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UNDERSTANDING THE COVID-19 RISKS:  MORTALITY RATES BY AGE IN FLORIDA

Andrew McKay 07/15/20

From the beginning of this pandemic, one of the most unusual features of this virus is the way it discriminates so vividly against people on the basis of age.  The older you are, the more you are at risk.  From what I have read, we still don’t really understand why this is the case, but it is a fact that has driven much of the public policy response in the state of Florida.  At the same time, however, we know that people with significant underlying health conditions (diabetes, obesity, lung and heart disease, immunodeficiencies, etc.) are also far more at risk than other people of the same age.  When you look at the Florida data, it is very easy to see the age risk.  It is much harder to quantify the underlying condition risk, in part because there is no formal data reporting these things.  That is due largely to the constraints of health care privacy laws.  But at least when it comes to age, the data is easy to see.

Below there are three charts that indicate the risk by age group of hospitalization and death in Florida and in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.  As you can see, statistically speaking, the correlation is high between age and risk.  This is one of the reasons that Florida has only seen a relatively mild increase in both hospitalizations and deaths recently despite the much greater increases in total positive cases.  The average age of cases plummeted and the clinical consequences of those cases also declined significantly.  Recently, the age has crept back up as the younger people who were driving the June numbers have now been spreading the disease to (we are told) their older family members.

One additional piece of good news that is hard to isolate from the age influence on the data is the fact that health care providers have become much more knowledgeable and effective at treating the disease effectively.  This means that the risk of death has been declining on its own even while the average age of cases (and therefore hospitalizations and deaths) has been declining.

 

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