Laura Ingraham has been using a graphic lately titled Covid Survival Rate, which lists survival percentages for four age groups:
0-19 years 99.997%
20-49 years 99.98%
50-69 years 99.5%
70+ years 94.6%
The chart identifies the CDC as the data source, so out of curiosity I went to the CDC website to look at the source data itself. Here is what I learned:
- The CDC doesn’t report any form of survival rate statistics. As near as I can tell, Ingraham’s survival rate is the complement of the case mortality rate (total deaths / total cases). For example, if the CMR is 5%, then the survival rate would be 95%.
- The age groups in Ingraham’s chart do not match the age groups the CDC uses. For example, the CDC groups 0-4 year olds together (then 5-17 year olds), whereas Ingraham’s chart groups 0-19 year olds together. I assume the differences can be resolved in the underlying data, which is available for download from the CDC.
All in all, I’d say Ingraham’s chart is defensible, but caveats apply:
- First, the chart should define the term survival rate so we don’t have to guess what it means.
- Second, the CDC citation needs to say, “Based on CDC Covid case and death data” to make it clear that the numbers in the chart are derived from, but not actual, CDC numbers. This failure of attribution gives a false impression that the chart was produced by the CDC when it wasn’t.
- Third, the reader should be aware that case is a problematic term. Case is not synonymous with diagnosis. A Covid case may be nothing more than a positive test result, whereas a diagnosis would require both the presence of Covid symptoms as determined by medical evaluation plus a positive test result. If cases are inflated by mere positive test results, then the CMR will be low, meaning Ingraham’s “survival rate” will be high.
I’m pointing all this out because it shows how you have to be skeptical of media. Ingraham’s chart does a nice job of communicating a truth: For most people (by far), most of the time, Covid-19 is a very low risk to be concerned about. Each of us, however, must assess our own risks without assuming that media reports alone are sufficient to the task.