An interesting paper on COVID-19 infections in the USA during 2020 was recently published in Nature. The take-home lessons are:
- about 78% of infections were probably undocumented so the actual number of people with COVID-19 is almost twice the number that's been reported
- about 31% of the population was infected during 2020 giving rise to a considerable level of natural immunity
- by the end of 2020 the case fatality rate (CFR = number of deaths per estimated cases) fell to about 0.30% due to better reporting of cases and better patient care
- the case fatality rate of 0.30% is about four times higher than that of seasonal influenza (<0.08%)
Sen, P., Yamana, T.K., Kandula, S., Galanti, M. and Shaman, J. (2021) Burden and characteristics of COVID-19 in the United States during 2020. Nature 598:338-341.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted health systems and economies throughout the world during 2020 and was particularly devastating for the United States, which experienced the highest numbers of reported cases and deaths during 2020. Many of the epidemiological features responsible for observed rates of morbidity and mortality have been reported; however, the overall burden and characteristics of COVID-19 in the United States have not been comprehensively quantified. Here we use a data-driven model-inference approach to simulate the pandemic at county-scale in the United States during 2020 and estimate critical, time-varying epidemiological properties underpinning the dynamics of the virus. The pandemic in the United States during 2020 was characterized by national ascertainment rates that increased from 11.3% (95% credible interval (CI): 8.3–15.9%) in March to 24.5% (18.6–32.3%) during December. Population susceptibility at the end of the year was 69.0% (63.6–75.4%), indicating that about one third of the US population had been infected. Community infectious rates, the percentage of people harbouring a contagious infection, increased above 0.8% (0.6–1.0%) before the end of the year, and were as high as 2.4% in some major metropolitan areas. By contrast, the infection fatality rate fell to 0.3% by year’s end.