Corona Is a Very Mild Virus, No More Deadly Than Many Others

April 3, 2020

Let’s get one thing straight. In terms of capacity to kill you SARS-CoV-2-19 is an extraordinarily weak virus.

The fatality rates being thrown around are all over the place, 8% for Italy, 3.4% from WHO, 2% from the early days for China. But there is a good reason to believe all of these are nonsensical. They’re accurate for what they represent, which is the ratio between recorded instances of infection and fatalities where infection was present, but they are absolutely not the fatality rate of either the SARS-CoV-2-19 infection or even of the COVID-19 disease.

Data from Italy suggests the median age of fatalities is 79.5 years, where Italian life expectancy is 82.5 years. Of the 2500+ victims, only 17 were under 50. Also, 99 percent of all fatalities had pre-existing conditions. True enough, Italian health authorities were rather liberal in their inclusion of “pre-existing conditions” counting even often rather benign conditions like high blood pressure. But there is something else you have to consider:

•48.5 percent of those died had 3 or more illnesses and 25.6 percent had at least two

•The thing about statistics of natural phenomena is that there’s a sea of difference between something occurring 95% of the time and 99% of the time. For example, at a normal distribution to go from covering 95% of the population to 99.7% you need to go from 2 standard deviations to 3. If 90 percent of fatalities had at least one pre-existing condition I’d think nothing of it, but tell me it’s 99 percent (!) and you’ve got my attention.

So then, how is it that a viral disease that according to empirical data collected by Italian health authorities has the capacity to kill only the most enfeebled of us is stacking up a kill rate of 2, 3.4 or 8 percent? Simple: It isn’t.

In fact, this data indicates that SARS-CoV-2-19 is very similar to other coronaviruses in that it represents next to no risk to a healthy individual, but can stack up a body count when it encounters a population that is particularly frail:

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