The number of identified cases and deaths from coronavirus are widely reported as the metric of disease spread from country to country, but their ratio offers some indication of the capacity of countries to track and deal with the disease, taking as given the extent of spread.
Other things being equal, a lower reported fatality rate suggests that a country may have identified a higher proportion of infected people or done a better job treating the ill. However, if superior care is what's behind the lower mortality rate, there is reason to worry it is only a temporary advantage caused by the disease having not yet reached a level of spread that would overwhelm the healthcare system.
At this stage, neither the United States nor New York have a high rate of fatalities relative to cases identified, compared with France, Spain, or Italy -- though that may rapidly change.
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