New numbers show who is dying of COVID-19 in Kansas; elderly are most likely to die, but middle-aged most likely to contract disease

photo by: Associated Press

A worker enters Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation in Kansas City, Kan., Wednesday, April 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

We now have more detailed data on who is dying from COVID-19 in Kansas. As many suspected, the elderly are suffering the highest number of deaths, but that doesn’t mean you have to be old to get the virus. People between the ages of 35 and 44 have been the most likely to get the disease.

As we reported last week, Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials hadn’t been reporting on the age of people who have died from COVID-19. Some readers were wondering why that data isn’t being shared. After we asked about it, KDHE said such a data release was in the works now that the department was confident it could do so without violating privacy protections.

On Monday, the department released its first batch of data related to ages of those who have died. Here’s a breakdown of the 124 deaths thus far that have been tied to COVID-19:

• 35-44 years: two deaths

• 45-54 years: four deaths

• 55-64 years: 14 deaths

• 65-74 years: 25 deaths

• 75-84 years: 28 deaths

• 85+ years: 51 deaths

The median age is 82. The oldest death was 99 years old and the youngest has been 42.

So, the most deadly COVID cases are landing on the oldest in the state, which shouldn’t be a big surprise given the news we’ve heard at several nursing homes. But now we have some harder data.

Who contracts the disease, though, complicates matters. You certainly don’t have to be old to get COVID-19. Here’s a look at those numbers.

• 0-9 years: 48 cases; 1.4% of total

• 10-17 years: 77 cases; 2.2% of total

• 18-24 years: 366 cases; 10.5% of total

• 25-34 years: 563 cases; 16.1% of total

• 35-44 years: 608 cases; 17.4% of total

• 45-54 years: 591 cases; 16.9% of total

• 55-64 years: 575 cases; 16.5% of total

• 65-74 years: 318 cases; 9.1% of total

•75-84 years: 188 cases; 5.4% of total

• 85+ years: 153 cases; 4.4 of total

Another way to look at those numbers is that just over 60% of all COVID cases have come from people between the ages of 18 and 54 years old. In some cases, COVID is hitting age groups a bit harder than you would expect. Here’s what I mean by that: People 25 to 44 years old account for 33.5% of all COVID cases in Kansas. Yet, people 25 to 44 years old account for only about 25% of the state’s total population. I can’t provide you such a breakdown on all the age groups because the age ranges that KDHE is reporting don’t match up with the age ranges that the Census Bureau uses. But they did in those two instances, and the data shows COVID is not equally dispersing itself across the population. As we already have heard in the national media, the virus seems to hit children in lesser numbers. About 13% of Kansas’ population is 9 or under, yet the reported infection rate for that age group is 1.4%.

The caveat is the same as it long has been. Testing has been sparse in Kansas, and there certainly have been some false negatives when it comes to test results. But, this is the best data available.

Finally, if you combine those two charts, which the state hasn’t done, you can start to calculate death rates for various age groups. Here’s a look at that:

• 35-44: 0.3%

• 45-54: 0.6%

• 55-64: 2.3%

• 65-74: 7.8%

• 75-84: 14.8%

• 85+: 33.3%

Again, these numbers would be different if we had more wide-scale testing. The death rates probably would decline for each group. But the proportions might be roughly the same. Those proportions are interesting. Your chances of dying from COVID-19 are about 14 times higher at 85 than at 64.

If death was the only thing you were worried about, these number suggest people under 55 could be fairly active and have little risk of dying from the virus. Though, they would need to stay away from older people, who are at risk of dying.

But public health officials also are worried about hospitalization, given that an overrun hospital will create other types of problems. The chart below shows hospitalizations by age and the hospitalization rate by age. The chart shows hospitalization rates get pretty significant for people as young as 35, at nearly 8%. If you remember one of the earlier charts, the 35-44 age group has the highest number of cases in total and by percentage. If 8% of your largest group ends up in the hospital, that could put strains on hospitals. Here’s a look at the chart:

• 0-9: one; 2.0%

• 18-24: one; 0.2%

• 25-34: 19; 3.3%

• 35-44: 48; 7.8%

• 45-54: 73; 12.3%

• 55-64:112; 19.4%

• 65-74: 108; 33.9%

• 75-84: 82; 43.6%

• 85+: 60; 39.2%

As the state prepares to reopen its economy, it will be interesting to see how public health officials use data like this. Will there be different restrictions for people based on their age? Will it be OK for young to middle-age people to congregate but not with older people? Obviously that would create a lot of questions.

That’s one thing that we don’t need any data to confirm: There are going to be lots of questions in the near future.


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