The COVID-19 Death Toll Is Rising Much Faster in the U.S. Than in Sweden, Which Now Has Fewer Deaths Per Capita
I argued last week that it was premature to condemn Sweden’s approach to COVID-19, which has been notably less restrictive than the policies adopted by other European countries and the United States. At the time, Sweden’s per capita COVID-19 death rate was slightly higher than the U.S. rate. Since then, the U.S. rate has surpassed Sweden’s, and the trajectory of deaths suggests that Sweden has been more successful at reducing mortality, despite (or perhaps because of) the government’s decision to eschew a broad lockdown.
According to Worldometer’s tallies, the United States so far has seen 594 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people, compared to 578 in Sweden. Even more strikingly, deaths in Sweden have barely risen since late June, while deaths in the United States have been climbing steadily since late March. Here is what the graph of cumulative deaths looks like for Sweden:
And here is what that same graph looks like for the United States:
In Sweden, the seven-day average of daily deaths peaked at 99 on April 16. It has been in the single digits since July 17, hovering around 1 or 2 in recent days. In the United States, that average peaked at 2,256 on April 21. It dropped below 1,000 in early June but rose above that number by late July. Yesterday it was 750, which is two-thirds less than the peak but still substantial, equivalent to about 23 deaths a day in Sweden.
Newly confirmed cases are falling in both countries, but the downward trend in Sweden has been much sharper since late June. The seven-day average of daily new cases has fallen by more than 80 percent in Sweden since June 29. During the same period in the United States, that average initially rose, peaking at nearly 70,000 on July 25. It has since fallen to about 36,000, a 48 percent drop.
Despite some early blunders (most conspicuously, the failure to adequately protect nursing home residents), Sweden generally has pursued a policy that aims to protect people who are at highest risk of dying from COVID-19 while giving the rest of the po
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