Coronavirus may not be as deadly as expected, Pittsburgh doctor says

The coronavirus isn’t as deadly as expected, according to the head of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dr. Donald Yealy.

“We’ve learned that way more people, far, far more people have actually been exposed to the infection without any knowledge of it. That makes the overall death rate much lower,” he said, as Breitbart reported. “Many people just didn’t feel sick at all and recovered without difficulty.”

PA doc: coronavirus isn’t as deadly

Dr. Yealy pointed to antibody testing in New York and California — which found that many more residents probably had the virus than thought, but never experienced serious symptoms — to estimate that the mortality rate could be around 0.25%. The antibody testing found that as many as 20% of people in some areas already had the virus.

Extrapolating that data to Allegheny County, Dr. Yealy said that if just 3% were infected, then the true number of coronavirus patients in the area could be 36,000. Compared with the county’s 94 deaths (as of Thursday), the mortality rate would therefore be about 0.25%.

“There is a big difference between 0.25% mortality and 7%,” Yealy said.

Granted, 0.25% is still a high number, especially in a nation of some 330 million people, at least 1 million of whom are known to have caught the virus. More than 70,000 Americans have already died, and President Trump has warned that the number could shoot past 100,000.

Still, a lower mortality rate than anticipated could weigh on the decisions of public officials as they decide when to end lockdowns that have left more than 30 million Americans unemployed. Some have pointed to antibody tests in places like New York, as well as indications that hospitals around the country are largely not being overwhelmed, to argue that lockdowns should be lifted.

Pittsburgh hospital will return to normal operations

Yealy said that hospitals in the system will begin accepting patients who need procedures that were delayed by the virus, since only 2% of hospital beds are being used by coronavirus patients and the number of cases is going down.

Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, another top doctor at UPMC, said that 234 patients recovered and were discharged, calling it “very good news.” Of course, the coronavirus isn’t going away. Yealy said that it will likely be an ongoing challenge — just not at the scale that was anticipated:

What I suspect is COVID-19 will be a part of our experience treating patients for an extended [period of] months to maybe years.

Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, is one of the more impacted counties in the state, and the largest hotspot in the western region.

Not surprisingly, Yealy said that most mortalities in the system were patients over 80 years old and living in nursing homes. In New York, the hardest-hit state, 1,700 previously undisclosed nursing home deaths were reported this week — another grim sign of how the virus is affecting elderly Americans.

Suffice it to say that the coronavirus is one of the most destructive things to happen to America in generations, whether one is inclined to blame the virus itself or the lockdowns that came about as a response. But if the virus isn’t quite having the effect that many feared, that’s definitely good news.

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