The Latest CDC Estimates of COVID-19’s Infection Fatality Rate Vary Dramatically With Age
Although the results of a nationwide antibody study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not been published yet, the initial findings reportedly indicate that less than 10 percent of the U.S. population has been infected by the COVID-19 virus. “The preliminary results on the first round show that a majority of our nation—more than 90 percent of the population—remains susceptible,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said during congressional testimony last week.
That finding is roughly consistent with the CDC’s most recent “best estimate,” based on studies of the epidemic’s impact in other countries, that the overall COVID-19 infection fatality rate (IFR)—the share of Americans infected by the virus who will die as a result—is about 0.65 percent. According to Worldometer’s tally, the current death toll in the United States is about 210,000. The CDC’s IFR estimate therefore implies that around 32 million Americans, a bit less than 10 percent of the U.S. population, have been infected.
Assuming that the CDC’s nationwide IFR estimate proves to be about right, there are still a couple of important complications. Regional antibody studies by the CDC, using blood drawn for routine tests unrelated to COVID-19, suggest that the IFR varies widely from one part of the country to another—from 0.1
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