Coronavirus model shows vast majority of infected suffer little or no illness

A new epidemiological COVID-19 coronavirus model from Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group suggests the vast majority of people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 suffer little or no illness.

Clive Cookson for Financial Times:

coronavirus model. Image: COVID-19The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimated — perhaps as much as half the population — according to modelling by researchers at the University of Oxford.

If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with COVID-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment, said Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, who led the study. The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.

“We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys — antibody testing — to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,” she said… The Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, everything is in a state of flux and what we really need is exactly what Number 5 needed: “more input,” as in data. Testing, testing, testing data will come soon and we’ll have a lot clearer picture as soon as we get it.

Worst-case preparations while the data are amassed are the smart way to go. If it’s proven to be too much, we can readjust. As testing in the U.S. really ratchets up (more tests in the U.S. in 8 days than South Korea conducted in 8 weeks), that invaluable, informative data will be ours very soon! Such knowledge will help the U.S. and the world to begin to plan an informed path out of this crisis.

MacDailyNews Note: More info on the Prevention & Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) via the U.S. CDC is here. Track the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) here.


  1. This one of the reasons it is so dangerous. Most are infected by those who do know that they themselves are infected. Here is something to ponder. If 20% of the US population were to be infected, at current rates, over 100,000 people age 20 – 40 would die.

    1. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. — Don Meredith

      A study in Science last week estimated that 86% of all SARS-CoV2 infections were undocumented in the early stages of China’s epidemic, before the travel restrictions that the government imposed on January 23.

      In other words, the actual number of infections was roughly 6X as high as the official number. If that holds true at this point in the United States, where about 45,000 cases have been confirmed so far, the actual number of infections right now would be nearly 270,000. The actual case fatality rate for COVID-19 would be 0.2 percent prior to ever-advancing therapies, full supplies of medical equipment, and the eventual vaccine.

      1. That doesn’t change the fact the fatality rate amongst confirmed cases in the USA is around 1.2%

        Are you suggesting that those who haven’t been officially reported will die at a lower rate? What’s your evidence?

        1. No, the CFR is not actually 1.2%. It’s much closer to 0.2% as the study to which I linked indicates clearly.

          With the U.S population of around 330 million, if every single person were to be infected, and we made no further effort whatsoever on discovering effective therapies, supplying ventilators, or developing a vaccine (none of which are going to happen), then 660K would die in the U.S.

          Again, that’s not going to happen as the country (and much of the world) is laser-focused on discovering effective therapies, supplying ventilators, and developing a vaccine.

          With herd immunity not everyone will be infected (not even close to 330 million) and with effective therapies and increased availability of ventilators, the first year deaths from COVID-19 would be less than 100K.

          Annual number of deaths for the leading causes of death in the U.S. (CDC, 2017 data):

          Heart disease: 647,457
          Cancer: 599,108
          Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
          Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
          Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
          Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
          Diabetes: 83,564
          Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
          Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
          Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173

          I’ve studied this and the data rather extensively. I’m simply offering some perspective for those who may be confused by the bulk of the (laughable, unprofessional) mainstream media coverage we’ve seen to date.

          1. Given the choice between following your recommendations and those of the National, state, and local public health authorities, I am going with them. If you and those who share your opinion can convince them, I will be happy—very happy—to get out of the isolation that my local authorities ordered just yesterday. Until then, I am going to continue insisting that it is imprudent not to prepare for a worst-case scenario, because failing to prepare for it makes it more likely to happen. Offering people the expectation that they can crowd into churches on April 12 makes that outcome less likely, not more, because it may persuade them that they need not take appropriate precautions now.

          2. The Financial Times headline adopted by MDN does not reflect the actual Oxford study, which is available online.


            The study is based on a computer model, of course. Nobody knows exactly how many people are asymptomatic because only those who show symptoms are being tested. Rather than counting that number, the model calculates it from data that are available, under certain assumptions. The press (for example the article cited by MDN) are reporting the following as if it were the finding of the study, rather than an assumption:

            “Our overall approach rests on the assumption that only a very small proportion of the
            population is at risk of hospitalisable illness. This proportion is itself only a fraction of the
            risk groups already well described in the literature [1–4], including the elderly and those
            carrying critical comorbidities (e.g. asthma).”

            The actual finding of the study is that this assumption may be consistent with reality, so further research should be conducted to determine if it really is true.

        2. I held my nose and read his drivel. Yes if more testing indicates a much more widespread rate of infection. which would include asymptomatic carriers, of course the death rate goes down. The rate not the number of actual dead.

          1. Precisely. The death rates for all that other stuff is measured after appropriate countermeasures. The death rate for Covid-19 may be no more serious after appropriate countermeasures. That is a reason to TAKE those countermeasures, not an argument that they are unnecessary.

            1. And yet your arguments a few days ago were about the high death rate.
              Also you asked for some post to be taken down because of misinformation which you then did by intentionally misquoting our Lt. Governor.

              Look, I have no issues with the quarantine or any other actions the government has taken. THEY have been in the forefront of this reality while the media first was claiming xenophobia and then claiming the administration drug its feet, anything to sow mistrust no matter the actions taken. I was amazed they finally woke up and called the Democrats out for delaying assistance. For a brief moment it was almost like getting real news. That time will likely be short.

              No administration is perfect. They didn’t know what to do about the Civil War, dilly-dallied about WWI, the Depression, WWII and Communist containment. This one assembled a very responsive team ranging from doctors to corporate leaders after finally coming to grips with the magnitude of what COULD happen.

              So good to finally hear you are onboard with what our President and Governor have ordered. Just wondering how long that will last…

            2. No, my arguments were about the high potential death rate. I was always saying that the death rate could be much lower with appropriate countermeasures. You—and the President—were arguing that countermeasures were unnecessary because this was just a “mild flu.”

              He finally caught up with reality and supported the steps that others were already taking. Good for him, and very good for us. I’m glad you apparently “have no issue” with that.

              He has now reversed course yet again by suggesting that it is possible that Christians all across our great country will be able to safely pack the churches to celebrate Easter together. My Bishop prohibited church gatherings of more than ten (widely spaced) people more than two weeks before the government acted, and I don’t think he is going to allow them less than three weeks hence. Other churches, however, are likely to take the President at his word. That could be a major mistake.

            3. Dummy, liar, useful idiot, whatever the case may be:

              No, we’re not going to reopen the entire country all at once for Easter services.

              President Trump did not establish a hard date. He simply said that is what he would like to see, hopefully.

              From the beginning, we have been working closely with our nation’s best scientists and medical professionals, and we will continue to do so until we have defeated the virus. Our public health experts, who are terrific, are studying the variation in the disease across the country, and we will be using data to recommend new protocols to allow local economies to cautiously resume their activity at the appropriate time.

              We also have a large team working on what the next steps will be once the medical community gives a region the okay — meaning the okay to get going, to get back; let’s go to work.

              Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this. It was not built to be shut down. — President Trump

              The president is charging public health experts with breaking the country down by region, possibly even to zip codes or county levels to serve a two-prong strategy of containing this health emergency while not killing the country’s economy (and ultimately harming many more people than COVID-19).

              The entire point of the U.S. system of government is based on the idea that one size doesn’t fit all. Rural areas with absolutely no infections and very little chance of anyone infected even visiting those places should not be be shut down. Cities with problems will be shut down until the virus is contained.

              Here you have a U.S. President who has been handed all the power and, yet has wisely decided not wield it. You should be applauding President Trump and working for his re-election, instead of soullessly propping up a dementia patient in front of a teleprompter to predictably sad results.

          2. @First…

            “You should be applauding President Trump and working for his re-election, instead of soullessly propping up a dementia patient in front of a teleprompter to predictably sad results.”

            Dude, I would vote for you over him.

        1. A lot of people on this site do not understand percentages and how this game is being played. If you are not comparing apples to apples the numbers will be misleading

  2. I would hope so! South Korea = pop. 51.3M USA = pop. 331M

    In any case, the real point is that the South Korean government got on the front foot and tested heavily and early and didn’t try to pretend it was either a mild disease or a political stunt. The number of new cases per day there peaked on the 29th Feb.

    1. Wide scale testing is crucial. If you don’t test, you don’t know how widespread it is, how it’s spreading or what sort of medical resources will be needed in 10-14 days time.

      Countries which have tested on a large scale have been able to handle this crisis much better than those which have not tested.

    2. The US numbers are going to explode in the next week. 1/5, or 11000, of the almost 55000 US cases (at end-of-day March 24) were confirmed in that last 24-hour period according to worldinfometers.

      Of course this is partly due to increased testing; the number of new confirmed cases doubled on March 22 so that’s when the results of the ramped up tests started coming in en masse. But all the covidiots who partied on in Florida, who attended megachurch masses because “god will protect them”, etc… that’ll all come home to roost in the next week.

  3. Extensive testing in South Korea has shown that the infections mirror the population structure, eg everyone is getting infected at the same rate, and allows to calculate what percentage requires hospital care.

    That means that if you had millions of infections already (let’s say 4 Million) then you’d have hundreds of thousands of people requiring hospital care.

    Which is not the case, so the assumptions of the new model are wrong.

    1. Obviously. Also, if everyone has been exposed, how can there be so many US communities with no confirmed or suspected cases? There is nothing about the current hotspots (New York, Seattle, New Orleans) that makes their residents uniquely susceptible. They are just a few weeks ahead of the areas that currently have relatively few overt cases.

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