The New York Times reported that epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently prepared four different scenarios.
In their calculations, a large range of possible fatalities could occur in the United States, ranging between 200,000 and 1.7 million Americans over the course of Covid-19.
These projections assumed “minimal efforts to contain it.”
The scenario investigated two critical questions: How many Americans will be infected with the virus? And how many who are infected will end up dying?
A coronavirus death toll near the top of the C.D.C. range (1.7 million) would mean more deaths from the disease than the number of Americans typically killed by cancer and heart disease put together.
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, places a 20 percent infection share at the low end of what is likely. The governments in Britain and Germany are proceeding on the assumption that the virus may infect 60 percent to 70 percent of their populations.
However, many scientists and public health officials who have studied the data so far say they “expect a fatality rate for Covid-19 of around 1 percent,” the NY Times adds. The fatality rate in most places is documented at higher rates, though.
Tom Frieden, who was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Obama administration and now runs the nonprofit group Resolve to Save Lives, said, “Anyone who says they know where this is going doesn’t know enough about the virus: We just don’t know.”
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“What’s going to happen in China when they reopen the economy? We don’t know,” Frieden continued.
In his own estimates for the potential death toll, Dr. Frieden places the top of his range assumes the fatality rate at 1 percent and no more than half of the population infected. This results in about 1.6 million deaths.
More from The New York Times:
Here is where coronavirus deaths would rank in the U.S., assuming an overall infection rate of 30% and fatality rate of 0.5% over the next year:
How Different Age Groups Could Be Affected
The evidence from China, Italy and other countries that have experienced outbreaks suggests that the deaths will cluster among the oldest Americans. In Italy, for example, the average age at death from the disease stood at 81 earlier this month, according to the country’s health department.
The tables below describe the possible effects of coronavirus on Americans of different ages, assuming that fatality rates by age are distributed in the same proportions as those observed in Hubei. The tables also assume that coronavirus cases will be distributed in the same proportions as have been observed so far in the United States according to data collected by The Times. These rankings should be seen as approximate because scientists are still studying the effects of age on the severity of the disease.
Here is where coronavirus deaths would rank among different age groups, assuming an overall infection rate of 30% and fatality rate of 0.5% over the next year:
The overall death toll is expected to be concentrated among older patients. But older people have a higher risk of dying of other leading causes of death, too. Younger people, of course, are far less likely to die of things like heart disease and cancer. That means that, while coronavirus deaths under more grim scenarios could become a top cause of death among older Americans, it could also rank among the top causes of death for younger people. Suppose there are 480,000 deaths from Covid-19. That could make coronavirus the second most common cause of death among Americans in their 70s, and the fifth most common cause of death among Americans in their 20s, if the current patterns in infections and deaths continue to hold.