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Common arguments and refutations
Coronavirus has a 99% survival rate (or a very, very small mortality rate).
- U.S. President Donald Trump claimed in a speech on July 4, 2020 that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are "totally harmless."
- Former U.S. Representative Allen West shared on his Facebook page an image macro that said that coronavirus had a "99% survival rate."
"Totally harmless" is meaningless in terms of science, but even disregarding that, Trump's estimate is extremely inaccurate. If this were referring to asymptomatic cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 35 percent of cases are asymptomatic, but that statistic alone must be viewed in the context that people without coronavirus symptoms can still spread the virus to others who could face different outcomes. Furthermore, while it is technically accurate that the mortality rate is around 1 percent according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO also estimates that 20 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus will require hospitalization or a ventilator.
Applying these statistics to the U.S. population (estimated at 328 million), in a theoretical U.S. where everyone were to be infected, a 1 percent mortality rate would lead to 3.28 million deaths, and 20 percent hospitalization would require 65.6 million hospital beds (and millions, possibly billions in hospital bills).
The death rate is over-counted due to coronavirus being a comorbidity.
- Allen West wrote: "... COVID-19 is most dangerous for those with underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, COPD, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity."
- In April 2020, Fox News host Tucker Carlson attributed a sudden drop in pneumonia deaths to the CDC classifying such deaths as being from coronavirus.
Carlson's interpretation is premature, because mortality data can take anywhere from two to eight weeks to be finalized. Also, the lack of testing makes a stronger case that coronavirus deaths are being under-counted.
Coronavirus is no worse than the common cold or flu. (Alternative forms: The flu kills more people.)
- In early May 2020, when the U.S. coronavirus death toll was around 60,000, West compared that number of deaths to the 61,000 deaths in the 2017-18 influenza season.
- The flu season comparison is a false analogy, because the flu season lasts around six months, while the coronavirus pandemic had been going on for around three months.
- Besides the flawed comparison of mortality rates, coronavirus has factors of harm unlike the flu: a lack of a vaccine or herd immunity and much higher contagion and hospitalization rates.
The swine flu and past epidemics have been more deadly than COVID-19.
When looking beyond the raw numbers, this a false analogy. Estimates for H1N1 (swine flu) deaths during the 19-month pandemic that lasted from 2009 to 2010 range from around 150,000 to 575,000. But that was in over one and a half years. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 people in the U.S. alone have died from COVID-19 in just under four months as of July 6, 2020.
- Reston, Maeve. "Trump uses July 4th address to put forward a dangerously misleading claim." CNN: July 5, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- West, Allen. "My quote is taken from the article here..." Facebook post from April 28, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Veronica Stracqualursi and Sarah Westwood, "FDA commissioner refuses to defend Trump claim that 99% of Covid-19 cases are 'harmless'." CNN: July 5, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Krepel, Terry. "CNS' West Embraces Dubious Stats And Misinformation." ConWebBlog: May 25, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Blake, Aaron. "Birx and Fauci reject Fox News-promoted theory that coronavirus deaths are inflated." The Washington Post: April 8, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Radcliffe, Shawn. "Here’s Why COVID-19 Is Much Worse Than the Flu." Healthline: May 14, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Maragakis, Lisa Lockerd. "Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu." Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Rettner, Rachael. "How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu?" LiveScience: May 14, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
- Heneghan, Carl, and Jefferson, Tom. "COVID-19 deaths compared with “Swine Flu”." Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine: April 9, 2020. Accessed July 6, 2020.
- Shumaker, Lisa, and Fagenson, Zachary. "Miami rolls back restaurant dining as U.S. coronavirus deaths top 130,000." Reuters: July 6, 2020. Accessed July 6, 2020.