“this [Covid-19] pandemic ain’t 1918–never was, never will be”

— Comment by rick stryker, August 19, 2020.

Then — as now — there were many who doubted the seriousness of the crisis, and several of those provided comments on this blog.

With now 11 additional months of data, we have as of July 10th a reported 605,400 Covid-19 related deaths in the United States, and excess deaths of 668,500, according to the CDC (see this post). The CDC states that recent weeks deaths and excess deaths data will be revised, most likely upward. My experience is that it’s the most recently reported six weeks of data that get revised a lot.

In its 7/23 forecast, IHME estimates excess deaths as of today at  937,100, and projects excess deaths by November 1st at 1,036,900.

Update, 7/25 12:40pm Pacific:

Jeff Frankel has a longer discussion of how the current episode (through 2020) was less severe than the 1918 flu; in fact that episode was twice as bad in age-adjusted per capita terms.



32 thoughts on ““this [Covid-19] pandemic ain’t 1918–never was, never will be”

  1. Moses Herzog

    I will confess to being a doubter in the very early days of the virus. If you had my personal experience on SARS when I was in China you’d at least semi-understand why I wasn’t immediately on board. It didn’t take me long to revise my thoughts though, so, I’ll say that in defense of myself. I’m too lazy to hunt the comments down but it wasn’t long.

  2. pgl

    Gotta love this:

    “You are engaging in data-free speculation about where the epidemic is going.”

    The RICK is the master of data free speculation so how dare anyone thread on his turf!

  3. pgl

    And before the usual whiny trolls complain about the AIER, I am fully aware that this crowd issued the Great Barrington Declaration. Which is why I caution people should fact check Mr. Yang’s little defense of what the RICK wrote.

  4. 2slugbaits

    I don’t think Rick Stryker was obviously wrong in claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic would never reach a comparable number of global deaths as the 1918-1920 pandemic; however, the overall tenor of his comments were clearly off the rails. A pandemic doesn’t have to be as awful as the 1918 pandemic or the Black Death of 1348-1351 to be bad awful enough for my tastes. He seemed to pooh-pooh the seriousness of the COVID pandemic…apparently because it would mainly affect people unlike himself. So how bad does a pandemic have to get before it gets bad enough for Rick Stryker to care?

    Unlike the 1918 pandemic, which eventually burned itself out, COVID-19 is likely to become a permanent and endemic fact of life forevermore, so over the long run total deaths from this-or-that COVID variant may very well exceed deaths due to the 1918 pandemic.

    1. Moses Herzog

      “So how bad does a pandemic have to get before it gets bad enough for Rick Stryker to care?”

      Roughly the same time “Hypothetical Pandemic X” reaches the country club where Newt Gingrich plays golf.

    2. Willie

      I’m not sure the 1918 pandemic burned itself out and then went away. We still have the flu with us to deal with. I expect that COVID will follow a similar path in time. It will kill a certain number of people every year, just as the flu still does. It just won’t be as much of a plague as it has been for the last year and a half. My expectation is that the current pandemic will go through a couple more waves before it is done.

      One major difference between 1918 and now is the advanced medical treatments we have now. Another is the ability to produce vaccines now. The amount of human knowledge that we can apply vastly surpasses what we had at our disposal in 1918, at least in this country. Other countries may be experiencing the COVID pandemic in a fashion more like 1918 because they don’t have access to vaccines and technology.

      I don’t know whether there was the concentrated political resistance to taking a pandemic seriously in 1918. There probably was, since that seems to be what humans do.

  5. ltr


    July 25, 2021

    Over 1.53 bln doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in China

    BEIJING — Over 1.53 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in China as of Saturday, the National Health Commission said Sunday.

    [ Chinese coronavirus vaccine yearly production capacity is now 5 billion doses. Along with over 1.53 billion doses of Chinese vaccines administered domestically, another 600 million doses have been distributed internationally. A number of countries are now producing Chinese vaccines from delivered raw materials. ]

  6. Ivan

    Someone making a categorical statement of what Covid-19 “never will be” in August 2020 might as well have had the word MORON stamped on his forehead in big black letters. Anybody with even the slightest understanding of viruses and epidemics would understand that the words to use then (and now) are “likely” or “probably” or might or could, preferably preceded with words like “provided that the behavior of the virus and its human hosts continues as previous/predicted”.

    I am still concerned that the Tump cult members are not changing their refusal of the vaccine much, even in the face of an explosive growth of cases in their midst. In many cases it seems that their paranoid delusions are such that they refuse to trust the numbers, or even that the virus exists. It’s the classic dangerous fallacy of “I do not like this reality, so I shall refuse that it exists”. That level of stupidity cannot be overcome with information, or even facts on the ground.

    I am also concerned that the data suggests that the efficacy of the RNA vaccines against the delta variant seem to begin eroding as early as 6 month after vaccination. That would suggests that a substantial number of vaccinated people could become carriers/spreaders of the delta variant, even if they don’t get diagnosed, hospitalized or die from Covid. The plan was that this fall the vaccine would be a rock hard wall against the pandemic. Yet even with 50% of the population vaccinated we are in a phase of explosive growth in new cases and almost at the same daily case numbers as at the peak last summer. That is not surprising given that the delta variant has an R0 more than twice of last summers strains; but it is discouraging given that the number of people who are fully vaccinated has stalled (and the number of actually protected people could be going down). With the R0 of the delta variant being more than twice, the % vaccinated to get herd immunity would move from >70% to >90%; which is likely out of reach for the US. That is why the people who know things have begun talking about learning to live with Covid rather than how to defeat it.

    1. pgl

      Didn’t they tell us back last summer the number of deaths would be limited to 60 thousand? Off by a factor of 10 and still counting.

  7. SecondLook

    You all do recall that we have precedent in recent American history – how American leadership, both political and medical responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980’s.
    Yes, the scale and nature of the disease was different, but not how poorly we initially dealt with it.
    (By pure coincidence, the current Amerian death toll from HIV is around 650,000 – granted over 4 decades, not 18 months or so, but ironic in its own way.)

    1. Gregory Bott

      The AIDs epidemic simply does not compare. I mean, why make such a bad comparison to a STD???? The problem with AIDS it wasn’t really known until 1983 what it was(even after finding it in 1981) and that meant years of lagging cases. By the 90’s the rate collapsed as you would expect once the lagging cases ended.
      This is a very infectious novel virus. It isn’t even a flu. There never has been a fully successful vaccine for the cold and you can see why. It mutates too slowly and too diversely. Just finding a vaccine that can stop serious illness is impressive. Its why with Covid, cases do not matter. Its serious illness that create hospitalization which bothers the medical system. There is indeed a cure for that now.

      I had a variant of Coronavirus in 2009……….it wasn’t a fun 6 weeks. The symptoms kept on lagging for another month with extreme fatigue into 6 weeks which is why I went for a test.

      1. baffling

        “The AIDs epidemic simply does not compare. I mean, why make such a bad comparison to a STD????”
        i grew up during the epidemic. it is a shame the government and public did not respond to this virus properly. i remember when a diagnosis was a death sentence, and people did not care because it was a gay disease. and then it went mainstream.

  8. Gregory Bott

    1918 had unique factors. Population adjusted, it killed 1.9 million Americans, mostly between the age of 20-40. That itself makes it the GOAT. Coronavirus’s historically simply don’t kill that much nor that young compared to Flu’s. WWI caused the spread too surge and we had medical system that wasn’t up to snuff yet. If we were have people between the age of 20-40 dying 10000 a day on average for month, people now would probably panic into hysteria.

    Covid-19 has been full of over reactions by the business community, progressives, trotskyists, governments. Its disrupted supply chains which Donald Trump refused to nationalize. Look at Asia themselves. Such low cases and having lockdowns over them.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Gregory Bott: Well, we’ve got plenty of time to get closer to that 1.8m mark. Excess deaths are already at > 900K, and IHME reference scenario is at 1.04mn by Nov. 1. So, don’t undersell what a bunch of stupid people and mendacious politicians can accomplish. (By the way, “trotskyites”? What’s the permanent revolution that’s being aimed at?)

      Finally, GOAT? As others have noted, the Black Plague might given 1918 a run for the money. After all, according to some, that reset the land-labor ratio so as to enable the industrial revolution…

      1. Moses Herzog

        I’m not really disagreeing with anything you said, but kinda similar to our usual lamentations on inflation around here, a person could argue 1.8—1.9 million would have been a much larger proportion or ratio of total population at that time, and therefor considered more impactful or damaging. In my opinion it’s “splitting hairs” when you get into that number of human beings whose life was cut short, I’m just saying that argument is there.

        1. Willie

          Over the course of several pandemics, I recall that the Black Death killed something like a third of the population. It was the worst plague in any recorded history that I’m aware of. There were previous pandemics and later ones, but none that were as devastating as the Black Death.

    2. baffling

      “1918 had unique factors. Population adjusted, it killed 1.9 million Americans, mostly between the age of 20-40. That itself makes it the GOAT. Coronavirus’s historically simply don’t kill that much nor that young compared to Flu’s.”
      this is revisionist history. we have over 600k dead, and probably more, due to the virus today. and that is with a vaccine that has been distributed since thanksgiving of last year. you are right, it is not the 20-40 years olds dying. but there would have been a lot more 60+ years old dead today. especially with the emergence of the delta variant in an unvaccinated population. it would have been devastating, and probably exceeded the 1918 flu deaths by the end of this year. remember, the virus was killing about 15% of those older than 60 that were infected. as for the “over reactions”, there would have not been a concentrated effort to develop an effective vaccine without such “over reaction”. greg, you are trying to rewrite history by ignoring the actual severity of the situation.

      1. Willie

        There was some speculation about the reason the pandemic of 1918 killed young healthy people. Apparently, there had been a variant of the flu virus that had been around approximately 30 years prior to 1918. That gave people who were alive at the time some form of resistance to the flu. Those who were born later didn’t have that resistance and were more likely to sicken and die.

        It’s all speculative, and I don’t know much more about it than that little bit. It is not applicable to COVID.

      2. Gregory Bott

        No it isn’t. Out of that 600,000 is mostly nursing home and people over the age of 75. It is very applicable. Now, if you want to say that hundred of thousands of lives have been saved by modern medicine….I could at least understand your point, though even that would be wrong.

        The 1918-20 flu pandemic killed over 50 million people globally, helped further destabilize political institutions that wwi began. it simply has no takers. This is more like a drawn out 1957-58 pandemic.

        1. baffling

          greg, your refusal to acknowledge the severity of the coronavirus pandemic is astounding. you are trying to rewrite history. my focus is on the effects of both pandemics in the united states. without a vaccine, the impact on health in the united states would probably be comparable. all one needs to do is look at the recent decrease in life expectancy to understand this was a significant event. even with a vaccine, you are seeing regions of the country being overwhelmed once again, with the delta variant.
          greg, here is a question to test your credibility in this discussion. consider the situation where the vaccine and current therapeutics did not exist. how many people would you anticipate being dead, today, from the virus? we are over 600k dead, now, with those treatments. what would that number be without those treatments. you should include the fact that variants, such as delta, will exist.

        2. Willie

          The world outside Europe and North America would probably disagree with you about the severity of this pandemic. Yes, hundreds of thousands have been saved by modern medicine and vaccines. Those places without access and without the ability to isolate as individuals are on their way to enormous carnage. This pandemic is probably only about halfway over now.

  9. noneconomist

    Wasn’t it Dr. CoRev, with support from Drs. Hanson, Stryker, and Hall , who assured us covid would be a mere blip and about as harmless as the flu?

    1. Moses Herzog

      I’ll save telling you what I deem appropriate happening to their family members. At least as a personal lesson to those mentioned. We know Stryker is a POS who got the vaccine for himself while telling everyone online it was some Fluoride conspiracy. Do we know if Hall finally found it important when an older relative died from it?? 60/40 yes if we handicap for stupidity.

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