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Why public health officials say there is more than one COVID-19 'death rate' to consider

Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse talked about three different kinds of death rates during Wednesday's news conference.

HOUSTON — Texas reported 110 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, a single-day record for the state since the pandemic began.

Those who want to know more about the virus are curious about the death rate: how many people die from the disease out of the larger population?

At a news conference on Wednesday, Houston city leaders said there are multiple types of death rates, and that looking at only one of them can cause confusion.

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Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse noted three different kinds of death rates: the "case death rate," the "infection death rate," and the "population death rate.

Here's how they're calculated:

Case death rate: Number of COVID-19 deaths in a certain population, divided by the number of known cases in the same population.

For example, the "case death rate" in the state of Texas would be:

3,432 deaths divided by 282,365 cases reported, multiplied by 100 to get a percentage = 1.215 percent.

That's a little more than 1 in every 100 people who get the virus die from it (or 12 in 1000).

Infection death rate: Number of COVID-19 deaths in a certain population, divided by an estimated number of people infected with the virus, including those who have not yet tested positive.

This statistic is tricky, because it assumes a certain number of people are infected and have not yet tested positive, which makes this figure, essentially, an estimate.

Population death rate: Number of COVID-19 deaths in a certain population, divided by all the people in that population, whether they have tested positive for the virus or not.

The argument behind this metric is that anyone could potentially contract COVID-19, and therefore should be included in the denominator.

In the state of Texas, the population death rate would be:

3,432 COVID-19 deaths divided by 28,995,881 (the population of Texas per the U.S. Census Bureau) = 0.012 percent.

That's about 1 in every 10,000 people in the state die from COVID-19, which includes people who never get the virus.

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