How Bad Is the Coronavirus?

How Bad Is the Coronavirus? By Justin Fox. Ten, maybe 40 times more deadly than the flu.

The 61,099 flu-related deaths in the U.S. during the severe flu season of 2017-2018 amounted to 0.14% of the estimated 44.8 million cases of influenza-like illness. There were also an estimated flu-related 808,129 hospitalizations, for a rate of 1.8%. Assume a Covid-19 outbreak of similar size in the U.S., multiply the death and hospitalization estimates by five or 10, and you get some really scary numbers: 300,000 to 600,000 deaths, and 4 million to 8 million hospitalizations in a country that has 924,107 staffed hospital beds. Multiply by 40 and, well, forget about it. Also, death rates would go higher if the hospital system is overwhelmed, as happened in the Chinese province of Hubei where Covid-19’s spread began and seems to be happening in Iran now. That’s one reason that slowing the spread is important even if it turns out the disease can’t be stopped.

This helps explain why public health authorities want everybody to get vaccinated against the measles. It’s not all that deadly a disease, but once it gets going in an unvaccinated population, everybody gets it.

One slide in a leaked presentation for US hospitals reveals that they’re preparing for millions of hospitalizations as the outbreak unfolds. By Lyda Ramsey.