A new study estimates that COVID-19 kills 1.3% of symptomatic people, substantially more than seasonal influenza. Further, and could kill 500,000 Americans in the coming months if as many people contract the highly-contagious virus this year as contracted the seasonal flu last year.
The authors use national US data on counts of reported deaths and detected COVID-19 cases and the temporality of CFR (e.g., the variability over time) to predict the infection fatality rate (IFR) for COVID-19. They looked at data from 116 counties in 33 states, representing 40,835 confirmed cases and 1,620 confirmed deaths through April 20.
They found that the current IFR in the US is 1.3% (95% CI: 0.6% to 2.1%). The approximate IFR of seasonal influenza, in contrast, is about 0.1%.
Using this model, they predict that, if 35.5 million individuals contract COVID-19 this year in the US (i.e., the same number as flu last year) then, in the absence of any mitigation strategies or social distancing behaviors and the supply of health care services under typical conditions, there will be nearly 500,000 COVID-19 deaths this year.
The overall IFR for COVID-19 is likely lower than 1.3% because the authors were unable to account for COVID-19 cases that recovered without any major symptoms. Their model also assumed that the supply of healthcare services and supplies will continue in the future.