We’re on the cusp of May.
61,699 Americans have died from coronavirus. 4/5ths of confirmed cases are still unresolved. The IHME model, which was heavily criticized by conservatives and libertarians, actually was inaccurate. It was too optimistic. We weren’t supposed to reach 60,000 deaths until August.
In the 2017/2018 flu season, 61,000 Americans are estimated to have died from the flu. This was the worst flu season since the 1967 flu pandemic. 37,000 Americans die in an typical flu season. 24,000 Americans died in the 2019-2010 flu season. We had a mild flu season this year.
This is a problematic number for flu truthers because deaths from COVID-19 have now surpassed nothingburger virus (SARS, bird flu, H1N1, Ebola or >13,000 deaths), then a mild flu season (24,000 dead), then an average flu season (37,000 dead), then the worst normal flu season (61,000 dead). We’re now only in the realm of influenza pandemics (the Spanish Flu, 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics) which carried off hundreds of thousands of lives. The next mile marker is the 100,000 who died in the 1968 influenza pandemic followed by the 116,000 in the 1957 influenza pandemic.
In the United States, we have 212,066 closed cases and of those 62,380 cases (29%) ended in death. If we assume 29% of our current active cases end in death, we will have 250,578 additional deaths. If we assume 20% of current active cases end in death, we will have 172,812 additional deaths. If it is 10%, we will have 86,406 additional deaths. If it is 5%, we will have 43,203 additional deaths. The current global average after 1,263,255 closed cases of coronavirus is still 18%. Spain and Italy are ahead of us in their curves and currently 15% and 27% of their closed cases have ended in death.
What does this tell us? Just based on the people who are currently infected and who have a confirmed positive test result in the United States, we are on track to surpass the 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics in confirmed deaths, not merely estimates. The death rate of closed cases in the United States would have to drop from 29% to less than 5% for that not to happen. COVID-19 is going to go down in history as the deadliest pathogen to strike the United States since the Spanish Flu.
The full force of this virus has been temporarily quelled by the lockdowns. We don’t know how many more people will be infected and die. We don’t know how many more waves of the virus are still coming. We don’t know when an effective treatment or vaccine will be found. We don’t know how the various reopenings will play out next month. We do know that the illusion that this is “just the flu” will rapidly fade next month because we are only 1/5th of the way through the first wave of the virus.
As a disease, COVID-19 is probably even worse than the Spanish Flu. Penicillin wasn’t even invented until 1928. Virtually everything we take for granted about modern medicine is less than a century old. If this virus had struck back then, the death toll would have been even higher than Spanish Flu. The coronavirus pandemic is a stark reminder that the struggle between humanity and viruses is eternal. Progress is an illusion. Nature is always coming up with new ways to kill us.
The liberal (progressive liberal, conservative liberal or libertarian) struggles with this. It had to be “just the flu” simply because the flu is the only respiratory disease that is familiar to us:
“The history of pathogens advances in parallel with and is no more static than our own, with which it is always intertwined, even if at times invisibly. Sometimes it rushes forward with great speed and breathtaking evolutionary vigor, and sometimes it rests in slow backwaters. When, in 1967, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that we had won the war on infectious diseases, we thought the slack water would last forever. But that war had never ended other than in wishful thinking.
Even now we accept as normal, because it is normal, that more than a quarter of all deaths—fifteen million each year—are due to infectious diseases. Three million children die every year of malaria and diarrheal diseases alone, one child every ten seconds. As sobering as this may be, we have been nonetheless in a quiescent stage of the mutability of pathogens, a hiatus from which they are now poised to break out. When viral diseases evolve normally—such as in the typical course of the human influenza virus undergoing small changes in its antigenicity and killing an average of 500,000 people annually throughout the world—it is called an antigenic drift. When they emerge with the immense power derivative of a jump from animal to human hosts followed by mutation and/or recombination with a human virus, as in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, in which 500 million people were infected and 50 million died, including half a million in the United States, it is called an antigenic shift. …
But this is just a beginning, in that the evidence strongly suggests that we are at the threshold of a major shift in the antigenicity of not merely one but several categories of pathogens, for never have we observed among them such variety, richness, opportunities for combination, and alacrity to combine and mutate. HIV, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow), avian influenzas such as H5N1, and SARS are merely the advance patrols of a great army forming out of sight, the lightning that however silent and distant gives rise to the dread of an approaching storm—a storm for which we are entirely unprepared. How can that be? How can the richest country in the world, with its great institutions, experts, and learned commissions, have failed to make adequate preparation—when preparation is all—for epidemics with the potential of killing off large segments of its population?”
This illusion that the Boomers have been living through and which has come to be taken for granted as the new normal was merely a temporary triumph over infectious disease in the span of one lifetime. We don’t have to go much further back than the mid-20th century to find an America that had to deal with other deadly diseases like cholera, smallpox, malaria, yellow fever and polio. The Spanish Flu was caused by the H1N1 influenza virus after it jumped to humans and which after a century of passing through human hosts has evolved to become less lethal and more infectious.
The speech above by former Sen. Bill Frist calling for a new Manhattan Project to fight infectious disease in 2005 illustrates one of the worst flaws of the American system of liberal capitalist democracy. It is insanely biased toward the short term and against planning for known long term threats. Every politician concludes it won’t happen on his watch. Donald Trump had the misfortune of drawing the short straw at the worst possible time. So did other leaders around the world who have handled it better. It is not a conspiracy. On the contrary, it was something we knew for years was bound to happen.