Both Facebook and Twitter censured President Trump on Tuesday after he posted accurate information regarding the number of people who die each year from the flu.
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” the president Tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
Twitter censored Trump’s tweet with the following warning message.
This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.
Facebook completely removed the president’s post.
“We remove COVID-19 related misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm,” the tech giant said in a message explaining its policy.
CNN falsely claimed that the president had “falsely claimed that Covid-19 is less deadly than the seasonal flu.” But he did no such thing. The president correctly pointed out that “many people” die of the flu every year, not that “more people” die of the flu. He specifically noted that it was less lethal than the flu in “most populations,” not overall.
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) October 6, 2020
President Trump’s assertion that “over 100,000” people have died of the flu was not inaccurate. Trump didn’t specify whether he meant globally or only in the U.S., but the president would be correct either way.
In 1968, the Hong Kong flu killed 100,000 Americans, and the 1957-58 Asian Flu pandemic killed 116,000 people in the United States. The number of deaths in the U.S. during the dreadful 1918 flu pandemic reached 675,000.
In more recent years, the flu has been less deadly, but still a major concern for vulnerable populations. The CDC estimates that since 2010, between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually were caused by the flu. Up to 61,000 deaths per year would qualify as “many” to most people.
Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year, according to the CDC.
The president’s claim that for most populations COVID is less lethal was on less firm ground.
About 0.1 percent of people who got the flu died in the US last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the coronavirus’ death rate among all populations is reportedly to be about 5.2 percent.
But those numbers don’t reflect the death rate among non-vulnerable populations. For people under 50, the fatality rates are almost exactly the same for the flu and the coronavirus.
According to the National Institute of Health: “People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon.”
A recent study found that the estimated infection fatality rate (IFR) for COVID-19 was close to zero for children and younger adults, 0.4 percent at age 55, 1.3 percent at age 65, 4.2 percent at age 75, and 14 percent at age 85.
In the face of the corporate media’s non-stop fear-mongering and disinformation, a group of epidemiologists and public health experts on Tuesday put out a significant declaration expressing “grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies.” Unlike Trump, these experts do note that COVID-19 can be less deadly than influenza to some populations, pointing out in their declaration, that the coronavirus is less dangerous in children than many other diseases, including the flu.
Their message is reprinted below in its entirety.
As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.