How Long Do Covid-19 Infections Really Last?

Posted: Jul 22, 2020 11:46 AM
How Long Do Covid-19 Infections Really Last?

Source: AP Photo/LM Otero

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has updated its planning scenarios and best estimates for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Unlike the previous version, this update provides much more information about the median milestones for a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection. That means we now have a very good idea of what the typical experience is for someone who comes down with a serious infection.

By serious infection, we're referring to the 60% of those who become infected by the coronavirus that go on to develop symptoms, which half will be experiencing within 5-6 days of their initial exposure. From there, age plays a significant role in how long it might take to reach the next major milestone for a typical path of treatment for the infection. We've created a chart to visualize what a typical progression for a coronavirus might be based on age and its severity.

To see the chart, click here.

In the chart, we've indexed all the milestone events (symptom onset, hospitalization, recovery if not admitted to an intensive care unit, recovery if admitted to an ICU, or death for the most severe case) back to the initial infectious exposure for each demographic age group. Depending on what path one's treatment might take, you can get a sense of how long a serious COVID-19 coronavirus infection lasts.

We've also annotated the chart with additional information provided by the CDC that gives a sense of how common a particular scenario might be, which is really where you'll see major effects related to age.

Finally, we'll also observe that the CDC has now estimated an overall Infection Fatality Rate for the COVID-19 coronavirus to be 0.65% for all ages. This rate includes both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, where with the CDC's estimate that 40% of all cases involve people who never develop symptoms, would put the overall case fatality ratio at a little under 1.1%. For the youngest, the fatality rate is very low, but increases with age, rising the most rapidly for the oldest, who face the greatest risk of death from a coronavirus infection. The CDC's previous best estimate for the case fatality rate for COVID-19 was 0.4%, which corresponded to an overall infection fatality rate of 0.26%. The CDC's new estimate is consistent with other organization's estimates.

Previously on Political Calculations


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. [PDF Document]. 10 July 2020.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVIDView Cases, Data & Surveillance. [PDF Document]. 17 July 2020.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Laboratory-Confirmed Hospitalizations, Preliminary data as of July 11, 2020. [Online Database]. Accessed 20 July 2020.

Berezow, Alex. Coronavirus: COVID Deaths in U.S. By Age, Race. American Council on Science and Health. [Online Article]. 23 June 2020.