Story at a glance
- One doctor said the rate at which high-risk people are being affected and whether the death rate from the virus is increasing is what matters, rather than the total number of cases.
- He said the infection-fatality rate for people under 70 is less than or equal to the seasonal flu.
- Atlas’ comments come as more than 130,000 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus and more than 2.9 million cases have been confirmed.
A Stanford medical expert is urging people not to panic over the surge in coronavirus cases occurring in several parts of the U.S., arguing it doesn’t matter how many cases there are but only “who gets the cases.”
Scott Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said Monday that for people under 70, the death rate from COVID-19 is lower than or equal to the seasonal flu.
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“When we see this focus on more cases, it doesn’t really matter how many cases — it only matters who gets the cases. We know that the infection-fatality rate for people under 70 is 0.04 percent — that’s less than or equal to the seasonal flu,” Atlas told Fox News’ "The Story."
“The cases themselves should not be and were never the focus. It’s only the tragic consequences of the cases. When we look at the cases in every state, the overwhelming majority are younger and healthier people,” he added.
Atlas said the rate at which high-risk people are being affected and whether the death rate from the virus is increasing is what matters.
“I realize we have to wait to see the story play out here, but right now, the cases have been going up for three weeks and we have no increase, in fact, we have a decrease in death rates. It doesn’t matter if you get the illness if you’re going to fully recover and be fine from it — that is what people must understand. For younger healthier people, there’s not a high risk from this disease at all,” Atlas said.
He said the median age of those infected in hotspots such as Florida and Texas varied from under 30 to about 40.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), on Tuesday warned that the U.S. should not fall into "false complacency" because COVID-19 death rates have dropped, noting the virus can cause other severe health outcomes.
"It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death," Fauci said Tuesday during a livestreamed press conference hosted by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
"There's so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don't get yourself into a false complacency," he said.
Atlas’ comments come as more than 130,000 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus and more than 2.9 million cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There have now been more than 11.4 million cases with more than 535,000 lives lost worldwide.
The overall mortality rate in the U.S. is 4.4 percent.
States including Texas, Arizona, Florida and California have been experiencing spikes in cases and hospitalizations in the past several weeks. The rate of COVID-19 deaths has dropped in the U.S. since mid-April, likely because younger adults are making up a higher percentage of new cases.
Atlas commented on the issue of hospitalizations, saying the hospitalization data does not distinguish between patients who are hospitalized for reasons unrelated to the virus who test positive, and patients who are hospitalized specifically for COVID-19 complications.
“When I looked at every single hospital area in Texas today, 15 to 20 percent of people in the hospital as inpatients are [COVID-19] positive patients. That means 80 to 85 percent have nothing to do with COVID-19. And the same thing goes with some of the other states. There are people hospitalized, a large number, because they are tested as [COVID-19] positive, somehow they’re categorized as [COVID-19] hospitalizations, that’s a problem,” he said.
Fauci said Monday the average age of new coronavirus patients has dropped by approximately 15 years compared with patient data from several months ago.
Fauci said while the risk of severe COVID-19 infection is lower among young adults, many of those cases are asymptomatic and play a role in spreading the virus to more vulnerable people.
“Just because you’re 21 and you may not have significant symptoms that does not mean you can’t affect other people, and I think that’s something we’re concerned about,” he said.
Fauci said the virus could still have adverse effects on younger patients.
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This article was updated July 8, 2020 to include comments from Anthony Fauci