COVID, Sky Diving, Driving & Armed Robberies: Understanding Risk

Michael Francis
5 min readNov 30, 2020

“All of this for a virus that has a 99.98% survival rate”, they say as a rebuke of any reasonable response to the pandemic that has raged on since March.

It didn’t take long to notice just how many Americans were, pardon the brevity, piss poor at understanding risk. After another exchange on Reddit tonight, maybe it’s worthwhile to break down the risk in a few activities.

As a starting point, best to understand the risk of COVID-19. These numbers vary wildly depending on age and other health risk factors, but in order to best make the point, we will look at the risk factor for a young, healthy adult. Further, we will only be looking at the fatality rate. I am hesitant to grant this point; 35% of SARS-COV-2 patients who had been treated said they had not returned to their usual state of health 3 weeks after being discharged. As this is a novel virus, we can only estimate on the long term effects, but research shows that up to 40% of those who have had SARS illnesses have experience long term effects.

All that to say that death is not the only way this virus can impact it’s victims. But again, for sake of simplicity and to show just how much risk COVID represents, we will only consider it’s fatality rate.

According to the CDC, the survival & fatality rate for the below age groups is as such:

0–19 Years: 99.997% / 00.003% / 1 in 33,333
20–49 Years: 99.98% / 00.02% / 1 in 5,000
50–49 Years: 99.5% / 00.5% / 1 in 200
Over 70 Years: 94.6% / 5.4% / 1 in 20
Source: Center for Disease Control

And again, for sake of demonstrating the severity of the risk, we will use the low end of these —the 99.98% survival rate of a healthy adult. Which means if you are 20–49 and contract COVID, you have a 1 in 5000 chance of dying.

So what’s all the fuss about with a number that low? Well, put bluntly, that’s a really fucking high rate of risk.

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(Image Credit: Dan Gold / Unsplash)