Texas is just one of the states that has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases over recent weeks after relaxing its physical-distancing guidelines. However, while the death toll so far hasn’t risen to match, experts caution that the coronavirus has not lost its deadly kick. For one, the disease takes a while to kill, and humans take even more time to record the pandemic’s fatalities due to administrative red tape. The people who are dying today were likely infected three to four weeks ago. (See where cases and deaths are growing and declining.)
What’s more, scientists today have a better sense of how to measure COVID-19’s lethality, and the numbers are alarming. Using a more sophisticated calculation called the infection-fatality rate, paired with the past few months’ worth of data, the latest best estimates show that COVID-19 is around 50 to 100 times more lethal than the seasonal flu, on average.
This means that the U.S. and other countries seeing case surges need to brace for a very deadly summer and autumn if tactics don’t change.
These numbers are somewhat academic, [epidemiologist Gideon] Meyerowitz-Katz says. “It’s not like we don’t know what a really bad situation could look like.” But they are still valuable for communicating the situation to a public that is straining under social-distancing rules.