- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2020

Europe’s five largest nations have suffered more than three times the coronavirus deaths as the United States, though collectively they have about the same population.

The United States had recorded 20,614 deaths as of Sunday morning, while the five European countries (324 million people, compared with 330 million in the U.S.) tallied 63,054, according to a Washington Times analysis.

New confirmed COVID-19 cases from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain also exceeded the number of U.S. infected, 654,357 versus 530,200, according to the Johns Hopkins University global coronavirus tracker.

The U.S. death count from the pandemic also is below Europe’s big five in a per capita analysis by the Our World in Data research unit at Oxford University in England.

The U.S. rate, which began with the first confirmed case in Washington state in mid-January, sits at 65 deaths per million people. Only Germany, where the virus struck later than in the U.S., fares better at 35 per million. Spain and Italy each stand at 330 deaths per million, France at 220 and the United Kingdom at 145.

Of COVID-19 testing, which confirms cases, the U.S. has conducted the most, about 2.5 million, but it lags behind Germany and Italy on a per capita basis. The U.S. has tested eight per 1,000; Italy, 16 per 1,000; and Germany, 15 per 1,000. The rate per 1,000 people is five in France and four in the United Kingdom. Spain was not included in the Our World in Data graphic.

The 27-country European Union is showing signs of unhappiness with its strategies to fight the coronavirus.

Last week, the European Research Council forced out Mauro Ferrari, its top scientist, after less than three months on the job, the BBC reported.

“Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s program and mission when representing the ERC,” the council said. “Professor Ferrari subsequently resigned on 7 April 2020. … Therefore, his resignation in fact followed a written unanimous vote of no confidence.”

Mr. Ferrari portrayed himself as the victim. He told the Financial Times that his plan for a special council program to combat COVID-19 was rejected. He then took his idea to the EU Commission, the union’s operations arm, and that touched off “an internal political thunderstorm,” he said.

The coronavirus wave splashed across Europe at roughly the same time as it did in the U.S. The first U.S. case appeared in Washington state on Jan. 15, with clusters of infections by month’s end.

On the East Coast, New York City found its first case in a woman who had visited hard-hit Iran. By the end of March, thousands of cases and more than 200 deaths made the Big Apple the COVID-19 epicenter of the U.S.

In Europe, Italy’s first case appeared in Rome on Jan. 31 via Chinese tourists, according to reports. The virus broke out in Lombardy, home to Chinese garment workers, in mid-February. Italy became the world leader in COVID-19 fatalities until the U.S. surpassed it last week.

Spain’s first case was confirmed on Jan. 31. A mid-February cluster was blamed on an Italian doctor.

France’s first case appeared Jan. 24 in Bordeaux, and the first five French patients were people who had been to China.

Germany confirmed its initial infection in late January in Munich, and multiple cases were reported in February.

The United Kingdom’s first batch of contagion was in March, and its timeline was comparable to New York City’s.

In terms of peak daily fatalities, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has produced models that the White House follows closely to make quarantine decisions.

Ali Mokdad, IHME’s chief strategy officer, told Fox News on Friday night that the U.S. had reached its maximum that day, April 10.

As for the five large European and hardest-hit countries, IHME has this model peak projection: France, April 17; Germany, April 29; Italy, April 20; Spain, May 3; and the United Kingdom, May 3.

All of the countries have imposed population and business lockdowns to some degree, although President Trump, unlike European leaders, has left the decision up to governors and local leaders.

Why the U.S.-European disparity? Some analysts point to age. Europe has the world’s oldest population, according to the United Nations. One in 4 are 60 or older. COVID-19 puts the elderly most at risk, especially those with secondary health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes. About 1 in 5 Americans are 60 or older.

The Italian government reported in late March that people 60 and older accounted for 94% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who imposed some of Europe’s strictest shutdown rules, acknowledged to NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 5 that his country did not respond well to the outbreak.

“Italy has been the first country in Europe that, of course, faced this pandemic,” Mr. Conte said. “Our response has not been perfect, maybe, but we have been acting [to] the best of our knowledge.”

Steve Milloy, who runs the website JunkScience.com, said Europe’s aging population made it vulnerable. He also said there is “more intergenerational living” in Europe than in the U.S. — that is, more generations of one family living under the same roof.

“It’s not going to be possible to assess the mortality associated with COVID-19 until at least next year, when we can compare 2019 mortality to expected 2020 mortality versus actual 2020 mortality,” Mr. Milloy told The Washington Times.

Daniel Kochis, a European analyst at The Heritage Foundation, gave The Times this assessment: “We don’t actually know how accurate these numbers are. What is defined as a death from coronavirus differs from country to country. Some victims die at home and may not be counted, and of course testing differs drastically across countries. It could very well be that deaths in the U.S. are undercounted, and as the U.S. pandemic picked up later than in Europe, there’s also a lag in reporting, especially for places like NYC hit hardest by the pandemic.

“Other factors are population differences. Italy, of course, has an elderly population. Spain’s population is also older compared to the United States. Finally, there are differences in ICU capacity and ventilators per capita which likely factor into the variance in death rates across nations.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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