Uncertainty in COVID Fatality Rates

The data on COVID infections are far from complete, making it impossible to calculate an accurate fatality rate. On March 14, Granta Magazine published a letter written by HRDAG’s Patrick Ball, Kristian Lum, Tarak Shah, and Megan Price, that highlights what we do and do not know at this point.

The authors highlight two “extraordinarily good studies” that make estimates based on what we know, and they speculate on why the two papers “come to very different conclusions about the deadliness of the disease.” (One paper estimates a lower documented infection rate than the other, which affects the fatality rate of those infected.) With better testing, they conclude, there will be better data, and then we will be able to choose the best models for analysis.

The authors close the letter with this: “What is certain now are the practices we can take in our day-to-day lives to slow the spread of COVID–19. Neither the infectiousness nor the deadliness of the disease is set in stone.”