News & Politics

Coronavirus Antibody Testing Study Suggests Coronavirus Fatality Rate Could Be Less Than Seasonal Flu

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of the novel coronavirus that emerged in 2012 (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via NIH)

Remember how China originally covered up the coronavirus outbreak? That likely means that it spent weeks spreading around the world before any efforts to contain or mitigate it happened. There have been reports that spikes in pneumonia-like cases in November and December of 2019 may actually have been coronavirus cases. This means that many people contracted the disease, recovered, and have developed antibodies.

On Friday, the results of the first large-scale antibody study in Santa Clara County in California headed by a Stanford University professor, Dr. Eran Bendavid, was released, and based on the results, the actual number of positive coronavirus cases is likely 50-85 times higher than confirmed cases.

This means the fatality rate of the coronavirus may be significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s 3.4 percent estimate, or Dr. Fauci’s 2.0 percent estimate.

How much? Let’s take a look.

3,330 Santa Clara County residents were tested in the study, and those tests found that 2.49% to 4.16% of the subjects had coronavirus antibodies. “These prevalence estimates represent a range between 48,000 and 81,000 people infected in Santa Clara County by early April, 50-85-fold more than the number of confirmed cases.” According to the study abstract, “Population prevalence estimates can now be used to calibrate epidemic and mortality projections.”

Participants were “recruited using Facebook ads targeting a representative sample of the county by demographic and geographic characteristics,” and the results were adjusted for zip code, sex, and race/ethnicity.

The current death count for Santa Clara County is 69, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. While the death count in early April was likely a bit lower, I’ll use that number to extrapolate the mortality rate of the coronavirus per this study.

  • Assuming the low estimate of infection count of 48,000, that gives us a fatality rate of .14 percent.
  • Assuming the mid-range estimate of infection count of 65,000, that gives us a fatality rate of .11 percent.
  • Assuming the high estimate of infection count of 81,000, that gives us a fatality rate of .09 percent.

The fatality rate of the seasonal flu is .1 percent.

An epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital told ABC News that the results of the study are not necessarily representative of the U.S. population, but conceded that the study did show that there are far more infections than confirmed cases. “There has been wide recognition that we were undercounting infections because of lack of testing or patients were asymptomatic,” he said.

So, if this study is correct, there is a possibility that the actual fatality rate of the coronavirus is comparable, or even lower, than the seasonal flu.

It goes without saying that any deaths from the coronavirus are a tragedy, but our country (and the world) basically shut down over the World Health Organization’s original estimates of a 3.4% case fatality ratio. This is why we need to be talking about opening up our country again.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis