The corona pandemic has made everyone in the world worried about the future. While people are quarantined at home and doctors and government personnel are fighting this virus on the frontline, there are researchers who are constantly analysing data in a bid to make sense out of this chaos. One such research has shown a silver lining in these dark times.

A research conducted by the Stanford university in Santa Clara county of the United States has claimed that coronavirus may not be as deadly as it was purported to be. The study measures the seroprevalence of the antibody i.e. how far the virus has spread in the population (The antibody will only be present in your blood if you are or were exposed to the pathogen). The surprising results show that the virus was much widespread than believed by the policymakers. To be precise, in the Santa Clara County where this study was undertaken, the reported confirmed cases of corona were 965. However, according to the study, the number of cases, on the same day, were somewhere between 48000 and 81000. This means that there may be at least 50 times more patients than the reported number. As testing is only done once the symptoms emerge, it means that in a large number of cases, there are no symptoms to show even if one is affected by the virus.

How is this a silver lining? This is definitely bad news. Well, no. Two things flow from this. First, if the actual number of cases are much more (read 50 times more), then the fatality rate of COVID-19 is much lower. Simple mathematics show that when the denominator increases i.e. total affected people, the answer decreases i.e. the fatality rate. Leaving out the details, the study made some calculations and arrived at a fatality rate of 0.12-0.2 %. Of course, there were assumptions in these calculations and the actual figure may be higher or even lower. Secondly, it means that coronavirus is less deadly than diseases like Malaria and almost on the same footing as our common flu.

However, this study has been criticised by many experts as being fraught with errors while at the same time it has been validated and strengthened by studies that come up with similar conclusions. A study by University of South California claims a similar prevalence rate in the Los Angeles area. Such conflicting results often confuse people. Let’s just focus on the bright side and pray that these results prove to be true in the long run.

However, this begs the question, if it is not so lethal, why is there such fear and chaos? Why do we see corona patients suffering so much? Why have hospitals been erected to ensure that the supply of hospital beds is at its maximum? It is without a doubt that COVID-19, if not controlled, has the ability to cause suffering. Countries have not faced anything of such sort in recent history. Therefore, without thinking, they are doing whatever they see other countries doing.

During such times, the hope of a silver lining is desperately needed. Therefore, looking for a silver lining, I arrived at an analysis of COVID-19 deaths in New York. According to the data available on the site of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the number of cases, hospitalisation rate and death rate is highest in the age bracket of 75+ and the lowest in ages 18 and below. This means that the older you are, the more you are at risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19. But the most important figure of all is that 77% of all the people who died due to corona in NYC had an underlying health condition. One is more vulnerable to corona if one is already fighting a disease.

This data paints a picture in one city of the world but most likely it mimics the situation elsewhere as well. There are some important takeaways. Firstly, the world might have overestimated the lethality of COVID-19 because it was an unprecedented occurrence. Secondly, we need to protect our elderly and those with already compromised immune systems due to other health conditions. The young are relatively immune and children are almost entirely safe from corona. Lastly, it is good that we have prepared ourselves by erecting temporary hospitals but we may not need them after all. People with mild symptoms can stay at home and recover easily.

All this may seem too good to be true and it may be too early to draw any strong conclusions but in these times of despair we would like to look at a silver lining. Let us keep looking with hope and pray that the silver lining actually emerges out and lightens up the whole world.