COVID-19 Fatality Risk Is Double Earlier Estimates: Study

New estimates are based on robust New York City data are underline the importance of infection prevention, particularly among older adults whose risk is significantly elevated

Newswise — In one of the most robust studies of COVID-19 mortality risk in the United States, researchers estimate an infection fatality rate more than double estimates from other countries, with the greatest risk to older adults. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health scientists and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene colleagues published the findings on the pre-print server medRxiv ahead of peer review.

Researchers estimate an overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of 1.45 percent in New York City, from March 1-May 16, 2020—in other words, between 1 and 2 percent of New Yorkers infected with COVID-19 including those with no or mild symptoms died during this period. The new estimate is more than double the IFR previously reported elsewhere (e.g., about 0.7 percent in both China and France where most IFR estimates have come from). So far, IFR in the U.S has been unclear.

Greatest Risk to Older People

The new study finds mortality risk was highest among older adults, with IFR of 4.67 percent for 65-74-year-olds and 13.83 percent for 75+ year-olds. Younger people had far lower chances of dying from the disease: 0.011 percent among those younger than 25 and 0.12 percent among 25-44-year-olds. However, risk to young people should not be taken lightly, especially given cases of post-infection Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, the researchers caution.

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

Robust Data Points to Elevated Risk

New York City has among the most complete and reliable data on COVID-19 deaths—specialists review all death certificates and rapidly record deaths into a unified electronic reporting system. For this reason, the new estimate likely more accurately reflects the true higher burden of death due to COVID-19. Further, given the likely stronger public health infrastructure and healthcare systems in New York City than many other places, the higher IFR estimated in the new study suggests that mortality risk from COVID-19 may be even higher elsewhere in the United States, and likely other countries as well. 

“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 write. “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.”

About the Model and Its Uncertainties

During the pandemic, the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have been collaborating in generating real-time model projections in support of the city’s pandemic response. Weekly projections are posted on Github.

In the current study, researchers used a computer model to analyze mortality data, including 191,392 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20,141 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths occurred among New York City residents from March 1-May 16, 2020. The model, which was developed to support the City’s pandemic response, estimated IFR based on case and mortality data combined with mobility information from cell phone data used to model changes in COVID-19 transmission rate due to social distancing. The model includes a number of uncertainties on questions such as the number of New Yorkers initially infected and the movement of people between New York City neighborhoods. 

The model’s estimates are in line with serology surveys (e.g., 19.9 percent positive in New York City, as of May 1, 2020, likely from testing of 25-64-year-olds). In addition, spatial variation estimates were in line with other reports (i.e., highest in the Bronx and lowest in Manhattan).

Estimating the IFR is challenging due to the large number of undocumented infections, fluctuating case detection rates, and inconsistent reporting of fatalities. Further, the IFR of COVID-19 could vary by location, given differences in demographics, healthcare systems, and social construct (e.g., intergenerational households are the norm in some societies whereas older adults commonly reside and congregate in long-term care and adult care facilities in others).

Study authors include Wan Yang, Sasikiran Kandula, and Jeffrey Shaman at Columbia Mailman School; and Mary Huynh, Sharon K. Greene, Gretchen Van Wye, Wenhui Li, Hiu Tai Chan, Emily McGibbon, Alice Yeung, Donald Olson, and Anne Fine at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

This study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (AI145883), the National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research Program (RAPID; 2027369), and the NYC DOHMH. Jeffrey Shaman and Columbia University disclose partial ownership of SK Analytics, an infectious disease forecasting company. Shaman also discloses consulting for Business Network International.

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2927
Released: 14-Aug-2020 4:55 PM EDT
Managing your child’s diabetes during COVID-19
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

These days it’s hard not to worry about whether a quick outing to the grocery store will result in catching COVID-19. But for parents with children who have preexisting health conditions such as diabetes, it can be especially hard not to worry about whether their child is at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from the virus.

Newswise: 1200x800?cb=1597350935
Released: 14-Aug-2020 3:35 PM EDT
Gaiters do no harm: WVU toxicologists find coverings help contain the spread of exhaled droplets
West Virginia University

Experts with the West Virginia University Center for Inhalation Toxicology found that – assuming it’s a good fit - a gaiter will, despite recent reports, provide a respiratory containment of exhaled droplets comparable to a common over-the-ear cloth mask.

Newswise: AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment
Released: 14-Aug-2020 3:05 PM EDT
AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed artificial intelligence software for powder bed 3D printers that assesses the quality of parts in real time, without the need for expensive characterization equipment.

Newswise: Is the COVID-19 virus pathogenic because it depletes specific host microRNAs?
Released: 14-Aug-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Is the COVID-19 virus pathogenic because it depletes specific host microRNAs?
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Why is the COVID-19 virus deadly, compared to cold-causing coronaviruses? Analysis current literature and bioinformatic study of seven coronaviruses, suggests that SARS-CoV-2 acts as a microRNA “sponge,” leading to better viral replication and blockage of the host immune response.

Released: 14-Aug-2020 2:30 PM EDT
UW team developing model to help lower COVID-19 infections in Seattle, other major cities
University of Washington

A UW team has received a grant to develop a model that uses local data to generate policy recommendations that could help lower COVID-19 infections in King County, which includes Seattle.

Newswise: Cardiovascular risk factors tied to COVID-19 complications and death
12-Aug-2020 7:05 PM EDT
Cardiovascular risk factors tied to COVID-19 complications and death

COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular comorbidities or risk factors are more likely to develop cardiovascular complications while hospitalized, and more likely to die from COVID-19 infection, according to a new study published August 14, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jolanda Sabatino of Universita degli Studi Magna Graecia di Catanzaro, Italy, and colleagues.

Newswise: Study shows frequently used serology test may not detect antibodies that could confirm protection against reinfection of COVID-19
Released: 14-Aug-2020 1:55 PM EDT
Study shows frequently used serology test may not detect antibodies that could confirm protection against reinfection of COVID-19
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Two different types of detectable antibody responses in SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) tell very different stories and may indicate ways to enhance public health efforts against the disease, according to researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (S-RBD) are speculated to neutralize virus infection, while the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (N-protein) antibody may often only indicate exposure to the virus, not protections against reinfection.

Released: 14-Aug-2020 1:50 PM EDT
USC scientists identify the order of COVID-19's symptoms
University of Southern California (USC)

USC researchers have found the likely order in which COVID-19 symptoms first appear: fever, cough, muscle pain, and then nausea, and/or vomiting, and diarrhea.

Released: 14-Aug-2020 1:45 PM EDT
Stay the Course with Personal Finances during Pandemic, Johns Hopkins Expert Advises
Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School

Keeping on a careful and steady path is the wisest approach to personal money management during the uncertainties of the COVID-19 crisis, says Associate Professor Yuval Bar-Or of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 17-Aug-2020 11:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 14-Aug-2020 1:25 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 17-Aug-2020 11:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Showing results

110 of 2927