What’s The True Fatality Rate for New York State & New York City from COVID-19?

Governor Andrew Cuomo Releases New Coronavirus Antibodies Testing Data April 23, 2020, and Here’s the Quick Data Rundown (& Here’s a Quick Answer: It’s 0.5%)

David Shuey
6 min readApr 23, 2020
This all begs the question: Did Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York beat President Donald Trump and the federal government in providing some of the most key testing and data results since the Coronavirus pandemic broke out? Let’s put politics aside for a minute, though, and look at the results.

The Gist

Today we heard some good news.

Consider this simply a primary source list of data on April 23, 2020. Citizens have a right to say this is “good news” because we now know with near certainty that Coronavirus is far less lethal than many speculated early on in the pandemic. Those early projections are partially what prompted the dramatic social distancing measures much of the world took — Sweden being the outlier — to “flatten the curve” and not overwhelm hospitals.

We likely always knew overall cases and the official Case Fatality Rate (CFR) was the tip of the iceberg of people whose bodies battled COVID-19. But no one had done a broad-based 3000-person antibody study in the United States to know for sure the true number infected. Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY-Democrat) has done just that. Cuomo announced today that the COVID-19 fatality rate in his state is 0.5%. To quote what Joe Biden once said to Obama, this is a “Big Fucking Deal.”

I explored the possibility of a low infection fatality rate on March 20 when pushing against Tomas Pueyo’s sensational 4% fatality rate figures with a worst case scenario of 75% infection rate and 10 million dead. I quoted renowned epidemiologists, including Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins University as well as a columnist from the New York Times who said “experts predict it’s likely to wind up at 0.5 percent.” Some folks have been speculating we’ve had a low death rate for a while, from Twitter number crunchers to mainstream media. Some have received major push back, such as a Stanford study researchers in their modeling for Santa Clara County, California.

This also means widespread testing is even more important now because we have more asymptomatic spreaders than initially thought. The importance of ambitious testing was argued by many experts directly after President Donald Trump’s reopening plan was announced one week ago.

But this is real data:

That Tweet and the stories below prompted me to run the data before I even saw that Cuomo also announced the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.5%. I got ahead of myself. But it adds up. See link below or view screenshot to see how that’s run (full spreadsheet here to add comments, with data under tab “IFR in NY — Antibody Study 4/23/20”):

We’re trusting Cuomo numbers, as he had the experts run the data. But it doesn’t hurt to double check. (Spreadsheet link). UPDATE: Originally this article used the term “CFR” or Case Fatality Rate, but the more accurate term is “IFR” or Infection Fatality Rate which includes asymptomatic and undiagnosed infections.

Key 0.5% death rate fact presented by Cuomo the morning of April 23:

More than 21 percent of around 1,300 people in New York City who were tested for coronavirus antibodies this week were found to have them, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday.

The results were from a state program that tested 3,000 supermarket customers across New York State. Nearly 14 percent of the tests came back positive, Mr. Cuomo said.

And this key conclusion:

It would also mean that the fatality rate from the virus was relatively low, about 0.5 percent, Mr. Cuomo said.

Slightly redundant of above:

An estimated 13.9% of the New Yorkers have likely had Covid-19, according to preliminary results of coronavirus antibody testing released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

The state randomly tested 3,000 people at grocery stores and shopping locations across 19 counties in 40 localities to see if they had the antibodies to fight the coronavirus, indicating they have had the virus and recovered from it.

With more than 19.4 million people residents, the preliminary results indicate that at least 2.7 million New Yorkers have been infected with Covid-19.

Some caveats to the study. One, is they didn’t test children under 18. The other is listed by Bloomberg news here:

The study must be analyzed further to give a clearer picture, and it’s possible that it didn’t give a representative sample because it likely missed older people staying home as well as essential workers, Cuomo said. Still, the preliminary results appear to confirm predictions that the virus has infected far more people than New York has been able to diagnose.

This is the top news story today, April 23:

The Standard Case Fatality Rate

Again, compare that to what most analyses like Johns Hopkins and many other expert bodies have done, which was simply divided known deaths by the confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of course the “confirmed cases” is likely a denominator that’s off by a magnitude higher (10x). With so many infected not tested, from a non-scientist outside-the-box perspective, I have to ask: Why not put an asterisk (*) next to Case Fatality Rate/Ratio (CFR) when listed in science, government, and news reports? Additionally, is it possible New York’s data is applicable to the rest of the United States?

State of Illinois Announcements on April 23

Not that all this matters. Simply put, my home state will continue to be mostly closed through May 30.

In Conclusion: When Will It End?

One of the main reasons for our measures to shut down the economy was not to overwhelm our medical facilities. So far in New York City, Washington State, or Louisiana, the three hardest hit spots in the country, we haven’t maxed out capacity. Florida’s governor even announced, “We have flattened the curve.” It’s also a reality that cash-starved hospitals across the nation are laying off staff.

With the reality being that Coronavirus is at least five times less deadly than some early estimates, shouldn’t this data be a factor in addressing steps going forward?

Which leads us to the final question:



David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.