Why the media hates flu comparisons during the coronavirus outbreak

2019-2020 Flu season estimates (as of March 20, 2020):

  • 38 million to 54 million flu illnesses
  • 17 million to 25 million flu medical visits
  • 390,000 to 710,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 23,000 to 59,000 flu deaths

All in the United States, all since October 1st, per the CDC. All people who lived in your neighborhood, in your town, in your state. All handled by your hospital system without “overwhelming” facilities. All statistics without names and national obituaries whose affliction was not enough to break the global economy and demand several trillion dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus.

In terms of the direct human cost of the illnesses, the coronavirus won’t be anywhere near the destruction of an ordinary flu season. Not even remotely close.

But this one got a name. This one got dire models based on objectively bad math. This one got an unrelenting avalanche of media hype and groupthink among people who should have known better. This one brought quarantines of major cities and social media shaming for anyone who dared take their dog out to pee. This one destroyed a semester of education for kids from K-12 to grad school. This one will kill endless programmatic initiatives at the state and local levels intended to serve the most vulnerable. This one brought irrational fear and greed.

Somehow we make it through an epidemic like this every single year in the United States without hoarders breaking wine bottles in Costco and slashing each other up.

All another chapter in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

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