President Donald Trump compared the coronavirus pandemic to the seasonal flu on Tuesday morning, making the claim that COVID-19 is “far less lethal” in most populations.
Trump was released from Walter Reed Hospital on Monday, after having spent the previous days there receiving treatment for the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus — the severity of which he has repeatedly and consistently attempted to downplay.
In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump attempted to reassure Americans by comparing the seasonal flu to COVID-19.
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. 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!!!,” he tweeted.
The reality of the situation, as Yahoo News reported, is more nuanced.
While the seasonal flu does kill tens of thousands of Americans each year, despite the existence of vaccines, in recent years the illness has not killed close to the 200,000 Americans who have already died of the coronavirus.
The worst seasonal flu outbreak of the past ten years, in terms of lethality, was in 2017-2018, during which the illness claimed an estimated 61,000 lives in the U.S. In 2018-2019, influenza was responsible 34,000 U.S. deaths; in 2019-2020, there were 22,000 such fatalities.
Further, as with any pathogen, COVID-19’s mortality rate doesn’t tell the full story. Though the overwhelming majority of people who contract the disease survive, not all of them recover fully. Some people who have contracted the virus and survived it have had cough, fatigue, and other symptoms that have lasted for months. Others have suffered organ damage that may be permanent.
The seasonal flu is not known to cause such lingering symptoms, organ damage or other such lasting morbidity.
Not long after posting the tweet, Twitter attached a warning label to it, saying that it violated the Twitter rules about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” However, the label also noted that the social media platform found it within the best interests of the public to leave it visible — after users click on “View More” — rather than delete it entirely.
Trump also posted a video on Twitter in which he claimed that he is better, and that he may be immune. In fact, the scientific community remains uncertain as to whether or not a coronavirus infection confers lifetime immunity to the patient.