President Trump renewed his push for schools to reopen for fall term by arguing the likelihood of college-aged students getting infected with coronavirus is equivalent to that of coming down with the flu.
“The China virus is very dangerous but for university students the likelihood of severe illness is less than or equal to the risk of a seasonal flu,” Trump said speaking from a White House press briefing Wednesday. “And the seasonal flu happens and it comes and it goes and it can be very bad, but people don’t talk about it in the same way, and they shouldn’t.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not be immediately reached to verify the comparison of influenza statistics with the coronavirus.
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But according to data provided by John Hopkins University (JHU), over a period of six months starting in October to April, the CDC estimated 24,000 to 62,000 people died from the flu. Over a period of six months from Feb. 28 to Aug.19, 172,945 people have died from the coronavirus, according to the JHU. The figures do not break down the age brackets and their likelihood of infection or death rate.
Trump also claimed that coronavirus cases were down in “80 percent of jurisdictions in the past week,” though he did not clarify what he meant by jurisdictions or what sources he was referencing.
John Hopkins University reported that as of Aug. 13, the seven-day average for the number of confirmed cases was down 22 percent.
The most recent data shows that cases are on the decline and could possibly be leveling off again, but deaths in the U.S. are still hovering around 1,000 cases per day.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served as a top infectious disease specialist for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has repeatedly warned against comparing the coronavirus to the seasonal flu.
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“The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent,” Fauci said during a March hearing on Capitol Hill. “This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
Fauci has also warned that younger generations who are less likely to become seriously ill are putting those at higher risk in danger by not taking adequate precautions against the coronavirus.
“What I think is happening is that, understandably, innocently, but not correctly, the younger individuals are saying, ‘Well, if I get infected, so the chances of it is that I won’t even have any symptoms, so who cares?’ That’s a big mistake,” Fauci said during a July interview with WebMD.
“By allowing yourself to getting infected or not caring if you do get infected, you are propagating a pandemic. Because it doesn’t end with you,” Fauci said.
“The chances are you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else.”
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The World Health Organization warned earlier this week that younger age groups are driving the coronavirus pandemic across the globe.
“People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread” of the coronavirus, the WHO Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, said Tuesday.
“The epidemic is changing,” he said.