Since the outbreak of COVID-19, self-declared experts have told us that comparisons the the flu are not only inaccurate, but also minimize the threat that COVID-19 poses. While the death count rose, many of us began to think that perhaps there was something to the severity of COVID-19, and that more should be done. In March and April, as the lockdowns began to be announced and enforced, we all headed indoors to weather not only the storm of the viral spread, but also the storm of the unknowns associated with the virus.
As the fear of COVID-19 shot through the roof, something vanished off the radar: The fear of the common flu annual flu virus and its accompanying “season.” During the 2019-2020 flu year, the CDC reported under 22,000 flu deaths, the 2nd lowest death rate in a decade (12,000 deaths in 2011-2012). The question remains, why?
According to the Washington Examiner, this has even spilled over into the positive tests for the flu.
In week 51 of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “FluView” data monitoring system, 36 positive flu tests were documented. This marks a steep decrease from last year’s total of 7,703 cases during the same time frame. The positivity rate has sharply declined this calendar year as only 0.10% of tests taken this year came back positive. The five-year average is 15.80% positive.
It does raise some questions as to why the numbers from last year, before the explosion of COVID-19 questions in March 2020, were so much higher than they were this year. It also should be noted that the curbing of cases isn’t a slight one. Week 51’s numbers are just 0.4% of what they were in 2019. Statistically speaking, a drop of that amount isn’t explained by things like a less-severe flu season or the effectiveness of a flu vaccine. This shows that extenuating factors are leading to a drop of that size.
While the reasons why can be explained in many ways, those same explanations bring questions to the effectiveness of COVID-19 policies. For instance, some attribute the reduction in flu cases to COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing practices. This might very well be true, however, during that same period of time, COVID-19 cases have risen exponentially. This discrepancy shows how a lockdown policy can be effective. Since the institution of lockdowns, flu deaths and positive flu cases have fallen, yet again, COVID-19 still spreads like wildfire. Some say that the increase of the likelihood of COVID-19 patients having a Vitamin D deficiency is linked to the lockdowns, however other studies show that Vitamin D helps to combat the influenza virus as well, which lockdowns would then exacerbate.
Additionally, there are those that suggest that a drop in influenza cases and deaths is directly related to the effectiveness of a vaccine. Again, in years leading up to 2020, vaccines were available but some were not as effective as others. Each year, a new, mutated strain of the Influenza virus would begin to make the rounds, rendering the previous year’s vaccine obsolete. Despite receiving my flu vaccine last year, that same vaccine would not be effective this year. If this is the same case with COVID-19, and lockdowns are effective in stopping the spread, can we expect annual lockdowns until the latest strain can be identified and a vaccine developed?
It also raises some questions regarding previous years hospitalization numbers. If our hospitals are full now as a result of COVID-19 cases, where are were putting the Influenza hospitalizations that have in previous years, strained our hospital systems? Have they simply vanished? Even if they had reduced to just 10% of the number they were in 2019-2020 flu season, it would still be over 40,000 hospitalizations nationally this year. Again, the current number isn’t anywhere near that. Are the lockdowns just that effective against the Influenza Virus or are hospitalizations that normally occur now leading to increasing in-home treatments to avoid hospital exposure? More alarmingly, are many of the hospitalizations that have taken place previously out of a crazy amount of precaution and/or unnecessary? If so, why would hospitals require the admitting of a patient who was not in dire need of treatment? If that happens to be the case, how many of the current COVID-19 cases, meet that “standard of treatment?”
The point is simple: While the flu and COVID-19 are certainly different and one is much more contagious and deadly than the other, our reaction as a society has shown that COVID-19 mitigation efforts are at best, ineffective using their effectiveness against the influenza virus as proof. Our hospitalization rate for COVID is high, but when compared to previous flu years, should it necessarily be as high as it is?
All I know is, what is going on here raises more questions than it answers.