"Covid is no worse than the flu...." Why is this even an argument?

I’ve heard this stupid, IMHO, argument often and there is an aspect of it which is completely incomprehensible to me.

So let’s just assume that this is true, and for sake of argument, that annually 250,000 Americans are killed by the flu.

How on earth does that make thousands of mostly preventable, extra and additional deaths ok?

It’s not a logical argument for the reasons you state.

OK, it’s possible to make the argument that, for certain demographics, COVID is less deadly than the flu, and it’s possible that overall, the mortality rate for COVID is similar to some strains of flu, and probably less deadly than some.

That’s ignoring that COVID-19 is much, much, much more contagious than the flu, of course.

It’s like a bait-and-switch argument – here are some stats that suggest that the mortality rate is no worse…“what about the transmission rate?”…la la la, I can’t hear you.

Understood, but for me just the fact that these deaths are additional and unnecessary just boggles my mind.

Believe it or not, I heard the same logic from an immigrant from Northern Ireland in the mid '80s. This guy was telling me that victims of bombings and assassinations were essentially the same as car crash victims.

As I understand it, the logic is that we don’t close a bunch of businesses, disrupt the economy, and go around wearing face masks every flu season, so why are we doing so in reaction to a disease that’s “no worse.”

Not that I agree with the logic, but I think the argument is not so much, “These particular deaths are ‘ok’,” but rather, “We mostly treat flu deaths as ‘ok,’ what makes COVID deaths any different?”

I’ve been hearing “It’s only a 99.something% mortality rate - the common cold is worse than that!”. But as noted, they go very quiet when it is pointed out that the common cold doesn’t kill hundreds of thousands of Americans a year.

Not so much. The answers are:

“It’s mostly people in nursing homes and with other complications”
“I don’t really trust those numbers”

This is enough to allow people to rationalize going back to normal group activities.

I don’t know why this is even an argument. It’s a stupid argument, because the flu is horrible to endure, deadly, and people who don’t die are often left with residua. Being “no worse than the flu” is like being “no colder than Siberia in January.”

The reason we don’t go around masked and quarantined during flu season is that there’s a vaccine for the flu, so people who come down with it, have, to an extent, made a choice. Yes, I realize you can get it even if you have been vaccinated, but it is then usually not as severe-- I know people who have had test-diagnosed infections of the flu after vaccination, and they have been sick for three or four days, missed very little work, and it’s passed like a mild cold, with the exception that they had a couple of days of extreme fatigue. Flu in an unvaccinated person takes more like two weeks to pass, and can result in serious complications.

There’s no choice with COVID-19 to be vaccine-protected. The only protections are masking, distancing, hand-washing, and quarantining.

Johns Hopkins has a decent summary of the similarities and differences: Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu.

Regarding deaths…

COVID-19: There have been approximately 1,050,771 deaths reported worldwide. In the U.S, 210,918, people have died of COVID-19 between January 2020 and October 7, 2020.*

Flu: The World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year worldwide.

The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Since this disease is caused by a new virus, the vast majority of people do not yet have immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. Doctors and scientists are working to estimate the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, it is thought to be substantially higher (possibly 10 times or more) than that of most strains of the flu.

The actual conclusion of such an argument would be that we actually should go around wearing face masks every flu season, at least when in crowded public spaces or when experiencing any symptoms of respiratory illness. The way that several Asian countries do.

Yeah, that is one conclusion. But while I suspect I have great differences w/ most people who espouse the argument with which the OP takes issue, I think there IS some possible legitimate discussion WRT the degree of risk we accept as a society, and the costs we are willing to incur to reduce them.

Well, aren’t a great many “additional” deaths avoidable? Couldn’t we support all manner of screening, preventative treatment, nutritional/lifestyle/mental health support, etc?

No, of course COVID cannot be addressed in an identical manner as the flu. But when debating the allocation of finite resources, I think there could be valid debate as to what steps were taken for what types of benefits.

I certainly agree, and it’s definitely true that people would tend to fear a (hypothetical) novel disease that was no worse than the flu much more than we fear the flu that we’re used to.

We’re not talking about allocation of limited resources strictly speaking. It’s the proper allocation of resources. We knew it spread quickly. We knew it went after people with pre-existing health issues. That is where we should have concentrated our resources. We should also have isolated people in nursing homes instead of filling them up with covid patients. Nursing homes account for something like 42% of all covid deaths in the US.

In an effort to stop this we’ve treated it as if everyone is vulnerable to the virus and that is simply not the case. Things like mammograms and other cancer screenings are down. Many people have had their financial lives upended or destroyed. Return to school has been chaotic. Most of these people are not at serious risk to the virus yet we’ve done considerable harm to them.

I’m not sure I entirely grok the distinction in your 1st line. But I’m likely missing something.

And I fully agree with the subsequent statements. COVID is certainly “worse than the flu” for the society as a whole in various respects. But is it so much worse to warrant the specif types and extent of costs we have imposed? Also, for any one individual - especially as the young and healthy - COVID may not be statistically worse than the flu.

The whole situation is so fucked. Certainly the US is happy to tolerate countless ongoing dynamics which kill and shorten life expectancy for so many people. These factors are the worst for the least advantaged - financially, educationally, economically. So now we have COVID in which our response seems to placed the heaviest stress on those same disadvantaged populations. :roll_eyes:

We’re #1!

In May of last year, I had surgery to remove a tumor. Had I needed it this year, I might still be waiting.

If you need heart surgery, or chemotherapy, or dialysis, and you have to delay treatment (or never get diagnosed in the first place) because of the lockdowns, and you die early because of it, you will be just as dead as if you had caught Covid.

But those deaths will be harder to quantify, and harder to blame on Trump, so the media (and many of the posters on this board) aren’t interested.

I think part of the issue is that the flu is well understood. We know how it spreads, we know what its effects on the body are and how the virus causes them, and we know how to treat it and vaccinate for it. We know what the long term residual effects are and how to treat them. We have a pretty good idea of how new strains come into being and mutate. And most of all, we know at what phase of the disease that people are and aren’t contagious.

Even if the mortality rate was higher for the flu, that information would be the critical part. With COVID, we know almost none of that conclusively. There have been recently released guidelines seven months in now that revise how it’s spread (airborne), and studies detailing potential mechanisms that can explain the constellation of symptoms and effects from the virus.

I mean, I think wearing masks every year for the flu is a bit absurd. I’ve had the actual honest-to-God flu five times in my life- once as a pre-teen, once as a college student about 7 years later, once as a graduate student probably 8 years after that, and then once as a grown man about 10 years after that, and then again about 4 years later. I’m pretty sure that the last was my children bringing it home from school. And FTR, the last couple of times I DID have the flu shot that year.

Anyway, masking up for days on end for a disease that I catch about every 7-8 years, and that basically makes me feel cruddy for about a week and gives me a cough for about 2-3 seems a little like overkill, when the flu is overwhelmingly only a problem for the very elderly and infirm.

COVID does kill people who aren’t necessarily very elderly and who aren’t infirm. And it leaves survivors of all ages with issues as well.

The problem is that those who would wear masks also get vaccinated, while those who refuse to get vaccinated would also refuse to wear masks. I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea, and perhaps now that we all have masks we’ll do it more, but I doubt it would make that much of a difference.

You are correct, in the short run. However, the more that people wear masks during flu season, the less it will seem “unusual”, and the more people will start listening to the advice. THIS YEAR, you will have more people wearing masks because of COVID. Next year, most of them are going to go “we got our vaccine; no need”. But, if 10% of the people still wear masks, it won’t seem that odd. The next flu season, we have sane leaders, and they tell the public “You really should wear masks in public, especially if you have any symptoms.”, and maybe 15% of people wear masks. The next season, it might move to 17%; the next… No, you absolutely will not have mask wearing suddenly become fully accepted. But, in 15 years, you might actually have 70% of people or more.

Then don’t.

In Asian countries, people wear masks during cold and flu season mainly after they show symptoms. And this is fine for a typical cold or flu.

It’s about showing consideration towards other people (even at home to protect family), but we don’t even do that. If people could go out in public with masks without being stigmatized, we could reduce the number of people who get sick or die.

COVID is a different beast, but the similarity is taking the most appropriate action for protecting our communities. Whether that’s wearing a mask publicly when symptomatic (cold or flu) or always (COVID), it is the same conceptually. But we don’t even do that. Actually, we push back hard against it.

To some extent, yes, but not totally. I know people who are, let’s say “vaccine reluctant”, not because they think vaccines are bad but because they just really don’t like needles and the benefits are diffuse and not immediately obvious. But they have no problem putting a mask on when they go shopping.