One chart shows 10 countries' current coronavirus death rates, based on known cases and deaths. Italy's is highest: nearly 10%.

Flavio Lo Scalzo/ReutersA medical worker treats a patient with COVID-19 in an intensive-care unit in Cremona, Italy, on March 19.
  • The coronavirus’ death rate – a calculation that divides the number of known deaths by the total number of confirmed cases – varies widely by country right now.
  • In Italy, it was about 9.5% as of Monday evening, while in the US it was 1.2%.
  • The global death rate is about 4.4%.
  • One chart compares death rates in 10 countries that have confirmed deaths and more than 5,000 cases.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Italy reported 793 coronavirus deaths on Friday: the highest one-day death toll of any nation since the outbreak began.

The country’s COVID-19 fatality rate, or death rate – the number of deaths divided by the total number of cases – is higher than any other, at about 9.5%. The US, by contrast, has a death rate of 1.2%.

A country’s death rate constantly changes as new cases and deaths get reported, and it varies based on how many people get tested for COVID-19. One week ago, for example, the US’s death rate was 1.7%, and Italy’s was about 8%.

More than 400,000 people worldwide have been infected with the new coronavirus, and at least 18,000 have died.

Countries’ death rates change over time

Because countries’ case totals and death tolls are constantly changing as the coronavirus outbreak evolves, their death rates are not static – nor is the global rate.

On Monday evening, the global death rate hovered around 4.4%, according to data from Johns Hopkins – that’s higher than the World Health Organisation’s March 3 estimate of about 3.4%.

A recent study (which has yet to be peer-reviewed) from a group of Chinese researchers suggested the rate could be lower: Researchers found that the probability of a person dying after developing symptoms was about 1.4% in Wuhan, China.

For comparison, here’s what the death rates looked like on March 17:

Covid 19 death rate countries with deaths and more than 1000 casesShayanne Gal/Business Insider

Some health experts have predicted that death rates overall will decrease as the number of cases rises and testing expands. The US’s experience offers evidence of that: Between March 6 and 17, the country’s death rate dropped from 5.9 to 1.7%; in that time, the number of people tested in the US jumped to more than 58,000 from fewer than 2,000.

The US’s death rate dropped again in the week since – from 1.7% to 1.2%. According to the COVID Tracking Project – a testing-tracking resource from two journalists at The Atlantic and the founder of a medical-data startup – the number of people tested in the US almost quadrupled during that time.

Widespread testing could mean a lower death rate because most COVID-19 cases – about 80% – are considered mild. Often, the cases tested and reported first are those with severe symptoms, since those people go to the hospital. Milder cases, on the other hand, could go uncounted or get reported later on, so the true number of infected people is likely much higher than the reported total.

Italy coronavirusEmanuele Cremaschi/Getty ImagesMedical personnel transport a COVID-19 patient to an ICU tent in Cremona.

The death rate of a disease is different from its mortality rate – the latter is the number of deaths out of the number of people in an at-risk population. A death rate is not a reflection of the likelihood that a given person will die.

According to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, COVID-19’s mortality rate is probably about 1%, which is still about 10 times the flu’s.

Tyler Sonnemaker contributed reporting to this story.

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