On October 14 2021, the following screenshot of a tweet by New York Times correspondent Mike Baker appeared on Imgur, in which he purportedly contrasted the COVID-19 mortality rate in Canada with that of the United States:
Primarily, Baker indicated that if Americans died of COVID-19 at the same rate as Canadians, approximately 467,000 fewer Americans be dead as of mid-October 2021 — more than the entire population of Miami, Florida.
First, we checked the easiest part of the statement. A Google search for “population of Miami” seemed to initially indicate that the population of Miami was fewer than 467,000:
However, United States Census Bureau data for 2019 indicated that Miami’s population was estimated at 467,963 — slightly higher than the figure cited. Nevertheless, the numbers cited were at least equivalent to the size of Miami.
As for the percentage rate of deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada compared to the United States, the New York Times‘ COVID-19 dashboard provided a figure of deaths to date. For Canada, the figure was 28,420, and for the United States, the figure was 719,725.
Neither figure on its own contextualized the rate in the tweet and screenshot, and the United States has a larger population than Canada, with an estimated 38 million Canadians to 329.5 million Americans. On first glance, the difference in a raw number of deaths might be chalked up to a very large difference in population.
We used the New York Times’ figures to determine what percentage of each country’s citizens died of COVID-19. Of Canada’s 38,000,000 residents, roughly 28,420 died of COVID-19 as of October 14 2021; of the United States’ 329.5 million Americans, 719,725 had died of COVID-19.
Converted to percentages, 0.07 percent of Canadians and 0.218 percent of Americans died of COVID-19. Applying the 0.218 percent rate from the United States to Canada’s citizens would have resulted in 82,840 deaths (not 28,420).
Likewise, if the United States’ rate of COVID-19 deaths was Canada’s 0.07 percent, the 719,725 would be 230,650 — a difference of 489,075. That figure was higher than the population of Miami, and higher than the figure of 467,000 in the tweet.
In general, comparisons such as the one in the tweet contained many variables, including the source of the numbers, the snapshot in time during which the figures were obtained, and the manner in which the comparison was done. Using figures from the New York Times (presumably the same used by Baker), we did not arrive at identical conclusions — but Baker’s figures erred on the side of underestimation.
A tweet shared to Imgur indicated that if the “United States had managed to keep its [COVID-19] death rate on par with Canada, the U.S. would have about 467,000 fewer [COVID-19] deaths today.” In our attempt to validate the claim, we arrived at a higher number of putatively preventible deaths (489,075). The estimated population of Miami, Florida was a smaller 467,963 as of October 2021.