CDC releases estimates for COVID-19 fatality rates

At long last, the CDC has finally released comprehensive estimates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic under five different scenarios meant to help guide policy going forward. The scenarios include the CDC’s “current best estimate,” and all are based on information up to April 29th.

Some key points:

  • The CDC estimates that the fatality rate for COVID-19 among those with symptoms (sCFR) is 0.4%.
  • This differs dramatically based on age, with a symptomatic case fatality rate as low as 0.05% for those under age 49 and as high as 1.3% for those over age 65.
  • The CDC estimates that 3.4% of those with symptomatic infection will require hospitalization.
  • 35% of all infected individuals are believed to be asymptomatic, which gives an overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.26%.
  • The CDC’s IFR matches Oxford CEBM’s estimated IFR range of 0.1%-0.41% and CEBM’s original point estimate of 0.29% which I reported on back in March.

How does this compare to a bad flu season? The 2017-18 flu season was among the worst in recent history, resulting in the deaths of between 46,000 and 95,000 Americans. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is four times as lethal overall among those with symptoms (the 2017-18 flu had an sCFR of 0.13%) and nearly twice as many symptomatic individuals will require hospitalization (3.4% for COVID-19 compared to 1.8% for the 2017-18 flu).

[1] “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.

[2] “Global Covid-19 Case Fatality Rates”. Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.