A study was released today by Stanford University demonstrating that the mortality rate of Covid-19 is far lower than previously assumed. The study’s findings will necessitate dramatic revisions to epidemiological models and may have significant implications on the nation’s Covid-19 mitigation strategies.
The Imperial College of London’s (ICL) Covid-19 model, often cited by President Trump and relied upon by many government agencies, currently estimates the Covid-19 mortality rate at approximately 1%. A mortality rate is determined by dividing the number of deaths by the number of people who have been infected. Testing has so far only been able to identify current infections, researchers have been left guessing the number of previous infections. With the recent immergence of antibody testing which identifies the body’s response to a previous Covid-19 infection, mortality rates can now be much more accurately estimated. The Stanford University study is the first large scale community-based prevalence study in a major US county, and it gives us cause for optimism.
As of April 1st, California’s Santa Clara County was reporting 950 infections. However, the study determined that as of April 1st, between 48,000 and 81,000 of the county’s residents had been previously infected with Covid-19. The study further concluded that the likely mortality rate was between 0.12% and 0.2%, which is similar to the 0.1% mortality rate of the flu, and only a fraction of the prevailing ICL mortality estimate of approximately 1%.
The Stanford University study only determined the prevalence of Covid-19 infections in Santa Clara County, but what about New York? A higher infection rate in a given community, such as New York, will equate to more deaths, and visa-versa, but the mortality rate remains the same. The Stanford University study is of such significance because it suggests that across the United States the chance of surviving a Covid-19 infection is estimated between 99.8% and 99.88%. It should be noted that mortality estimates are averages across all age groups. As with many illnesses, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions will have lower chances of survival, whereas those young and healthy will have a correspondingly greater chance of survival.
As we continue our vigilance and concerted efforts to protect those most vulnerable in our society, we should also be incredibly grateful that this virus has a significantly lower mortality rate than we initially feared.
Written by Brett Oppenheim
Edited by Yasmine Tanres