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FACT CHECK: Trump Says 50,000 Could Die From Flu.

President Trump has repeatedly compared the effect of the seasonal flu with that of the coronavirus.
Alex Brandon
President Trump has repeatedly compared the effect of the seasonal flu with that of the coronavirus.

President Trump has drawn repeated comparisons between the novel coronavirus outbreak and the flu season.

"We have a lot of people dying from the flu on top of everything else," he said Monday. "It's very bad. It looks like it could be over 50,000."

The reality so far for the current flu season is still emerging. There have been at least 23,000 deaths from flu during the 2019-2020 season, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The upper range of the estimate for deaths is 59,000.

The CDC estimates there have been at least 38 million flu illnesses and 390,000 hospitalizations.

The CDC estimates are based on weekly surveillance data and are preliminary.

The rates of hospitalization for flu "remain moderate" overall, according to the CDC. But some age groups have experienced higher hospitalization rates than usual. Flu hospitalizations are "the highest CDC has on record" for young children, up to age 4, and adults ages, 18-49.

While the flu can send hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital each year, the seasonal effect is reasonably well understood and planned for. The comparison between flu and COVID-19 doesn't capture the strain that the new coronavirus is putting on hospitals.

COVID-19 is a new disease that is hard to predict. And the surge in cases requiring intensive care that was seen in China and now in Italy can lead to a health system's collapse, health officials have said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 25, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
The initial version of this story said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there have been about 23,000 deaths during the current flu season. That figure is at the lowest end of the CDC's estimated range, which extends to 59,000.
Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.