Donald Trump Says, 'It's Not The Flu. It's Vicious,' 3 Days After Comparing Coronavirus To The Seasonal Virus

Jonathan Vankin

At a White House coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday, Donald Trump appeared to take a more serious view of the pandemic's severity than in the past, when he repeatedly compared the deadly virus to the ordinary seasonal flu. As recently as Friday, the president compared the coronavirus to the flu at a press briefing, saying, "you cancel it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus, you can call it many different things," according to quotes published by The New York Times.

But on Tuesday, Trump clearly stated that the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus is "vicious."

"A lot of people were saying think of it as the flu, but it's not the flu. It's vicious," Trump said, as quoted via Twitter by BBC reporter Anthony Zurcher.

Zurcher noted, however, that last week on Tuesday, Trump defended his stated goal to "re-open" the country by Easter, April 12, by saying that the country never shuts down even though "we lose thousands of people a year to the flu."

Trump previously claimed on Sunday that certain unnamed people had encouraged him to do nothing at all in response to the coronavirus pandemic, supposedly telling him to "ride it like a cowboy."

"I had many friends, people with common sense who said, 'why don't we just ride it out?'" the president said at the briefing, adding that those "friends" told him to do nothing and "think of it as the flu."

The flu, however, is significantly less deadly than the coronavirus, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Seasonal flu results in fatalities of about 0.1 percent of all infections, according to the publication's data. But coronavirus infection kills between 1.4 percent and 2 percent of those who contract the virus. In other words, coronavirus appears to be between 14 and 20 times as deadly as ordinary, seasonal flu.

But the World Health Organization, as pointed out by The New York Times, estimated the death rate from coronavirus infection at an even higher number — 3.4 percent, or 34 times as deadly as the flu.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has recently given a more optimistic assessment, estimating that the death rate from the pandemic will come in at only 1 percent.