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Study: COVID-19 Fatality Risk Is Double Earlier Estimates


July 9, 2020

By John Commins

Between 1% and 2% of New Yorkers infected with COVID-19 – including those with no or mild symptoms – died between March 1 and May 16, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that the fatality risk averaging 1.45% during that timespan is more than double the 0.7% fatality risk identified in previous studies from both China and France.

That’s according to a new study from researcher at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health that was published online in medRxiv.

“These dire estimates highlight the severity of COVID-19 in elderly populations and the importance of infection prevention in congregate settings,” the study authors wrote.

“Thus, early detection and adherence to infection control guidance in long-term care and adult care facilities should be a priority for COVID-19 response as the pandemic continues to unfold.”

The researchers analyzed 191,392 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20,141 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths in New York City between March 1-May 16, 2020.

The analysis couples case and mortality data combined with cell phone data used to model changes in COVID-19 transmission rate due to social distancing.

Mortality risk was highest for older adults, with IFR of 4.67% for 65-74-year-olds and 13.83% for those 75 and older.

Younger people had far lower chances of dying from the disease: .011% among those younger than 25 and .12% among 25-44-year-olds.

The researchers said that their findings likely more accurately reflect the true mortality risk of the coronavirus because they rely on “robust data” collected by health officials in New York City, where specialists review all death certificates and record deaths into a unified electronic reporting system.

The study authors suggest that the death toll could be higher in areas outside of New York City, because of the city’s relatively strong public health infrastructure.

“It is thus crucial that officials account for and closely monitor the infection rate and population health outcomes and enact prompt public health responses accordingly as the pandemic unfolds,” the authors wrote.

“As the pandemic continues to unfold and populations in many places worldwide largely remain susceptible, understanding the severity, in particular, the IFR, is crucial for gauging the full impact of COVID-19 in the coming months or years,” they wrote.

They also acknowledged the challenges of ascertaining the death risk elsewhere in the nation due to the large number of undocumented infections, fluctuating case detection rates, and inconsistent reporting of fatalities.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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