General Question

crazyguy's avatar

What is the current covid IFR (infection fatality rate)?

Asked by crazyguy (3194points) September 25th, 2020

I am 73 and have assumed for at least the last 4–5 months that if I catch covid-19, my chances of survival are low.

However, just today, I decided to take a deep dive and determine what current info shows. I did a Google search and, after many, many false trails, hit the lodestar:

If you scroll down to Table 1, you find out the following numbers in the most likely scenario:

Age Infection fertility Rate
0–19 0.00003
20–49 0.0002
50–69 0.005
70+ 0.054

Since I am closer to 70 than say 90, I reckon my chances of surviving a covid infection are close to what they are for the 50–59 group. Let’s call it 99%.

Needless to say, this is extremely encouraging. Also it substantiates what has been said about reopening schools and colleges.

What am I missing?

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20 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Here you go ! Older than 65 if you have COVID-19 ! You are looking at your numbers for everyone, once you have you’re in bad country, and out of bullets.

crazyguy's avatar

As usual, your answer makes zero sense.

However, since you are the only one who answered my question so far, I’ll respond.

Your link just gives the well-known fact that most deaths in this country have been among older people. However, the data that I linked provides more context. It still shows that the IFR in the 70+ age group is 270 times that of the 20–49 age group, and 11 times that of the 50–69 age group. However, the absolute risk is low.

Irukandji's avatar

I think you are missing a few things, but maybe not very much. For one, Scenario 5 is not the “most likely” scenario. It is a projection based on current data that the CDC explicitly says will change as more data comes in. And if you look at past reports, the IFR has increased for your age group. Furthermore, the number is based on a particular standard of care, which the CDC also explicitly says will not be available everywhere.

Next, your reasoning for placing yourself in a different age bracket makes no sense. The 70+ group is for people who are 70 or older, and that includes you. You may be closer to 70 than 90, but you’re also closer to 70 than you are to any number from 59 to 69. You are 70+ and should act accordingly. That only increases your risk by about 4%, but small percentages translate to a lot of actual people when a pandemic rages through a population.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these numbers are from before some of the more recent spikes. It shouldn’t surprise us that people were less likely to die during a period of time when they were being more careful. The CDC’s numbers would change if our precautions changed to the extent that the most vulnerable people would become more at risk.

The report also does not include data about other relevant factors such as sex or preexisting conditions. When assessing your personal risk, these things matter. So looking up your age category and assuming that tells you all you need to know about your individual chances of dying isn’t really warranted.

And finally, death is not the only thing that COVID-19 can do to someone who gets it. The disease can also cause lung scarring, heart damage, kidney damage, GI problems, cognitive defects, and a whole host of other maladies. Surviving the disease is not the same as being unharmed by it. So a 95% chance of survival should only be a partial comfort.

filmfann's avatar

Even if you have no major symptoms, Covid can weaken your heart wall, which is permanent damage.
Of the 3000 on the ship I was on, 7 died. Over 100 ended up testing positive, and most of us never got tested.

JLeslie's avatar

Let’s say 1%, that seems reasonable if you are overall a healthy 73 year old.

I only skimmed the link you gave, I do want to read it more thoroughly. I think the CDC risk of fatality is including asymptomatic infection, so that means if you actually feel sick your risk is higher than 1%.

Where I live the hospitalization rate was very high, close to 20% at one point, but I assume that has come down now that we testing more. Where I live is your age range (80% of people are 55 and up). Being in the hospital with covid is not fun! A very high percentage of hospitalized patients have some complications that possibly are life long, we don’t know yet. Anyway, I suggest you look at hospitalization rates also.

Moreover, I always say do the math. Our country has about 25 million people aged 55–65, check me, and so if 50% catch covid in say 24 months time, then that will be 250,000 dead. That’s a lot. 125,000 dead per year. Flu is more like .1%, which would be 12,500. That’s where the ten times the flu death rate was coming from when the experts mentioned it back in March. That’s still basically true, about ten times more deadly. Let’s say I’m right about 10% hospitalization rate for the age range (I really don’t know the current data on this) That would be 2.5 million hospitalized in the 2 year time only in that age range. That’s a lot of people. What we observed initially was younger people were being hospitalized too, but more likely to survive.

The question is when do you think as a society the alarm bells should be sounded and people curb behavior? Is 1% death rate and let’s say 10% hospitalization rate enough?

canidmajor's avatar

So you are only concerned about fatality? That makes as much sense as worrying about fatality rates if you fall from certain heights. Yeah, you’ll probably die if you fall from a 100 foot height, but you probably won’t if you fall from a fifteen foot height. You could badly break bones, sustain a spinal cord injury, fracture your skull, rupture stuff, etc etc etc.

Covid 19 is not just about death. I live with a bunch of permanent damage issues from other medical circumstances, it’s no damned picnic. Your “hey I probably won’t die!” attitude seem more adolescent than anything else.

crazyguy's avatar

I want to thank all of you for detailed, thoughtful answers to my sincere desire to know.

I do not intend to change my behavior in any significant way until a vaccine is found to be safe and effective. For the simple reason that the disease itself is no fun. Whether it kills you or not.

I will provide more detailed individual answers after my round of golf.

crazyguy's avatar

@Irukandji Thanks for a great answer. I looked through my link again and have a few comments:

1. “Scenario 5 represents a current best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States, with the same caveat: the parameter values will change as more data become available.” This is a direct quote from the article. I do not see why this scenario should not be considered as the CDC’s current assessment of where we are today.

2. I was not 100% clear about why I think I belong closer to the younger people’s risk factor than to my age group. The simple explanation is that I am in excellent shape and have none of the pre-existing conditions commonly called co-morbidities.

I realize that death is not the only consequence to worry about. Believe me, my wife and I do not plan to relax any of the precautions we have been taking. However, I do see the latest information as good news.

crazyguy's avatar

@filmfann I guess there was mo testing performed on people with zero symptoms? I would love to hear more about your experiences. I love details. If you think it would be too much for a public forum, feel free to send it to me privately.

JLeslie's avatar

What I tell people who in my opinion are too cocky about their health, who are over 50, and are endangering us all (so I do NOT mean you @crazyguy you obviously care about yourself and society at large and are taking reasonable precautions to inhibit the spread of covid) I tell them they don’t know if they are sick. I tell them how many people do they know that we’re diagnosed with cancer in stage2,3, and 4. How many people suddenly have a heart attack and felt fine a month before?

I swear on one of my friend’s antimask Facebook status updates in April I wrote that on her Facebook thread and she was diagnosed a month later with cancer. I felt bad about having said it, but not very bad. I feel terrible she has cancer. Her treatment is working thankfully. She is in good health otherwise. She’s athletic.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks for your input. I have read from a different poster that you are a younger person in an older community, is that true?

You make a good point that the calculated rates are based on the total number of positives, not just the symptomatic cases. Therefore the rates would be significantly higher if you exclude the asymptomatic cases. Looking through the link again, I see that the assumed percentage of asymptomatic positives in Scenario 5 is 40%. Therefore, for sick patients, the mortality risks will need two be increased by a factor of 2.5 (1/0.4).

Please do not misunderstand my post. My wife and I are well aware that a case of covid-19 is many times worse than a case of flu, whether you die from it or not. We do not intend to relax any of the precautions we have been taking. We do not go anywhere that requires indoor contact with anybody. When we do have people coming to our home (cleaning lady, contractors, an occasional friend) we require masks and social distancing. When we entertain at home, it is outdoors. We are both golfers, and we never go in the clubhouse.

After reviewing the latest data, my wife and I decided that not one thing in our precautions will be relaxed until we are both vaccinated.

crazyguy's avatar

@canidmajor LOL No, I do worry about the disease itself. I can hardly survive a common cold (ask my wife!). My wife and I do not plan to relax any of the precautions we have been taking until we are both vaccinated.

The reason for my post was that it is the first bit of relatively good news I have seen on the covid front.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie I feel for your friend who was stricken with cancer.

I do not like masks, especially outdoors. But I would gladly wear a mask if it makes people around me more comfortable. The recent arrest (after tasing) of a mother for not wearing a mask at an outdoor game was too much in my opinion. Did you watch it?

JLeslie's avatar

@crazyguy As I said I see you take covid seriously, listen to the scientists, care about the health of all people, etc.

I’m 52 living in a 55 and up community.

Irukandji's avatar

@crazyguy “I do not see why this scenario should not be considered as the CDC’s current assessment of where we are today.”

It is the current estimate. The problem is that “best estimate” is not the same as “most likely” when we know that the underlying numbers will change. That’s why the CDC has emphasized the degree of uncertainty they are dealing with. Their estimate is a projection based on parameters that they know are incorrect.

“I am in excellent shape and have none of the pre-existing conditions commonly called co-morbidities.”

The statistics already take variations in underlying health into account. As much as people love to think that they are exceptional, they generally are not.

“However, I do see the latest information as good news.”

Even though the numbers are worse than the previous projections that the CDC made? Or do you just mean that the breakdown by age makes you feel better because you previously thought that your chances of survival were much lower? I have to assume it’s the latter, since that would be a much more sensible reason to feel good about the news. In any case, it’s true that the main reason there have been so many deaths is a failure of containment rather than some frighteningly high fatality rate.

crazyguy's avatar

@Irukandji I am now more confused than ever.

1. “Best estimate” is not the “most likely”? They know their parameters are incorrect, and yet they keep feeding them to the public?

2. “The statistics already take variations in underlying health into account.” So a person with zero co-morbidities has the same chance of death as a person with two or more co-morbidities?

3. “Even though the numbers are worse than the previous projections that the CDC made?” I do not have ready access to these previous projections. In any case, I did think that my survival chances were much lower than indicated by the latest figures.

Irukandji's avatar

@crazyguy “Best estimate” is not the “most likely”?

A best estimate is based on current data. It says what will be the case if current trends continue. But we know that current trends will not continue. It is therefore unlikely that the best estimate (aka the current estimate) will be what happens, which means that the most likely scenario is something other than the best/current estimate.

“They know their parameters are incorrect, and yet they keep feeding them to the public?”

The CDC is trying to provide the best information it can in real time despite the fact that the underlying numbers are likely to change. But they are also upfront about the fact that they are dealing with uncertainty, so I don’t accept your spin.

“So a person with zero co-morbidities has the same chance of death as a person with two or more co-morbidities?”

Of course not. All other things being equal, a person with two or more comorbidities is at higher risk than a person with none. But all other things are not equal since age is itself a factor. Furthermore, your age bracket includes both people who have zero comorbidities and those who have one, two, three, or more comorbidities. So the risk calculation for your age group is not just based on an increased likelihood of comorbidities, which means you cannot use your relative health to drop yourself down into a lower age bracket. This is true even if your chances are better than average for your age group—which they probably are—because being better off than others in your age bracket is not the same thing as being 5, 10, or 15 years younger.

“I do not have ready access to these previous projections.”

If you aren’t comparing the current numbers to previous numbers and tracking whether things are getting better or worse, then on what basis are you claiming that the current numbers are “good news”?

“In any case, I did think that my survival chances were much lower than indicated by the latest figures.”

I assume you meant “much higher than indicated by the latest figures.” I’m sure you have a better chance than the average for people your age, but I don’t think you have good reason to think your chances are so much better as to warrant dropping you into a different age bracket.

catcaptain99's avatar

Less than 1% average across all demographics.

crazyguy's avatar

@catcaptain99 That is indeed the number that the CDC shows.

JLeslie's avatar

Yeah, but what a lot of people don’t seem To understand is 1% is high with something so contagious.

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