After months of speculation, the CDC came out with a new set of estimates of the true COVID-19 death rate, all of which are much lower than what was originally predicted.
All 50 states have eased lockdown restrictions to some degree as Americans successfully flatten both the infection and death curves stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic that’s swept the world since early 2020. While the world is no stranger to disease outbreaks – both seasonal and one-off – what spurred the harsh reaction to Coronavirus was the unknown. Researches and politicians did not know how many people were actually infected, how fast the disease can spread, the total number of direct COVID-19 deaths, and subsequently what the death rate of COVID-19 is.
If COVID-19 killed 0.1% of patients, like the flu, this would just be another risk people needed to live with. If the virus was as deadly as SARS – 14% mortality rate – a more stringent lockdown would be more justified.
The case fatality rate, which is the ratio of deaths to confirmed cases, in the U.S. and the world hovers around 15%. For every 100 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, 15 will die. Though that’s not the full story. It’s long been suspected the confirmed case count grossly understated the actual number of infected; many might have been misdiagnosed when testing wasn’t available, people could have gotten over the illness, had a milder case that didn’t warrant a doctor’s visit, or millions could be asymptomatic carriers.
As predicted, serological surveys in Germany, California, New York, and many other places, which test for Coronavirus antibodies, found the number of recovered patients was far greater than confirmed infections. 1 in 5 NYC resident were likely infected and got over the virus without being counted.
Prior to testing, best guesses hovered around a 3% mortality rate; for the young and healthy the death rate was around 1%, but the old and sick had double digit death rates.
|Parameter||Scenario 1||Scenario 2||Scenario 3||Scenario 4||Scenario 5 (Current Best Estimate):|
|Symptomatic Case Fatality Ratio, stratified by age in years [0-49]||0-49: 0.0002||0-49: 0.0002||0-49: 0.001||0-49: 0.001||0-49: 0.0005|
|[50-64]||50-64: 0.001||50-64: 0.001||50-64: 0.006||50-64: 0.006||50-64: 0.002|
|[65+]||65+: 0.006||65+: 0.006||65+: 0.032||65+: 0.032||65+: 0.013|
|Overall||Overall: 0.002||Overall: 0.002||Overall: 0.010||Overall: 0.010||Overall: 0.004|
|Symptomatic Case Hospitalization Ratio, stratified by age in years [0-49]||0–49: 0.013||0–49: 0.013||0–49: 0.026||0–49: 0.026||0–49: 0.017|
|[50-64]||50–64: 0.036||50–64: 0.036||50–64: 0.057||50–64: 0.057||50–64: 0.045|
|[65+]||65+: 0.052||65+: 0.052||65+: 0.10||65+: 0.10||65+: 0.074|
|Overall||Overall: 0.028||Overall: 0.028||Overall: 0.041||Overall: 0.041||Overall: 0.034|
|Percent of infections that are asymptomatic||20%||50%||20%||50%||35%|
Over the holiday weekend, the CDC published new estimates of the true fatality rate behind the virus forcing us all inside. While these are just estimates, it marks a remarkable drop in the danger of this new disease.
The CDC laid out 5 possible scenarios, the 5th being their “best estimate” of how deadly COVID-19 actually is.
Mortality rates range from 0.02% to 0.1% with the “best estimate” at 0.05% for people under 50. The virus, while it has the potential of being fatal, is nowhere near as deadly as originally predicted if these numbers are accurate. As people get older their chance of dying increases. Patients between 50 and 64 experience a mortality rate between 0.1% and 0.6% with the “best estimate” at 0.2%. The death rate does rise 400%, but it’s still much lower than previously thought. Patients over 65 are still the most at-risk, but instead of double digit fatality rates, the rate was lowered to between 0.6% and 3.2% with the “best estimate” at 1.3%. Far from good, but nowhere near the apocalyptic numbers we were hearing earlier this year.
The overall ‘best estimate’ fatality rate is only 0.4%. The seasonal flu fatality rate is around 0.1%.
Those ranges only encompass symptomatic patients. Because 35% of infected Americans as asymptomatic, that fatality rate could be even lower.
Hospitalization rates are also fairly low. Depending on a patients age group, between 1.7% and 7.4% of infected individuals will require hospitalization. This should ease some concerns about overwhelming the healthcare system, especially if millions have already been infected and developed immunity.
The CDC writes, “the scenarios are intended to advance public health preparedness and planning. They are not predictions or estimates of the expected impact of COVID-19.” Predictions are based on data prior to 4/29/2020.