Evidence continues to mount that COVID-19 is more widespread and less deadly than the experts had predicted.
With an increase in serology tests–the tests that detect the COVID-19 antibodies in the blood rather than the virus itself–it appears that more people did contract the virus and either had a mild form of it or were asymptomatic.
This means that the fatality rate is much lower than has been reported.
Several studies in a variety of states are showing that the morbidity rate of the virus is significantly lower than the currently reported 5% of those infected. An antibody study in Indiana showed that the fatality rate was only 0.58%, which was consistent with one conducted in New York that pegged the number at 0.5%. As testing for antibodies continues, this number is expected to drop further. Some places such as California and Florida have the number even lower.
“The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
That’s in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person’s body.
And the revised estimates support an early prediction by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force. In an editorial published in late March in The New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and colleagues wrote that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 “may be considerably less than 1%.”
It is important to note that antibody studies in areas where the virus wasn’t widespread will be less accurate than in places where it was.
Additionally, a fatality rate of 1% is still a terrifyingly large number of people.
We know that there are very particular segments of society that have a significantly higher risk of death rather than an unpleasant bout of illness similar to the seasonal flu. That doesn’t mean that an otherwise healthy individual can’t have COVID develop into a serious–even deadly–illness. Viruses are unpredictable.
Even though it’s been a few months, and there’s still quite a bit that we don’t know about the virus, there are things that we do know now that we didn’t know then.
We need to protect the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, respiratory diseases, heart conditions, and obesity.
The rest of us may have an unpleasant couple of weeks feeling absolutely atrocious…or, we might not even know we have it.
We’ve shut down the economy, destroyed businesses, and taken children out of school for months when we didn’t know these things. Was that the right thing to do? I don’t know. I think probably not, but then hindsight is always 20/20 and we can’t project back what we know now to what we knew then. I do think that the evidence pointed to this being the case back in February, too, but people were vilified for saying so by the “experts” whose models proved to be completely wrong.
Now that we do know more, we need to think long and hard about what happens if there’s a second wave.
That’s the big question.