Lost in the reporting of the World Health Organization’s new estimate that about 760 million people – more than 20 times the confirmed cases – have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide is the impact on the estimated survival rate.
If, indeed, 760 million have been infected at some point during the outbreak and the number of confirmed deaths is about 1 million, the infection fatality rate is only 0.13%.
That’s a little more than one-tenth of 1%, which the WHO says is the rate for the seasonal flu.
The WHO’s estimate in March of a death rate of 3.4% sparked panic worldwide, fueling the catastrophic lockdowns.
A rate of 3.4% is more than 26 times higher than a rate of 0.13%.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking to a special session of the WHO’s COVID-19 board, said the figures vary from urban to rural areas.
But ultimately, he said, it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.”
“Many deaths have been averted and many more lives can be protected,” Ryan said alongside WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Our current best estimates tell us that about 10% of the global population may have been infected by this virus,” he said.
The AP noted the estimate far outstrips the number of confirmed cases counted by both the WHO and Johns Hopkins University of more than 35 million worldwide.
WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said the 10% estimate is based on an average of antibody studies conducted around the world.
Meanwhile, a new study by researchers at Wayne State University in Michigan found COVID-19’s severity may be fading as the death rate falls.
In August, the New York Times found in an analysis of data that up to 90% of people testing positive carried barely any virus.
Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli summarized her story on Twitter: “NEW: All these months into the pandemic, we may have been testing the wrong way. Data from some state labs suggest up to 90% (!!) of people who get a positive result are no longer contagious and don’t need to isolate.”
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control issued new estimates that showed people under 50 years infected by COVID-19 have nearly a 100% survival rate. It broke down to a 99.997% survival rate for 0-19; 99.98% for ages 20-49; 99.5% for 50-69; and 94.6% for those over 70.
Those who died of coronavirus, according to the CDC, had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning more than two chronic diseases along with COVID-19. Overall, the CDC says, just 6% of the people counted as COVID-19 deaths died of COVID-19 alone.
The CDC’s overall count shows a significant downward trend from a peak of 17,054 deaths on April 18.
Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 death count shows a downward trend from a peak on April 18, 2020 (CDC)
A recent study by researchers at the Houston Methodist Research Institute raised concerns about coronavirus mutations as the fall season begins. Among more than 5,000 genetic sequences of COVID-19 they found more than 90% of samples contained a mutation.
Significantly, however, the Houston researchers found the mutations did not make the virus deadlier.
Florida opens up
The CDC’s latest survival-rate figures were cited by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month at a roundtable he hosted with health experts from Harvard and Stanford prior to his decision to reopen bars and restaurants in his state to 100% capacity.
DeSantis said that along with lifting state restrictions on restaurants and bars, the state is also barring local governments from shutting down businesses or implementing restrictions without any economic or health justifications.
At his roundtable, DeSantis asked Stanford professor of medicine Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya about the studies showing 90% of the COVID-19 testing is too sensitive.
“We’re quarantining across the country probably hundreds of thousands or millions of people who aren’t even contagious, and I think that obviously has a huge cost to society that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of discussion now,” the governor said.
Bhattacharya agreed that “what is being amplified” in the testing is “something that is not going to pose any risk to you or to others.”
“It’s not a false positive in a technical sense,” he said, “but in a functional sense it’s a false positive.”
I spoke with Dr. Bhattacharya, from Stanford Medical School, about the implications of PCR tests identifying non-infectious, dead virus. Are we quarantining hundreds of thousands of Americans who are not contagious? pic.twitter.com/dMuRcAClQX
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 28, 2020