COVID-19 is 50x Worse Than Flu

And, the calculations based on the C.D.C.’s scenarios suggested, 2.4 million to 21 million people in the United States could require hospitalization, potentially crushing the nation’s medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds. Fewer than a tenth of those are for people who are critically ill.

According the Times, the CDC projected that 2.4 million to 21 million people in the US could end up in the hospital, overwhelming emergency wards and ICUs. The number of deaths in some models ranged from 200,000 to 1.7 million. The fatality rate of the virus is estimated as high as 3.5% by the World Health Organization.

Assuming no mitigation, so we expect a much better reality than this…

“When people change their behavior," said Lauren Gardner, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering who models epidemics, “those model parameters are no longer applicable,” so short-term forecasts are likely to be more accurate. “There is a lot of room for improvement if we act appropriately.”

South Korea has had much higher rates of testing which gives a better picture of the true mortality rate, and they are seeing worrying but lower death rates:

8-10x times worse than the seasonal flu is still Bad with a big-B, but not apocalyptic.


That is the irony isn’t it? Even 100x worse is not apocalyptic. The vast majority of people would live, and it would be nothing like an apocalyptic movie. However, the disruption to society would be huge. It seems like the impact of something of this intermediate scale is poorly considered in our public consciousness.

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Where does the 50x worse number come from, and in what sense is that meant?

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In a worst case scenario, with COVID-19:

1.7 million people could die… By contrast, about 20,000 to 50,000 people have died from flu-related illnesses this season.

1.7 million / 30,000 = 56x


We can also get a different view of our public consciousness and our public conscience. Is the economy worth more than the lives of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people? Is a sporting event more important than our elderly? How does this type of disruption affect the most vulnerable economic groups in our society? Crises like this one are awful, but they can offer a moment of soul searching.

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