Can J Chem Eng. 2022 Jul 16:10.1002/cjce.24557. doi: 10.1002/cjce.24557. Online ahead of print.
Chemical engineering involves a skill set that is transferrable to a broad range of other areas. A case in point is the work that is being done by chemical engineers to better understand and fight the COVID-19 epidemic. In this study, we consider a problem that has eluded the COVID-19 research community, which is nevertheless very tractable with a chemical engineering mindset: the true or intrinsic mortality rate of COVID-19, i.e., the fraction or percentage of COVID-19 infected people that die of the disease. We solve this problem in two locations (Spain and the state of New York) for the epidemic’s first wave with a combination of daily death data, a fit of a computer simulation of an epidemiological model with adjustable parameters, and independent results of immunological blood testing on a random sample of the population. Parallels are drawn with the problem of determining the turnover frequency of a catalyst based on a similar combination of data and approaches. It is concluded from the study that the intrinsic mortality rate of COVID-19 was 1.45 ± 0.45 % during the first wave, a number that reflects OECD countries. By incorporating data on the age dependence of the mortality rate, a relationship f mort = (3.0 ± 0.7)×10-5 exp(0.1a), where a is the age in years, is tentatively put forward for the mortality rate as a fraction. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.