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New estimate by CDC reduces COVID-19 death rate to just 0.26% (IFR) from WHO’s 3.4% (CFR)

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The new CDC estimates for the severity, complications and deaths of COVID-19 bring down the numbers much lower making the overall scenario very optimistic. There is an ever-growing confusion between the two terms used for the death (fatality) rate. Read the addendum to understand the difference between the two numbers – CFR vs IFR. The original WHO numbers give an estimate of Case Fatality Rate (CFR). The new CDC numbers represent the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR).

For the first time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given a realistic estimate of the overall death rate for COVID-19, which in its most likely scenario is 0.26 %. They estimate a 0.4 % fatality rate among the symptomatic cases. If you consider their projection that 35% of all infected cases remain asymptomatic, the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) drops to just 0.26 %. This is almost exactly what the Stanford researchers had projected in April 2020.

John P.A. Ioannidis, a professor in medicine, epidemiology and population health, biomedical data science, and statistics at Stanford University had earlier calculated the reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population to be in the range of 0.05% to 1%.

Prof Ioannidis had also stated that “the reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless.”

Also, Dr Anthony Fauci had earlier estimated that the fatality rate of the coronavirus was about 2 %. Dr Anthony Stephen Fauci is an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. Since January 2020, he has been one of the lead members of the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Fauci is considered one of the most trusted medical figures in the USA.

In short, the new report released by the CDC on 22 May 2020 shows the best estimate for overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVIDー19 to be 0.26 %.

Revised Fatality Rates by CDC (22 May 2020)


The new estimates of fatality rate released by the CDC are as follows for different age groups:

0-49 years old: 0.05%
50-64 years old: 0.2%
65+ years old: 1.3%
Overall ages: 0.4%

The CDC has also cautioned that the numbers are likely to change as new data arrives. But, if you consider how we have gone from 3.4 % to 2.0 % to now 0.26 %, it seems more likely that the number might get even lower as we get more data.

Although it appears as if 0.26 % is a small fraction of the 3.4 % that the World Health Organization (WHO) originally estimated, there is a difference between the two numbers. WHO’s 3.4% is the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) – the ratio of the number of deaths divided by the number of confirmed (preferably by nucleic acid testing) cases of the disease. CDC’s new number 0.26% is the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR), which is the ratio of deaths divided by the number of actual infections with SARS-CoV-2.

One should note that the IFR is likely to be significantly lower than the CFR since the RT- PCR testing is limited and currently available primarily to people with significant indications of and risk factors for COVID-19 disease, and because a large number of infections with SARS-CoV-2 result in only mild or even asymptomatic disease.

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