The most important data about the Wuhan coronavirus

We’re getting numbers that break down reported cases of, and deaths from, the Wuhan coronavirus virus by nation and, in the U.S, by state. But what about by age and preexisting condition? And, in particular, what about deaths by age and preexisting condition?

We have what I take to be good information about deaths by age in South Korea:

In South Korea. . .which had an early surge of cases, the death rate in Covid-19 patients ages 80 and over was 10.4%, compared to 5.35% in 70-somethings, 1.51% in patients 60 to 69, 0.37% in 50-somethings. Even lower rates were seen in younger people, dropping to zero in those 29 and younger.

We also have some early U.S. numbers from the CDC:

This first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States indicates that fatality was highest in persons aged ≥85, ranging from 10% to 27%, followed by 3% to 11% among persons aged 65–84 years, 1% to 3% among persons aged 55-64 years, <1% among persons aged 20–54 years, and no fatalities among persons aged ≤19 years.

For some reason, our preliminary numbers are worse than those of South Korea in terms of deaths by age group. This may be because South Korea tested so many people early on, thereby enabling early treatment of the infected. If so, our numbers regarding deaths by age group should more closely mirror South Korea’s as testing ramps up. Maybe they will mirror those numbers anyway as the sample size in the U.S. increases.

As U.S. data becomes more robust, testing vastly increases, and hospitals increase their capacity to treat victims of the virus, we may see a smart way forward in our response that doesn’t entail shutting down much of our economy. The answer, I hope, is some level of isolation (varying by age bracket) for those in high risk categories and complete isolation for those who test positive. Others would be allowed to go back to work and to congregate in numbers that, with luck, would increase significantly over time.