On Thursday, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s chair of emergency medicine Dr. Donald Yealy claimed the fatality rate of the novel coronavirus is far lower than initially suspected, closer to .25%, based off Allegheny County data and extrapolations from New York and California randomized antibody testing.
Initial modeling that crafted policy across the globe, including in the United States, suggested the fatality rate of COVID-19 was anywhere from 2-4%, if not higher.
The center, bracing for a surge of patients that have yet to materialize, are working well below capacity, Dr. Yealy noted, announcing a shift in policy to re-open their hospitals back to normal levels.
UPMC is Pennsylvania’s largest nongovernmental employer, the center’s website outlines, consisting of 89,000 employees, 40 hospitals, and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites.
“Dr. Donald Yealy based it partly on studies of levels of coronavirus antibodies detected in people in New York and California, and partly on COVID-19 deaths in the Pittsburgh region,” a Penn Live report explained, covering Dr. Yealy’s Thursday presser. “The studies found that 5-20% of people had been exposed to the coronavirus, with many noticing only mild illness or none at all, he said.”
“We’ve learned that way more people, far, far more people have actually been exposed to the infection without any knowledge of it. That makes the overall death rate much lower,” said Yealy. “Many people just didn’t feel sick at all and recovered without difficulty.”
“Yealy went on to offer a hypothetical scenario of 3% of Allegheny County residents being exposed — a conservative number compared to the findings of the New York and California studies,” the report said. “That would mean about 36,000 people in Allegheny have been exposed to the coronavirus. With 94 COVID-19 deaths in the county as of Thursday, it would mean 0.25 percent of people exposed to the coronavirus had died, he said.”
“There is a big difference between 0.25% mortality and 7%,” Yealy emphasized.
The doctor noted that the majority of the COVID-19 deaths at UPMC “involved people over 80, with many being nursing home residents,” Penn Live reported.
Currently, “only 2% percent of the UPMC system’s 5,500 beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and the number of new COVID-19 patients is declining,” Yealy said.
“What I suspect is COVID-19 will be a part of our experience treating patients for an extended [period of] months to maybe years,” he noted.
Asked about COVID-19 in relation to the flu, Yealy told reporters folks should be “‘worried differently,’ pointing out that both take their heaviest toll on the elderly, especially nursing home residents, and people weakened by other medical conditions,” the report said.
“[I] would not think of it as more or less, just two different illnesses that share some features, but have some distinct differences,” the doctor said.
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