COVID has killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu
COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000. And like the worldwide scourge of a century ago, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst.
Instead, scientists hope the virus that causes COVID-19 becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That would take time.
“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.
For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws.
The delta-fueled surge in new infections may have peaked, but U.S. deaths still are running at over 1,900 a day on average, the highest level since early March, and the country's overall toll stood at close to 674,000 as of Monday morning, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, though the real number is believed to be higher.
Winter may bring a new surge, though it will be less deadly than last year's, according to one influential model. The University of Washington model projects an additional 100,000 or so Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan. 1 , which would bring the overall U.S. toll to 776,000.
The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans in a U.S. population one-third the size of what it is today. It struck down 50 million victims globally at a time when the world had one-quarter as many people as it does now. Global deaths from COVID-19 now stand at more than 4.6 million.
The Spanish flu death toll numbers are rough guesses, given the incomplete records of the era and the poor scientific understanding of what caused the illness. The...