this, we first have to breakdown what a survival rate exactly is. A website by the American Society of Clinical Oncology defines it as “the percentage of people who will be alive at a certain time after diagnosis.”

The reason it says “certain time after” is because it defines this in the context of cancer. Cancer or not, however, the survival rate applies strictly to people who get whatever disease is being measured.

So as of May 12, the CDC said there were 1,342,594 total cases in the United States and 80,820 deaths. When you do the math, the mortality rate is currently at six percent. Currently, 94% with the disease in the United States have survived, although many of those people would still have the disease and their status could change.

That debunks the claim at its base. However, some have shown these same figures while arguing it’s the percentage of people in the country who haven’t died from the disease. It’s important to note that this is a different figure from the survival rate. To call it the survival rate is misleading.

That figure does seem to be how the person who posted this originally got their statistics. The United States Census Bureau estimated the U.S. population in 2019 to be 328,239,523. And when you do the math based on that, about 99.975% of the population has not died of COVID-19 as of yet. That's pretty close to their number for the U.S. and would line up with earlier data when the death toll was lower. 

The reason it doesn't line up completely, however, is part of why this is a misleading statistic to use. 

Making claims about numbers in the middle of an ongoing pandemic leaves out the context that they’re rapidly changing. A meme comparing global COVID-19 deaths to other common causes of deaths through the year until March 25 said there were only 21,297 COVID-19 deaths. That was true at the time just 85 days into the year. The May 12 World Health Organization situation report, 46 days later, said there are now 283,153 deaths globally.

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Survival rate only takes into account survivors among people who have actually gotten the disease being analyzed. The COVID-19 survival rate in the United States right now is 94%, not well over 99%.

Survivors among the entire population is not an accurate portrayal of survival rate. Even then, taking a snapshot of that statistic now leaves out the context that the situation, and therefore the number, is changing day-by-day. 

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