As society has eased up on COVID-19 pandemic-control rules, the COVID-19 case rate is increasing rapidly, and now financial professionals have a tricky question to consider: Will the higher case rates have any bearing on life insurance and retirement planning?
One sign that it could: Hospitalization counts for U.S. residents ages 50 through 59 are rising.
For people ages 50 through 59, the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions recorded in the last seven days increased to 1,413 for the seven-day period ending May 1, up about 15% from the total for the seven-day period ending April 25, according to data in a federal COVID-19 Community Profile Report that was posted May 3.
COVID-19 hospitalization counts for people in that age group increased more than 10% in 16 states. For a look at the five states with the biggest hospitalization count increases for people ages 50-59, see the gallery above.
What It Means
Ups and downs in case counts could reflect everything from changes in state testing requirements to dramatic-looking trends in cases that cause no symptoms at all.
An increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is a solid indicator that the pandemic is leading to a real increase in the number of people who have cases of COVID-19 that matter.
The government’s hospitalization figures for people ages 50 through 59 may be especially relevant for insurers, because most people in that age group who have been working are still in the labor force; they account for a large share of the market for everything from protection life insurance to accumulation-oriented annuities; and they are at serious risk of dying from COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not provide COVID-19 mortality rate data specifically for the 50-59 age group, but it says people in the 50-64 age group are 25 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people in the 18-29 age group.
The COVID-19 delta and omicron variants ended up making public health forecasters’ nightmares come true in the first quarter.
The death rate spiked hard in January, then eased in February. But the average for the whole quarter was terrible.
Very early, incomplete numbers in the provisional death tables compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that COVID-19 itself caused at least 141,338 deaths during the first 12 weeks of the year. Those preliminary numbers are down from a COVID-19 death total of 167,379 in the first quarter of 2021.
But the overall excess mortality rate was still a stunning 21% higher than in the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic appeared.
The overall excess mortality rate was down only modestly from the even more catastrophic excess mortality rate recorded in the first quarter of 2021.
New General Population Numbers
The total number of U.S. cases recorded increased to 422,871 for the seven-day period ending May 2, up from a recent low of 177,052 for the week ending March 28.
Many Americans have been vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, or have successfully fought off infections. Treatments are changing. The virus itself is always changing.
The new cases could mostly be a nuisance that will lead to little new serious illness in the kinds of working-age people who hold the most life insurance, and who are putting the most assets in annuities and other retirement savings arrangements.
The number of people now in U.S. hospitals with COVID-19 is low. Patients with COVID-19 now occupy fewer than 1% of inpatient hospital beds, down from 21% in January.
But government numbers show that the total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations is climbing: The overall number of confirmed COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 U.S. residents of all ages has increased to 4.4 in the latest week, up from 3.0 in early April.
COVID-19 Hospital Admissions, as of May 1
|Jurisdiction||Population||Confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions, last 7 days, ages 50-59||Rate per 100,000 people, ages 50-59||Confirmed COVID-19 admissions, ages 50-59, % change from previous 7 days|
|District of Columbia||705,749||72,284||8||11.1||(low)|
|Source: COVID-19 Community Profile Report, May 3. The government team that compiles the reports leaves out hospitalization change figures for an age group when the number was lower than 20 in both the latest week and the previous week.|
Pictured: A quick wave of COVID-19 cases flashed over U.S. hospitals at the start of the year. Now, the question is whether an increase in admissions is part of a new wave, or just a ripple. (Photo: Black Salmon/Shutterstock)