Q&A – The Pandemic Six Months Later

Today’s entry: CDC says 94 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the US had underlying medical conditions.

Bottom Line: That note was sent along with an article illustrating that all but 6% of COVID-19 deaths were related. That’s good to know and for all of the information we were first imparted with regarding COVID-19 six months ago which turned out to be false, this wasn’t. Our top health experts told us from day one that those with preexisting conditions were at the highest risk if they contracted the virus. Clearly that’s been the case. Before diving into the implications of these findings by the CDC, let’s take a step back and put where we are in perspective. Right now, 6.2 million Americans have had COVID-19 and 188,000 have died.

I think we’re all a bit numb when hearing the daily drumbeat of numbers, however, when you take a step back, even with all the actions taken as a country the impact has been significant. Many suggested the original modeling projecting more than 100,000 related deaths was absurd. But here we are six months in with more deaths than had been originally projected. At the same time, the overall impact relative to the size of this country has been small. If you’ve ever thought it was simply inevitable that we’d all get this virus sooner or later, consider that only 1.9% of Americans have had COVID-19. We’re a long, long way from herd conversations being a reality. It would also appear that it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’ll all get this thing, at least before vaccines and widespread treatment options are available. 

So back to your point regarding preexisting conditions. 11,300 people without preexisting conditions have died and 176,700 people with preexisting conditions have died in the US. The closed case death rate has only been 0.003% for those without preexisting conditions. So yeah, it hasn’t been much worse than the traditional flu for those without preexisting conditions. 

Here’s the complication. A lot of Americans have complications or preexisting conditions as the case happens to be. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 54 million Americans have pre-existing conditions. That’s 16.5% of the population of the United States representing 43% of all households. The closed case death rate for those with preexisting conditions has been 5.2%. Based on what we’ve learned more than 2.8 million Americans with preexisting conditions would die if they contracted the virus.

Six months later it’s evident we’ve done a good job containing the threat. It’s pretty remarkable that something 2.5 times more contagious than the flu has reached less than 2% of the population. But when it comes to the question of preexisting conditions, the challenge is just how many Americans have them and thus how many of us live with someone who is at risk. This isn’t advocacy for a specific policy, research has shown masks and social distancing are more effective than lockdowns. It’s just perspective that hopefully provides context about what we’ve learned six months in and what we should be mindful of going forward.

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