Numbers and context matter, especially when it comes to epidemiology. According to the latest reports, and sensationalized by the media, the U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country with more than 97,000 infected. It’s a shocking statement that can frighten segments of the population, but it’s information that also doesn’t share the entire picture. So, is it true that the U.S. has more cases than any other country? The answer is yes and no. 

As reported by the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center map, the top 10 countries with coronavirus cases are the United States (97,028), Italy (86,498), China (81,897), Spain (64,059), Germany (50,178), France (33,402), Iran (32,332), United Kingdom (14,743), Switzerland (12,928) and South Korea (9,332).

The death rate looks a little different. For the top ten country death rates, these include Italy (9,134), Spain (4,934), Hubei, China (3,174), Iran (2,378), France (1,696), U.K. (759), the Netherlands (546), New York City (365), Germany (304) and Belgium (289). 

Unlike most of the media, which seems to enjoy inciting fear and anxiety amongst the American public, here’s a different way to look at the numbers. Based on the population of each country, China likely still has the highest infection rate. If you divide the infection rate against the population of the city of Wuhan, then .6% of the population became infected. Expanding the area to include the entire Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the largest city and capital, then the infection rate dips to .1%, which ties it with Italy, Spain and, surprisingly, Switzerland. Of course, this all depends on if the numbers reported by China are actually correct, which many people question. 

In the United States, COVID-19 has only infected .02% of the population, an incredibly low number, and the death rate is hovering around 1%. This spike in the number of reported cases is probably also due to an increase in testing. While the spread is still at this point is uncontained, it should be encouraging to Americans. 

There’s also Iran, a country where supposedly only .03% of the population has coronavirus and the death rate is 7%. This is probably a lie. The Department of State recently came out with an official press statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which is titled, “Khamenei’s Lies About the Wuhan Virus Put Lives at Risk.” In the statement, Secretary Pompeo wrote, “The Iranian regime ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days. The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits.” 

When it comes to the death rate, Italy remains the reported highest at about 10%. Earlier today, it was reported that the number of deaths in 24 hours was a high of 919, which is the highest single day of deaths that’s ever been officially recorded and brings the total to 9,134. Spain has the second highest official death rate at 7%, followed by Germany and the Netherlands at 6% and France and the U.K. at 5%. The United States remains at about 1%.

Though these numbers change all the time, it’s important to remember that context matters. Without this extra information, the American public gets an inaccurate picture of what is actually going on, making the virus’s spread seem worse in the United States or more detrimental.

Obviously, it is incredibly important that people still follow all of the government’s directives in order to help protect the public and ensure that the health care system is not overwhelmed with cases. We’ll get through this.