Well, from an evolutionary standpoint it not to a virus’ advantage to kill it’s host. It will leave more viral particles to be picked up by more humans if it is transmissable but that infected humans live to pass it to alot more people. This is why virus that have co-evolved with their host do not kill the host, but can be spread easily. Think about the common cold (also caused by a coronavirus 20% of the time) and how it seldom kills anyone, but gets passed around every season. Thus, H1N1 is now a common flu cause, but over time it has become less lethal. This will happen to this virus, very likely. That said, it will be a long and bumpy mutational process where some mutations make it transmissable but more deadly, some less, etc.
The takehome? Yes, even without a vaccine or herd immunity this will likely get less lethal over time. How long? I wouldn’t want to guess but I am sure someone has analyzed that. Maybe I can find something on Google Scholar tomorrow that discusses it.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post and it doesn’t necessarily represent the views of IWB.