Putting our heads in the sand will get us nowhere.
Some people still believe that this whole coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and COVID-19 is nothing more than an ‘aggressive’ flu. The thing is, while some symptoms of the COVID-19 and the flu overlap greatly and many people develop very mild symptoms, COVID-19 is nothing like the flu. Many others die horribly. Many others still can spend weeks with a thumb-sized tube down their throat in order to survive.
Enough with anecdotes, though. Let’s look at the numbers.
As I’m typing this, the United States has experienced over 780,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 41,837 deaths. The vast majority of these fatalities have been recorded in this month of April (with more than a week to go).
For comparison, the flu killed 34,200 people during the entire 2018-2019 season, according to CDC records.
The rise in coronavirus casualties has also been alarming. On March 20th, there were 49 recorded COVID-19 fatalities. On April 19th, there were 1,561 deaths — in a single day.
This is not to say that influenza isn’t a heavy health burden in itself, but it’s a very different story. In 2019, there were an estimated 35.5 million people who were infected with influenza, resulting in a fatality rate of around 0.1%.
The coronavirus has already blown this death toll out of the water in less than a month. Reaching a case fatality rate of around 5%, signifying a mortality rate 50 times greater than the flu.
Of course, the real number of cases is much higher than that, but even a 1% mortality rate would make COVID-19 at least 10 times deadlier than the flu.
The worst flu season of the past decade was in 2017-2018, which saw 61,000 deaths. At this rate, COVID-19 might break this flu record for the 2010s by the end of the month.
It’s not clear how many people have become infected with the coronavirus and now have immunity, but the US is still early in the pandemic. If strict social distancing measures aren’t enforced and adhered to, millions of Americans might die this year alone or by the end of the pandemic — which could be years away.
Do you trust the numbers? You might be one of those people who recklessly compare the seriousness of this crisis to the seasonal flu.