Letter to the editor – COVID-19

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Dear Editor,

Ontario provides detailed data on the pandemic effects at https://www.publichealthontario.ca. There you can click on the COVID-19 Data Tool link to explore various aspects of the disease. I have analysed the data there and have found some striking trends that have not been noted by the major media. In particular, when I plot the number of deaths per 100,000 population against age, I get an almost perfect exponential curve, which becomes a straight line when plotted on a logarithmic scale. This graph shows that, between 20 and 100 years old, the risk of dying from COVID-19 doubles for every 5.8 years older you are!

We have all heard that the elderly are in more danger from this disease, but nowhere have I seen a report of how strong the effect is. For the Ontario data up to June 8, an 85 year old had more than 350X the risk of dying as a 35 year old! Indeed, 35% of people over 90 who got this disease have died from it, compared to less than 0.1% of those under 40 years old! Such a huge difference should have major connotations for reopening the economy, but nowhere have I seen any indication or application of this finding.

There have been zero deaths from COVID-19 for people under 20 years old in Ontario, and only ten deaths for people under 40, compared to 1264 for people over 70. If the risk is tiny for younger people, perhaps they should be allowed to get their lives back to normal: meet their friends, attend big events, and go back to work unfettered. That would reopen most of the economy. On the other hand, protections and care for the elderly – and those with underlying health problems increasing their risk – should be redoubled to keep them safe until an effective vaccine can be developed and administered to them. Those between, say 50 and 70 could decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take, based on their own life, health and work circumstances.

The extra cautions for the elderly would be needed because young people would be more likely to get the virus – without becoming sick – and could then infect older folk they come in contact with. This dual-guidance, age-based approach seems better than the current one-rule-for-all strategy, with some regional differences that the government is rolling out. I would have thought the epidemiologists would have seen this clear and strong age correlation and based their recommendations on it, but that has not occurred so far. In any case, these findings should surely be more widely publicised.

Ed Norman, Kemptville.
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