Q&A – What’s The Real COVID-19 Survival Rate?


Today’s entry: What’s the current national death rate? I find numbers all over the place. Thanks.

Bottom Line: From the onset of the pandemic the death or survival rate, whichever you prefer, has been hard to pin down and often the most miscited statistic. Commonly people will use an estimated mortality rate or will divide the total number of cases by the number of people who’ve died. Estimates are just that and it’s not possible to calculate death or survival rates using active cases, we don’t know how many people battling the virus will succumb to it. So how can you figure out an accurate rate? By exclusively looking at only closed cases. How many people were diagnosed with the virus and how many recovered. It’s known as the closed case death rate. So, what is the closed case rate to date? 

  • Worldwide: 8%
  • United States: 9%
  • Florida: 13%

Does that mean around one in ten who are diagnosed with the virus today will die? Probably not and there are three reasons why. First, we’re seeing the largest spike in cases coming from those under 34. That’s true around the world and right here in South Florida. For example, in Florida, the average age of someone diagnosed with the virus has dropped from 54 to 39 over the past month since testing began. Second, we have a better medical understanding of the virus and more effective treatment options. This includes drugs like Remdisivir which was deployed to Florida yesterday to help combat the impact of the virus. Third, recovery data is generally lagging. This has been especially true in Florida, which has been one of the slowest states to report recoveries in the country. The lag in reported recoveries comes from the emphasis being on testing and diagnosing new patients, rather than clearing those who’ve recovered. Because of the lag, we know the death rate will likely be lower independent of other factors but how much lower is unclear. But here’s a bit of a reality check. If you were to divide the total diagnosed cases by the total deaths, the death rate would still be 4.6% worldwide. So it’s possible to infer that the death rate to date has been between 4.6% - 8% worldwide since the pandemic began. Or more optimistically a survival rate of at least 92%. 

What is certain is that this is the deadliest virus to hit the US since the 1918 pandemic. In four months over 132,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. By comparison, the highest total of deaths in a calendar year due to the traditional flu in the US is 80,000. The current annualized average for COVID-19 is 528,000. That means the coronavirus has been 6.6 times worse than the worst flu season in American history to date, and that’s with lockdowns, better hygiene habits, social distancing, and the wearing of masks. This is clearly worse than anything any of us have experienced. It’s important to remain smart and safe. 

Submit your questions using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

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Photo by: Getty Images North America


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