How many coronavirus cases are really out there? Why deaths may offer a clue

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We know that just over 60,000 Canadians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

It would be useful to know how many of us actually have the disease, but for a range of reasons — shortages of tests, the large number of people who don’t show symptoms — that’s a much harder number to gather.

But given that we know more or less what the coronavirus death rate is, it’s possible to use that to roughly estimate the total number of cases, epidemiologists say.

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“I think it’s fair to take the deaths that you’re counting and infer back to get a general sense of how many cases there are likely to be,” says the University of Toronto’s Ashleigh Tuite.

“It’s a better estimate than the case fatality ratio, which is highly dependent on how much testing is happening.”

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A German study released this week offers some idea of what the death rate might be.

Researchers from the University of Bonn tested 919 residents in Heinsberg, in western Germany near the Dutch border,


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