Stop comparing the coronavirus and the flu — and start preparing to face them both this fall.
That’s the message from many doctors and public health experts after President Trump downplayed the coronavirus threat by tweeting that Americans should learn to live with COVID-19 as they have adapted to deal with seasonal influenza.
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” Trump tweeted, less than a day after returning to the White House following his hospitalization for COVID-19 at Walter Reed Medical Center over the weekend. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
later flagged the tweet for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19,” and Facebook
pulled the post down completely, because scientific data shows that the two respiratory diseases, while they sometimes share similar symptoms, are not the same. The coronavirus is currently much more dangerous.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in May compared the number of deaths from COVID-19 at that time, and the deaths from seasonal influenza during the peak weeks of the last seven flu seasons. The findings: COVID-19 deaths counted in mid-April were about 20 times higher than the seasonal flu deaths during their worst weeks.
The president’s flu death toll is also higher than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported for the U.S. Influenza is responsible for between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths a year, according to the CDC, and an estimated 22,000 people in the U.S. died from the flu during the 2019-2020 influenza season.
This week, the U.S. passed 210,000 COVID-19 deaths since the spring; more than the total number of influenza deaths from the past five flu seasons combined.
The flu is certainly a serious health threat, however, and public health services such as the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are warning about a “twindemic” of influenza and COVID-19 this fall as America enters flu season from October through May. Here’s a look at what we know about the 2020-2021 flu season to date, and how the coronavirus pandemic could complicate things.
Why are people worried about a “twindemic”?
The U.S. is entering flu season right now (which runs between October and May, and peaks between December and February) while the country is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic that has infected an estimated 7.5 million Americans and counting. So public officials are concerned about both viruses attacking the population at once — a “twindemic, if you will — and overwhelming hospital beds and emergency services, especially since severe cases of both viruses require the same life-saving medical equipment. The flu has seen between 140,000 and 810,000 people hospitalized each year since 2010.
CDC director Robert Redfield has warned that America is bracing for “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had” with COVID-19 and influenza. “Either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems,” he said. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has also said that “we need to hunker down” this fall and winter.
But it’s not just about overflowing intensive care units. Dr. David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers, told MarketWatch that both viruses overwhelming doctors’ offices, urgent care centers and clinics is also a major concern. “If we can remove the burden of symptomatic influenza, we are helping to keep the economy running, keep the workforce running, and to just…