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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project

How lethal is COVID-19?


This article is available in both English and Español

It’s difficult to know exactly how deadly COVID-19 is, but as the World Health Organization has written, studies estimate that the infection fatality ratio, or percentage of deaths out of all infections, is between 0.5% and 1%. The true rate isn’t clear, since the pandemic is ongoing and not all infections have been diagnosed.

The case fatality rate, or percentage of deaths out of confirmed cases, was 1.8% in the United States as of July 9.

An individual’s risk of death may be significantly higher or lower than what these numbers suggest, depending on a person’s age or health conditions. For example, the CDC estimates that the risk of death is more than 600 times higher for someone 85 years and older as compared with someone between the ages of 18 and 29.