Health and age big predictors of COVID fatalities
By Chadwick Dolgos
Since COVID-19’s introduction to the United States over a year ago, experts have learned there are two key factors to surviving the novel coronavirus once infected: young age and good health.
There are a number of precautions that can be taken to prevent contracting the virus such as wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands. However, once diagnosed, the likelihood of survival can almost be predicted by the age and health of a patient, with health being the ultimate predicting factor.
According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with almost 500,000 recorded deaths.
The risk of dying following a COVID-19 diagnosis increases with age. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80% of all deaths involving COVID-19 resulted in adults aged 65 years and older.
Adults between the ages of 25-64 account for less than 20% of all COVID-19 related deaths, while fatalities under the age of 25 account for less than one percent of the total recorded deaths.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 pandemic planning scenarios, the survival rate once infected is relatively high across all age categories, in comparison with other deadly illnesses.
The CDC developed five scenarios in order to advance public health preparedness and planning. They are not to be interpreted as the expected effects of COVID-19, but rather best estimates with the data currently available.
The fifth scenario, which is the CDC’s best estimate, illustrates the survival rate for individuals under the age of 20 is 99.9% The survival rate slightly decreases to 99.98% for individuals in the 20-49 age group, and further decreases to 99.46% for individuals between the ages of 50-69.
The CDC’s best estimate confirms age increases the risk of death. The mortality rate for individuals over the age of 70 is 5.4% and less than 1% for individuals under the age of 70.
The CDC does not provide real-time data regarding mortality rates and how they relate to age.
Jasmine Reed, a spokeswoman for the CDC, explained to PolitiFact that the CDC does not release survival and mortality rate information because of the complexity involved in survival analysis.
In an interview with NPR, Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, explained that mortality rates for COVID-19 are difficult to calculate because of the number of asymptomatic and mild cases. Ebola mortality rates, for example, are easier to determine because those infected are likely to experience severe symptoms.
While age is a correlating factor, an individual’s health serves as a better indicator for survival. Older populations are more likely to suffer severe symptoms or die once infected with COVID-19 because an immune system continues to weaken with age.
COVID-19 is a newly mutated strain of coronavirus. Our immune systems have never produced the necessary antibodies to fight off infection.
Stronger immune systems have the ability to fight COVID-19 once infected, while weaker immune systems most often result in more severe symptoms or death.
As we get older, the likelihood of contracting chronic illnesses also increases. When coupled with COVID-19, certain medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all increase the probability of death.
Young age should not be confused with immunity against COVID-19. According to the CDC, more than 60% of Americans have a chronic illness, while at least 40% have been diagnosed with two or more.
Though older populations are more susceptible, young adults and children who suffer from chronic illnesses are at an increased risk of death if infected with COVID-19.