The Centers for Disease Control has finally produced a report with a mortality figure for COVID-19, and it’s good news. Its “best estimate” is around 0.26%, as opposed to the original World Health Organization estimate of 3.4%. That’s about twice the accepted rate for a typical seasonal flu. But it’s vastly below some 20th century flu pandemic rates, pandemics that didn’t lead to widespread deprivation of human rights, the possibility of the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s with attendant misery and death and an ominous cry for a “New Normal.”
The “Asian flu” of 1957-1958 (H2N2) had a death rate of about 0.67%, and according to the CDC killed an estimated 116,000 Americans and 1.1 million worldwide. That’s 223,000 Americans and 3 million worldwide adjusted to today’s populations. The “Hong Kong flu” of 1968-1969 (H3N2) killed an estimated 100,000 Americans and 1 million worldwide, or 165,000 Americans and 2.1 million people worldwide adjusted to today.
Those estimates are not for deaths “with” the virus or suspected as having been caused by the virus even without a test, as the CDC explicitly allows in its COVID-19 guidelines. They indicate death directly from the flu.
For neither flu pandemic were there mandatory facemasks in the U.S., no “social distancing,” no quarantining of the healthy. Governors didn’t pick and choose what was essential and what wasn’t, such as large businesses essential, small businesses not; McDonald’s essential, religious services not.
Neither public health organizations nor the media displayed what’s been called “pandemic porn” to terrify people into “correct” behavior or boost clicks. There were no fake photos of massive numbers of coffins, nor articles in the Washington Post and CNN about “burial pits” so big you can see them from space. (Satellites can read license plates from space.)
We didn’t have state departments of health switching causes of death to beef up death totals, as Colorado has with nursing home patients and even a death by alcohol poisoning. The Gray Lady didn’t publish an entire front page of alleged American disease deaths – with No. 6 being a 27-year-old homicide victim. Given that people that young almost never die of COVID-19, why did no one at the paper flag that? Or did the age make it “too good” to not use?
Those prior pandemics without panic caused no recessions, much less the possibility of a worldwide depression. Given no lockdowns we didn’t see rises in alcohol and other drug abuse, domestic violence, depression, and suicide, or what Dr. Anthony Fauci now describes as potentially “irreparable damage.” There was no shaming of people following the biological urge to be with other people.
Nobody proclaimed that authoritarian rule might be necessary until a vaccine became available because there were vaccines during those pandemics; they basically didn’t work.
Vastly worse was the “Spanish flu” of 1918-1919, with about 50 million dead worldwide and 675,000 Americans, equivalent to 209 million globally and 2.1 million Americans. There was some mandated mask wearing and social distancing at that time. But there were no rules that effectively incarcerated people, closed businesses, and ruined the economy.
Those people stayed cool notwithstanding that flu vaccines didn’t exist, and therefore no hope of making one. There were no pneumonia vaccines, no antibiotics for secondary infections, no antivirals, no ventilators, and intravenous feeding tubes didn’t really catch on until the late 20th century.
Oh, and that was during a horrific world war with violent carnage our generation cannot begin to imagine.
During this pandemic, with some exceptions such as our courageous health care workers, we have not acted in exemplary fashion. The proverbial just-decapitated chicken comes to mind. This even as worldwide deaths have been declining for over five weeks. That’s not necessarily because of any human actions but rather in line with “Farr’s Law.” First promulgated in 1840 before public health services existed, it states that all epidemics basically follow a symmetrical curve.
Unfortunately, we have yet to reach the bottom of that curve when we pass from epidemic to endemic stage, meaning a continuing small but steady number of cases and deaths. But it’s coming. Meanwhile, we still have time to rise to the occasion, to show sanity and sobriety. To reveal what The Great Emancipator called “the better angels of our nature.”
Michael Fumento is an attorney, author, and journalist who has been writing on epidemic hysterias, including for IBD, for 35 years. His website is www.fumento.com.