Thursday, March 19, 2020

Important column: Mythbusting COVID-19

Mythbusting COVID-19
by David Thornton,

I’ve been seeing so much bad information about Coronavirus on my timeline that I felt I needed to set some things straight. This isn’t a matter of politics. The virus doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Trump supporter. The facts are the facts.

Isn’t the flu more dangerous than COVID-19?

The virus is much more dangerous than the flu. The flu has killed more people so far, but that’s because the flu has been more widespread. The final numbers are not in on the Coronavirus but COVID-19 has higher rates of both mortality and infection than the flu.

The flu has a death rate of about 0.1 percent and each person with the flu infects about 1.3 other people on average. For Coronavirus, the death rate is estimated to be about two percent, possibly slightly lower and possibly higher. A Coronavirus victim also infects about 2.2 other people on average.

If you aren’t familiar with what death rates mean, the 0.1 percent rate for the flu means that there is about one fatality for every 1,000 cases. In contrast, the estimated two percent death rate for Coronavirus means that about 20 people would die for every 1,000 cases. In other words, the Coronavirus is about 20 times more lethal than the flu.

The fact that more people have died from the flu is because the flu has been more widespread so far. That is changing fast.

Aren’t we overreacting since the flu kills more people?

The current precautions are about prevention, not reaction. The Coronavirus is more dangerous so the objective is to limit its spread.

The goal is to slow the number of cases and the demand for hospital beds. If the virus surges through the population quickly, the number of patients will be more than the number of available hospital beds, intensive care units, and ventilators. That will mean that the death rate is much higher than it had to be.

Death rates are highest where hospitals are overwhelmed by patients. If half of the US population is infected, as health experts say is possible, the death toll could reach the millions, even with a death rate of “only” two percent.

There is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 and humans have no natural immunity to this new virus.

To this point, testing for COVID-19 has been a problem in the US. Many people have been infected with Coronavirus and don’t know it.

Doesn’t a two percent death rate mean a 98 percent chance of living?

Yes, but it might also mean spending a long time in an ICU and permanent lung damage.

Additional questions answered in the column:
  • What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
  • Do masks prevent the spread of the virus?
  • How long has Coronavirus been in the US?
  • Does the Coronavirus only affect the elderly?
  • Coronavirus has been around for a long time. Why are we panicking about it now?
  • Are there multiple strains of Coronavirus?
  • Can you catch Coronavirus more than once?
  • Should you avoid ibuprofen if you suspect you have COVID-19?
  • Is Coronavirus a bioweapon?
  • Isn’t this a hoax to hurt Trump?


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