Interpreting Coronavirus Death Statistics

By April 25, 2020 Commentary

The CDC every week releases its summary of official coronavirus death certificates received by the agency.   (CDC Report)   For the moment let’s forget the debates about whether coronavirus was the real cause of death or whether there were lots of people dying at home who weren’t counted and just assume there are equal errors on both sides.  Here is what we should really focus on.  Look at the enormous variation in death rates by age group.

No child one or under has died, so that is a zero risk. There are 3.85 million of these infants.  For children between 1 and 4,  2 died.  There are 16 million of these children.  The risk of death is .000012%.  For children between 5 and 14, there was 1 death.  There are 41 million of these children.  You can’t even calculate that risk of death, it is so low.  For people aged 15 to 24, the total number of deaths was 22.  There are 43 million in this age group.  Risk of death, .000051%.  In total, for people from birth to age 24, there were 25 deaths among 104 million people. That is .000024%.    Let me make this very clear.  If you had four million people in this age group in a room (big room), one might have died of coronavirus.  There are hundreds of greater causes of death in this age cohort.  Now tell me why schools and colleges are closed?  Because it is dangerous?  People who say this can’t be serious.

Now let’s look at the other end of the age spectrum.  Among those 85 years or older, there have been 7268 deaths reported to the CDC.  The population is 6.5 million.   That is a .11% rate.  For the 75 to 84 group, 6773 deaths among 15.4 million people.  That is a .043% rate.  Combined, 14041 deaths among 21.9 million people.  That is a .o64% death rate.  The relative risk is 2,667 times greater likelihood of death among the 75 plus group compared to the 24 and under.  But yeah, we are all in this together; all being equally protected and bearing an equal burden.

Now, as deaths increase, and unofficial totals are about double what the CDC has received as death certificates, the raw percents will go up.  But there is no reason to think the pattern of deaths will change and that relative risk is going to stay the same.  Just food for thought.

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