Antibody tests prove COVID-19 is much more lethal than the flu

“The death rate is much, much lower,” Cuomo said Monday, referring to the serology tests. He said the New York state rate appears to be 0.5 percent — which is one death per 200 infections.

That figure is still sobering to infectious disease experts. A rate of 0.5 percent “is way more than a usual flu season and I would think way more than the ’57 or 1968 [influenza] pandemic death toll, too,” Viboud said.

This is a novel, highly infectious virus, and so everyone who hasn’t had an infection is presumably susceptible. It is unclear whether and for how long a person who recovers from covid-19 will have immunity. Research shows that, in a completely vulnerable population that takes no precautions, each infected person will infect well more than two others on average, and some estimates put that reproduction number over three.

Epidemiologists have said somewhere between 40 to 70 percent of the population will likely become infected in the next couple of years if there is no vaccine and the public does not take aggressive measures to limit the spread of the virus.