The Flu, COVID-19 and the Economy

The United States leads the world in confirmed cases of COVID-19, passing even China, with almost four times the population and where the disease emerged in November. Some government and business leaders resist advice from public health experts on lockdowns and slowed economic activity. There is an argument that a pause on food supplies, utilities and other essential services poses a health threat, too. Many who support reopening economies compare the mortality rates for seasonal flu and COVID-19. So far, flu cases eclipse COVID-19 cases, with key differences. The two illnesses present similar symptoms including fever, coughing and aches. COVID-19 is deadly in about 3 percent of confirmed cases, while the flu has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent of cases. For COVID-19, many people report no or few symptoms yet still spread the disease. More COVID-19 cases require hospitalization; those hospital stays can last 10 days or more whereas flu hospital stays average about five days. COVID-19 is more contagious. A person with COVID-19 can infect three others while the typical patient with flu typically infects about 1.5 people. Finally, vaccines are available each year for the flu and none is available for COVID-19. COVID-19 is overwhelming hospitals, reducing their capability to care for patients with other problems including heart attacks, accidents and more. Epidemiologists estimate that anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of the population may become infected with COVID-19. The new disease poses many unknowns and protective equipment is in short supply. For example, the flu is known to be seasonal, but COVID-19’s seasonal pattern is unknown. Washing hands thoroughly and practicing and enforcing social distancing prevents both diseases. Ignoring health experts' advice could bring great economic harm. – YaleGlobal

The Flu, COVID-19 and the Economy

Some leaders hesitate to close economies, suggesting that society tolerates the mortality rates of the flu – COVID-19 poses more challenges than the flu
Friday, March 27, 2020

Flu: Oct 1 to mid-March  Up to 54 million ill More seek tests due to COVID-19 outbreak Up to 710,000 hospitalizations Up to 59,000 deaths  Average hospital stay 5.3 days  Average patient infects 1.5 others Less costly than average hospital stay Vaccine available	COVID-19:  Jan 21 to March 27 85,000+ confirmed cases Many more do not show symptoms Testing not widely available 1,311 deaths Harvard study on hospital stay: 12+ days Average patient infects 2 to 3 others More costly than average hospital stay Vaccine not available
COVID-19, a new highly contagious disease, poses special challenges for health care systems and workers (Source: US CDC, Agence France-Presse, oNational Center for Biotechnology Information and Health Affairs )

Read about the flu from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read about differences between the flu and COVID-19 from Agence France-Presse.

Read about hospital stays for the flu from the US National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Read about hospital capacity from Health Affairs.

Read about varying US hospital readiness from ProPublica.

Hospitalizations increase with fewer interventions like social distancing
(Source: Wired)

COVID-19: Quality Shock to Globalization Booming US Growth in Question Border Walls: Bad Medicine for Wrong Diagnosis WHO Declares COVID-19 Pandemic: Voice of America © 2019 YaleGlobal and the MacMillan Center