What is the marginal risk of getting Covid-19?

This suggests that COVID-19 very roughly contributes a year’s worth of risk. There is a simple reality check on this figure. Every year around 600,000 people die in the UK. The Imperial College team estimates that if the virus went completely unchallenged, around 80% of people would be infected and there would be around 510,000 deaths.

So, roughly speaking, we might say that getting COVID-19 is like packing a year’s worth of risk into a week or two. Which is why it’s important to spread out the infections to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed.

Here is more from David Spiegelhalter, with some interesting graphics.  For the pointer I thank H.


The virus is not going unchallenged at this point.

Except maybe in Brasil.

And when Brazil's "Death Rate" is lower than Italy's, no one will speak of it again. It will vanish down the memory hole like an Inconvenient Truth's Hockey stick.

No, it's not going "unchallenged" in Brazil....

I'm in Brazil. The Individual state shutdownsare letting up on Monday.

Also the risk is not uniformly spread.

The snowflake generation can't handle a little flu.

We seem to be handling it fine. It's you we're all worried about.

Welp... given the differential mortality rates by age, it seems to be older people that can’t handle a little flu. At the population level, Spiegelhalter is right, but at the individual, he is wrong for most of the population when he says C19 adds a year’s worth of risk.

Sounds like the title of a good Mel Gibson movie...
(Wikipedia): The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 Australian romantic drama film directed by Peter Weir and co-written by Weir and David Williamson. It was adapted from Christopher Koch's 1978 novel The Year of Living Dangerously. The story is about a love affair set in Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno. It follows a group of foreign correspondents in Jakarta on the eve of an attempted coup by the 30 September Movement in 1965. It was banned from being shown in Indonesia until 1999, after the forced resignation of coup-leader and political successor Suharto in 1998.[7] The title The Year of Living Dangerously is a quote which refers to a famous Italian phrase used by Sukarno; vivere pericolosamente, meaning "living dangerously". Sukarno used the line for the title of his Indonesian Independence Day speech of 1964.

A terrific article, we need more like this that attempt to put the numbers into context for those how have a hard time understanding what the norms are in terms of deaths.

I think that the paragraph which follows your highlighted paragraph may be the most impactful (but in reality the whole article is terrific):

"It’s important to note that all the risks quoted are the average (mean) risks for people of the relevant age, but are not the risks of the average person! This is because, both for COVID and in normal circumstances, much of the risk is held by people whom are already chronically ill. So for the large majority of healthy people, their risks of either dying from COVID, or dying of something else, are much lower than those quoted here. Although of course for every death there will be others who are seriously ill."

@Reason - the last sentence is telling: " Although of course for every death there will be others who are seriously ill." - like sterility for males, like liquefying your insides, like making a 30 year old's lungs look like an 80 year old smoker's lungs.
Therefore the Precautionary Principle holds, like in anthropogenic Global Warming: though warmer temperatures may allow us to grow wine in Greenland, it may also make earth into Venus, so it's best to go slow (not that the USA is going slow on AGW, anymore than it's going slow on Covid-19, as it is, de facto, going the 'herd immunity' route, with a flattened peak rather than a China 'near zero new cases' route)

There’s very little data about this. I doubt if many 30 year olds get damaged lungs after recovery The patients that do, get it from an hyperactive immune response ( cytokine storm) and these are very old, otherwise it’s a pneumonia which usually does not damage the lungs long term.

There is no "Precautionary Principle" - the concept is infantile.

the concept has made many people famous on the internet.

But yes it is infantile.

Wow, Ray, it's like you made a deliberate effort to pack as much nonsense as possible into few words.

The Earth won't turn into Venus.

As for the Precautionary Principle, it may have some theoretical justification in certain limited circumstances, but in practice it often ends up as people yelling "stop something I don't like, even though the evidence overwhelming favors that it's safe and beneficial". See GMO's, as one prominent example.

In the particular case of COVID-19, the precautionary principle actually cuts both ways. One could argue for it as a reason to believe that the CFR for COVID-19 could be on the high end of estimates (or higher) and justifies drastic action to stop. One could also argue that the economic measures being taken in the U.S. and Western Europe are without precedent and highly risky, whereas we know from history that societies can rebound very well from diseases that kill 1-2% of the population.

@Dave - fair points, but as societies mature they become more risk adverse. In WWI, (Spanish flu times) the solders en mass went "over the top" in a frontal mass assault, human waves, underestimating the power of the machine gun. In today's army, the casualty rate is much smaller and the tactics more advanced.

Shorter: Dave and my critics in this thread, I expect you, especially if you're a youngster, to storm the Covid-19 fortress, go over the top, and take a bullet for the Herd Immunity Team, and voluntarily contract Covid-19. Go on!?

It wouldn't make sense for a young person to invoke the precautionary principle here, as we basically know the risks more or less, and they are incredibly low.

No, the risk isn't zero, but the risk of leaving your home is never zero.

It is perhaps safer for young people now than ever. Less risk of other infectious diseases, less risk of car accidents etc.

Young people need to social distance for now to protect the old, not themselves.

Though I am concerned that there's potential risk that the economic damage could ultimately lead to a greater loss of QALYs than it prevents.

US carbon emmisions have been going down since 2007(?) and are near 1997 levels - the year of Kyoto. All this because of fracking for natural gas and replacing coal with gas.


Conversely, China and India are building about one new coal fired plant per week.

I think the US has built, what, one coal plant in the last 50(?) Years.

But is the cost of spreading out the infections more than the cost of the health service being overwhelmed?

Maybe if we increase the inheritance tax conservatives will care more about dying.

@anon - you got it backwards. If you increase the death tax, people will care more about NOT dying. No wonder you 99% liberals have problems with economics.

No, only the living vote against a death tax. If you are dead, or will be soon, you should be indifferent. Your indolent and lazy children should care, however.

If you are dead, you are not voting, unless you live in Chicago.

Maybe that is the trick. Failsons for "let it rip."

Maybe it's just me, but it really seems the people animated by the tax part are the most sanguine about the death part ..

Your hypothesis is that American Boomers are the least likely to care about Corona-chan?

That’s an easily verified phenomenon. What’s the age breakdown of the Californians packing the beaches and parks and throwing giant get togethers?

No, you miss my meaning, again.

I'm saying that conservatives hate the death tax, and if any "wing" of our political system has said "grandparents should be willing to die" it is ..


That last claim is highly debatable. There are people with a certain sort of center-left technocratic and utilitarian thinking - Michael Bloomberg is one prominent example - who are enthralled with QALY vs. cost analysis and the idea that certain potentially life-extending treatments shouldn't be offered to older patients, particularly at government expense. Given that these same people tend to favor moves toward single-payer healthcare, there really is an element of expecting the elderly with various physical ailments simply to die before much money is spent on their care.

Would this suggest that post-Covid death rates would then go down temporarily as there would be fewer people on the brink of death?

Yes, a little. Remember not all Covid-19 deaths are people who were otherwise on the brink of death.

Post-Covid there will be fewer medical workers too.

The way I prefer to look at this is that I have done a number of semi-dangerous things in my life, and never ever with a 2% chance of death.

This is a moment where if I (60-69) go out and get infected I take on a greater risk than I ever have.

Or if you sit around in your house for a year, you have a similar risk of death. Better not do that either!

The sedentary might actually have a higher risk than that.

Lifestyle choices, both in general, and specifically now.

I think the year will pass by regardless of how anonymous chooses to spend it .

Actually I would recommend cryogenics until we have cures for everything

of dying from a stroke or heart attack due to your TDS.

If you think I have TDS you have been sheltering in place from the day's news!

I wish you the best in these coming months. I'm increasingly wondering what the real numbers are on risks and how bad the data is.

I'm scared for the first time in my life. I called a few relatives I had lost touch with. Said hello and perhaps goodbye.

The chart seems to at least double the risk for older groups. And I don't want to think about males with comorbidities, they appear to concentrate the odds you could die in the next five-ten years into a two week period

Thanks man, and take care yourself.

Not at this moment, unless you’re in a hot spot, probably less than 1/500 are infectious near you. Even if you’re near an infectious person the probability you contract the virus enough for it to take hold may be just 10 % depending on your interaction with him/ her. I assume you’re careful.
In your age group, your average chance of dying may be ~ 4%, less, if healthy when contracting the disease.
All together that’s ~ 1/125,000 per outing.

This is a useful way to think about the data, because the IFR scales up so well with pre-existing conditions and pre-infection monthly death probabilities.

The Diamond Princess data suggests that being infected increases one's death risk by about 2 months of pre-infection death probability. If that holds up, it's a relatively benign situation.

Another way to look at the situation is that, in Lombardy, people are dying from all causes at about 3x the normal rate (I can't provide a source, but this was told to me by a credible person). Although this may look high on surface, if nearly all the existing hospital patients have been exposed in the area, there's a way to get this number to still make sense with relatively low incremental risk multiplier from infection.

The risk analysis does not include the additional risk if the hospital system is overwhelmed. \

The risk model is based on a hospital being available.

Infection rates are showing a marked decrease in the US so the problem appears to be receding.

Hoolo, You have no evidence and only provide disinformation.

In percentage terms today’s increased caseload is lower.

Statistical noise. The criterion for when we reach the top of the S curve is that we need to see declining numbers of new cases for at least 3 days in a row.

Stock market is down bigly. The wisdom of the crowd says this crisis is going to get worse.

He has no evidence because there is none for his assertion. In fact, the opposite is true.

These numbers are not based on any solid hypothesis. The official Chinese numbers they are based on are not reliable.

That's not true. Where does it say that it relies only on Chinese numbers?

in my opinion, a study that uses any Chinese data is at this point not credible. The input assumptions of the Imperial College study on its page 5 are in my opinion not something that one would get from situations in which data are reliable.

What you are saying is that a source that includes Chinese and other country's data is not credible.

This is silly.

Anyone enjoying the nice blue skies these days? The fact that it pisses off libertarians makes it that much more enjoyable. Add some sweet tea on the porch and this is a nice time off.

Yes, why are these wage slaves so anxious when we are enjoying a respite from the foul air imposed on us by those dirty Yankees? More tea, Mammy!

If people got COVID, but ate healthy, got plenty of rest, took it easy, got some sunlight, and took vitamins, we could be done with this in a couple of weeks and far less people would die. That's what we should do.

The risk seems to be relatively low and the disease seems to be relatively mild for those who are neither old nor belong to some risk groups.

That is old data and doesn't seem to be true in New York. Some data suggest a 20-year shift to the left for who might be at risk.

Perhaps you should read about this healthy 38 year old who experienced the Coronavirus,,,

What is the marginal risk of having a recession with or without the virus? We should assume the recession was due anyway. In California, by late 2019 I was wondering what the local governments were going to do, they already ran out of money. I also noticed through 2019 that the financiers were predicting Q1 2020 as the recession data, and mostly planning for that date anyway.



GREENE: So recessions can be good in some ways?

VEDANTAM: In some ways, David, recessions seem to change the mortality rate, and not in the direction you might expect. I was speaking with the economist Erin Strumpf at McGill University. Along with Thomas Charters, Sam Harper and Ari Nandi, she studied the effect of the Great Recession a decade ago by looking at 366 metropolitan areas in the United States, which cover about 80 percent of the U.S. population.

ERIN STRUMPF: We find that in areas where the unemployment rate is growing faster, mortality rates decline faster. So during the Great Recession in the U.S., we saw increases in the unemployment rate of about 4-5 percentage points, so that translates to about 50,000 to 60,000 fewer deaths per year, the same order of magnitude as the number of people who die from influenza and pneumonia every year.


OK, unexpected. We can discount 60,000 deaths, maybe more because they were saved by the expected recession. But out total death rate is 2.8 million, so this is a drop in the bucket. Right now we have a thousand deaths over one quarter, phase one deaths. So the goal is to have our regularly scheduled recession, get our favorite welfare checks boosted and keep total deaths from virus below 60,000; and we break even.

I am wondering why we do not do regular shutdowns anyway. I have always recommended Congress do more frequent shutdowns of government.

Right now the plan remains, do a sudden stop every eight years and get our welfare checks a boost. We have our sudden stop, right on schedule. Our checks are in the mail, now keep the virus death rate below 60,000.

The 60,000 who get saved during the recession are likely the one Keynesians would have killed off otherwise. Like the migration from Illinois would get horrid, things shut down and 60,000 Ilinnoisers would die, so we recess and everyone gets a boost and it takes another eight years for Keynesians to put another 60,000 at the edge of death.

You do realize that Neil Ferguson who wrote the Imperial College report retracted:


The one weakness is his apology is that he did not ask about the relative effectiveness of the government restraints versus self containment strategies. But well below 20,000 deaths is more accurate.

Not exactly a retraction, but he sharply reduced his death estimates based on control measures. Seems very fishy and no way to check his original estimate because things have changed.

You cucks argue over numbers like it matters. Nobody gives a f***..

Ha! This isn’t the original (me) but I bless any attempt to increase the amount of cuck shaming on this blog.

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