80% of US coronavirus deaths have been among people 65 and older, a new CDC report says — here's what it reveals about the US cases

tsonnemaker@businessinsider.com (Tyler Sonnemaker,Andy Kiersz)
Paramedics in a ward dedicated for people infected with the new coronavirus on March 8.

Associated Press/Mohammad Ghadamali

  • Eighty percent of coronavirus deaths in the US have been among people 65 and older, according to a new report from the CDC.
  • The CDC looked at 4,226 confirmed coronavirus cases and found that deaths, ICU admissions, and hospitalization rates were higher among older Americans.
  • "The risk for serious disease and death from COVID-19 is higher in older age groups," the report said — that's similar to trends in China and South Korea.
  • However, the CDC said the findings were preliminary, it was still missing some data, and that testing had been "limited."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Americans ages 65 and older are suffering the highest rates of death and serious illness from the coronavirus, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Overall, 31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions, and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults aged ≥65 years with the highest percentage of severe outcomes among persons aged ≥85 years," the report said.

The CDC said it had confirmed 4,226 COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths in the US as of March 16. As of Wednesday, the US had more than 8,000 cases and 129 deaths, according to a combination of CDC and state-level data. Those numbers are likely to rise as testing efforts — which have been woefully slow in the US — continue to ramp up. Experts have estimated 40 to 70% of the US population could become infected and that 1 million could die. 

According to the CDC, hospitalization and intensive-care-admission rates have been higher among older Americans. More than 500 people — about one in eight of those with confirmed cases — have been hospitalized so far, and 45% of them are 65 or older. 

The findings are "similar to reports from other countries," the report said, adding that older people with preexisting conditions are disproportionately at risk. However, the CDC said its results were preliminary because it's still missing data on some of the patients' ages and other health issues and has been able to conduct only "limited testing."

A study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that coronavirus patients older than 80 had a death rate of 15%, compared with 0.2% for those under 50. In South Korea, which has seen some of the lowest death rates, 7.2% of people over 80 have died, while only 0.1% of those under 50 — and no people under 30 — have been killed by the disease.

Here's a breakdown of how the coronavirus affects people of different ages within the US and across the world.

The CDC's numbers suggest that nearly 1,200 cases have been reported among people older than 65, while nearly 1,700 patients are younger than that.

us covid cases by age as of 3 18 20


Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from CDC

However, the CDC said it didn't know the ages of nearly half of those with the coronavirus.

(The 20-to-44 age bracket in the chart above is a much larger range than the others, which is why its case total appears high.)

Americans over 85 make up the largest portion of coronavirus cases when the data is adjusted for population size.

US population adjusted covid cases by age 3 18 20


Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from CDC

The CDC has advised people over 60 and those with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus to stock up on supplies and avoid venturing out of their homes, except when necessary.

The highest number of coronavirus deaths in the US is also among older Americans.

us covid deaths by age 3 18 20


Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from CDC

Of the 44 coronavirus deaths the CDC analyzed, 20 were among people ages 65 to 84, and 15 were among those 85 or older. No one 19 or younger has died from the disease, according to the agency. A large number of deaths — at least 19 — have been connected to an outbreak at a nursing home in Washington.

The COVID-19 death rate in the US is above 10% for those over 85.

us covid death rate by age 3 18 20


Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from CDC

The death rate of the coronavirus is about 3.4% worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, but that number doesn't fully capture how deadly the virus could be for older populations.

China has also seen the highest portion of coronavirus deaths among older patients.

covid 19 death rate by age chart


Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The chart above reflects the findings of a study by China's CDC, which collected data from more than 44,000 confirmed coronavirus patients there through February 11.

South Korea has also seen higher death rates among older age groups, though it has reported lower death rates overall than most countries.

covid 19 death rate by age south korea 3 11 20


Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from KCDC

South Korea's total death rate as of Wednesday was about 0.97%. That's far lower than the death rates in other countries. A major factor could be the country's extremely thorough coronavirus-testing policies.

As of Monday, the country had tested more than 274,000 people. That amount of testing allows health officials and the public to pursue more effective and widespread quarantining of infected people and their contacts.

Italy is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Its population is the second oldest on average, after Japan's.

covid 19 death rate countries with deaths and more than 1000 cases


Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Italy is under a nationwide lockdown, and its hospitals are overrun with coronavirus patients. On Wednesday, the country reported 475 new coronavirus deaths — the highest single-day death toll of any nation since the outbreak began.

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