You might have seen this statistic from President Biden or other White House officials: “COVID deaths are down nearly 90%.” The statistic is misleading and incorrect, to the point that I’d consider it misinformation—especially right now, as the U.S. faces a largely-ignored surge.
Let me explain where this number comes from. The White House is comparing average daily deaths from COVID-19 in recent weeks to this metric during the peak of the winter 2020-2021 surge, when Biden took office.
On January 20, 2021, the day of Biden’s inauguration, about 3,200 people were dying from COVID-19 each day, according to CDC data. This past week, as Biden battled COVID-19, about 400 people were dying each day. The percent change between 3,200 and 400 is about 88%, or “nearly 90%.”
But it’s misleading to just compare daily averages, as Biden has presided over several COVID-19 surges since he took office: the Delta surge last summer and fall, the first Omicron surge in the winter, and the Omicron subvariant surge this spring and summer. In fact, the number of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in the last year (July 2021 to July 2022) is pretty close to what it was in the prior year, and that’s not even accounting for thousands of excess deaths linked to the pandemic.
While Biden’s administration has contributed to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, testing, and other safety measures, it’s far from eliminating our collective risk from the coronavirus. Always question when you see a percent change without context!