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MN Dept. of Health reacts to President Trump comparing COVID-19 to seasonal flu

COVID-19 is on track to be the third leading cause of death in Minnesota in 2020.

After spending a few days in the hospital as a precaution after developing symptoms from a COVID-19 infection, President Donald Trump is again receiving heat for likening the coronavirus to seasonal influenza. 

Trump, who said he learned a lot about the virus, tweeted Tuesday: "Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. 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!!!"

Many attempts to compare COVID-19 to seasonal influenza have been made over the course of the pandemic, and once again the Minnesota Department of Health is reacting to the comparison with science and facts, issuing a response to Bring Me The News by saying "there are significant differences between seasonal flu and COVID-19." 

"SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a completely new virus for which no one has immunity and we don’t know yet all of the complications that it can lead to," MDH said in the email, noting that "many people have some form of immunity to influenza." 

"If we were to see a truly novel form of influenza, we would be in a similar situation we are in with COVID – no one would have immunity. But we know more about how to deal with influenza, how to develop vaccines, etc., because of decades of experience," MDH said. 

"COVID is set to be the third leading cause of death in Minnesota in 2020. Influenza rarely if ever is a leading cause of death," the health department added. "However, we know that influenza can contribute to many other causes of death, such as pneumonia."

Leading causes of death in Minnesota in 2017 (the most recent publicly available), per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  1. Cancer - 9,986
  2. Heart Disease - 8,230
  3. Accidents - 2,788
  4. Alzheimer's disease - 2,474
  5. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease - 2,464
  6. Stroke - 2,250
  7. Diabetes - 1,312
  8. Suicide - 783
  9. Flu/pneumonia - 697
  10. Parkinson's Disease - 675

According to the CDC, the flu has resulted in between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually in the U.S. since 2010, rendering Trump's claim of "sometimes over 100,000" incorrect. It should be noted that Twitter hid Trump's tweet because it included "misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19." 

Flu deaths in America since 2010, per the CDC: 

  • 2010-11: 37,000
  • 2011-12: 12,000
  • 2012-13: 43,000
  • 2013-14: 38,000
  • 2014-15: 51,000
  • 2015-16: 23,000
  • 2016-17: 38,000
  • 2017-18: 61,000
  • 2018-19: 34,000
  • 2019-20: 22,000

COVID-19, in the past eight months, has killed nearly 211,000 people in America, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Resource Tracker. That includes 2,087 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota. 

That said, the MDH noted that in "peak years" of influenza, "the disease does put a significant strain on our health care system." 

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