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Why COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Isn’t “Just The Flu”


Why COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Isn’t “Just The Flu"A few days ago, I shared a chart from Business Insider (based on data from the CDC) on our Facebook page. It compares the mortality rate of COVID-19 and the mortality of the flu.

Whereas the flu kills less than 1% of people who get it, COVID-19 kills more than 1% if you are over the age of 50. And the older you are, the higher the risk. (People in their 60’s have a 3.6 mortality rate, and people in their 70’s have an 8% mortality rate.)

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To my surprise, there were a lot of commenters who accused me of exaggerating, fearmongering, and spreading false information. As one person said, this is “just another panic fueled by media and politicians.”

Normally, preppers take potential disasters very seriously. But in this instance, many of them have decided that this isn’t something worth worrying about. Probably because President Trump said the coronavirus is “just the flu.” In fact, a good friend of mine said this to me the other day.

So, in this article, I’m going to explain why I believe COVID-19 is far more dangerous than the flu and why I think it will kill thousands of people. Possibly millions. We’ll start by taking a look at China.

What Happened In China?

The first thing that made me sit up and pay attention to coronavirus is what happened in China. The measures they took to contain this virus are extraordinary. To stop the spread, China quarantined hundreds of millions of people. They had to stay indoors at all times, and if they went outside without a pass, they were arrested.

Authorities went door to door testing people for symptoms, and anyone with symptoms was taken to quarantine. They even had workers in protective gear walking up and down the streets, spraying disinfectant on everything. According to the WHO, “China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

But even with such extreme measures, they still had over 80,000 cases and thousands of deaths. All that effort and yet thousands of people died.

China had several whistleblowers who tried to warn the world about the danger of this virus. One of the first whistleblowers was Li Wenliang, a doctor who saw a sharp spike in the number of patients getting sick and dying.

Once he realized what was happening, he warned fellow medics to be careful and wear protective gear, but soon the government caught up with him and forced him to sign a letter stating he had made false comments, “severely disrupting the social order.”

Less than six weeks later, he died from the very virus he tried to warn us about.

Many other doctors, lawyers, and activists in China have been captured and detained. No one has heard from them since. Why is China clamping down on these whistleblowers? If this is just the flu, why are they so concerned with controlling the narrative?

How Deadly Is COVID-19?

No one knows. China initially said that about 2% of infected people died, but it really depends on the area. It was as high as 5.8% in Wuhan, but as low as 0.7% in other areas.

Some people have pointed out that we can’t trust China’s numbers because they have a history of lying about these sorts of things. True, but when they lie, it’s usually to make themselves look better. Which means the actual mortality rate could be even higher than 2%.

On the other hand, there could be countless unreported cases from people who had mild or no symptoms. If that’s true, the mortality rate could be much lower. Perhaps if we tested everyone in the world, we’d find the mortality rate isn’t much higher than that of the regular flu.

However, some experts say there’s no real evidence to back this theory. Take a look at this article from Science Mag. It explains how they attempted to find out how many unreported cases there might be by screening 320,000 cases from so-called fever clinics. They found that only 0.14% of them were positive for COVID-19.

Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “That piece of data suggests that [lots of unreported cases] is not happening, which would imply that the case fatality risk might be more or less as we currently have.”

So for now, a 2% mortality rate seems likely, but it could definitely be lower.

Why Millions Of People Could Die

According to this New York Times article on the topic, about 15% of cases in China were severe, meaning those people had to be on oxygen or a ventilator.

That number should frighten you. If 15% of people who get this have to be hospitalized, then our hospitals could be completely overwhelmed in a matter of months. Better hope you don’t have appendicitis during that time, because they might not be able to help you.

If hospitals aren’t able to help everyone who needs to be on a ventilator, the mortality rate is going to go up. Possibly quite a lot.

According to Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist familiar with biostatistics and infectious diseases, it’s too late to contain COVID-19. It’s already in half the countries across the world and there are likely thousands of unreported cases (most people spread it without showing symptoms for about five days).

He estimates that somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of the global population will get COVID-19. Let that sink in for a moment.

So let’s say half the world population gets this virus over the next year and 15% of those cases require hospitalization. That would mean that, in the United States alone, about 25 million people will be hospitalized. Given that there are usually 35 million hospital stays per year in the United States, another 25 million would be a pretty significant increase. A 71% increase.

Also, consider the fact that a normal hospital stay usually only lasts a few days. People with severe cases of COVID-19 take weeks to recover. So it might seem like more than a 71% increase.

Remember what I said about appendicitis? Well, what about people who have strokes and heart attacks? Or people who get into car accidents? Or women in labor? Can hospitals really help these people if they’re already at max capacity? That could mean countless more deaths that won’t be counted in the official COVID-19 statistics.

And it gets even worse.

What happens when doctors and nurses are infected at a higher rate than the rest of the population and succumb to the illness? With healthcare workers quarantining themselves and sometimes dying, will we really have enough people left to take care of everybody?

Despite all this, let’s be incredibly optimistic. Let’s assume the hospitals are able to help everyone, that only 1/4 of the world is infected, and the mortality rate is a mere 0.5%.

That would still mean 10 million deaths

So even though your individual chance of dying from COVID-19 is slim, especially if you’re young and healthy, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a big deal. The death of 10 million people is like 9/11 times 3,000. And again, that is a very optimistic scenario.

Australian researchers believe the best-case scenario is 15 million deaths (the worst case is over 68 million deaths).

So What Happens Next?

For a preview of what could happen in your area in the coming weeks and months, just look at Italy. Recently, the Italian welfare minister said, “Every day we get 200 new people to the ER in critical conditions, which means every day we need to find 200 more hospital beds. […] the virus is spreading at an exceptional speed, faster than our predictions and than the data we got from China.”

Every day, the number of deaths in Italy jumps dramatically, and they have responded by taking extreme measures to slow the spread. Schools, theaters, libraries, and museums are closed, and the entire country is under quarantine until April 3rd. (Learn more about what’s happening in Italy here.)

In fact, the plan to lock down the country was leaked and thousands of people fled before it happened, possibly taking COVID-19 with them.

Just two weeks ago, Italy had only 9 cases. Now it’s in the thousands. The U.S. currently has over 600 official cases (although there could be thousands). What will it be in two weeks? If this thing keeps spreading exponentially, we’re in big trouble.

What Is Exponential Growth?

For those who don’t know what exponential growth is, here’s a popular “riddle” that explains it.

Let’s say you have a rich uncle who wants to give you his wealth before he dies so he can see you enjoy it. However, he gives you a choice: You can have a $1 million right now, or you can have a penny today, two pennies tomorrow, four pennies the day after that, and let it continue to double every day for 30 days. Which option would you choose?

$1 million would be great, but if you choose the pennies, then by day 30 you would have over $5 million dollars. And interestingly, you wouldn’t even top $1 million until day 28. Almost all the growth happens at the very end. (BTW, by day 38 you’d have over $1 billion.)

That’s what happens when things grow exponentially. It looks like a little bit at first, but then it explodes. To understand this better, watch the video below:

Of course, COVID-19 won’t spread exponentially forever. If it did, then before long it would fill up the entire universe. There are many factors that will slow down the spread at some point.

So the question is, how long will it grow exponentially before it slows down and stops spreading? We just don’t know.

There are scary Twitter threads like this one that suggest hospitals will be completely overwhelmed by May. However, if we all do our part, it’s possible to avoid this scenario.

What We Should Do

If people keep their hands and everything they touch clean, if they stay home as much as possible and avoid public events, and if they isolate themselves when they show symptoms of the virus, we can stop the exponential growth much sooner. In other words, we can “flatten the curve.”

Flatten the Curve

On the other hand, if people aren’t worried about this and don’t bother to wash their hands or practice social distancing, it will spread much faster, potentially overwhelming our healthcare system.

As he says in the video, “If people are sufficiently worried, there’s not as much to worry about.” So in my view, the fact that many people aren’t worried about this is exactly why we should be worried.

The U.S. Is Dropping The Ball

Despite the severe threat from this pandemic, the U.S. government is doing very little to stop it. Whereas South Korea is testing 10,000 people per day, the U.S. has only tested 2,000 people so far.

In South Korea, they actually set up drive-thru testing. You pull up, get your cheek swabbed, and get your results via text in a matter of hours. If we were doing that in the U.S. and found out the actual number of cases, people would be taking this much more seriously and being careful to stay sanitary and keep their distance from each other.

Instead, everyone is out and about, shaking hands, eating at restaurants, and acting like there’s nothing to worry about. That is the opposite of what they should be doing.

(To be fair, some parts of the country are taking this very seriously. For example, look at what they’re doing in Seattle. But COVID-19 has been found in 36 states and most of them aren’t doing anything.)

Other Possibilities

No one really knows how this is going to play out. It’s possible that tens of millions of people will die. On the other hand, it could fizzle out by summer and we could all look back and laugh at how much we overreacted.

But the thing is, even if COVID-19 does fizzle out, worrying about it is not an overreaction. As preppers, we’re supposed to prepare for potential disasters, and if there was ever a potential disaster, this is it.

And I haven’t even mentioned how all this could affect the economy. We’ve been in an “everything bubble” for years and are overdue for a major correction. And with the stock market crashing and oil price wars, it looks like this could be the event that triggers it. (As I write this, the DOW is having its worst day since 2008.)

So if you’re one of the people who think coronavirus is being blown out of proportion by the media, I strongly encourage you to take a closer look at what’s happening.

There are going to be major shortages, especially once our leaders start getting infected. (Ted Cruz is under self-quarantine as coronavirus spreads to Washington D.C.). If a senator, congressman, or Trump himself contracts COVID-19, millions of people are going to panic and rush to the stores.

Final Thoughts

To be clear, I don’t think this is going to be the collapse of civilization or anything like that. Remember, the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed between 20 and 50 million people, but life went on.

However, it’s going to get scary for a while. For the next few weeks, the statistics are going to get worse every day. Don’t spend too much time focusing on them. Maybe limit yourself to a short period of time per day when you can get caught up.

Just keep your hands and everything you touch clean, and spend more time at home. You should also eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. If you’re in better health, you’re less likely to be one of the severe cases.

And lastly, spare yourself the hassle of standing in line with hundreds of other people in grocery store parking lots, waiting hours for toilet paper or a loaf of bread. If you haven’t already, start stocking up.

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  1. Dave on March 17, 2020 at 12:19 am

    If you want the truth and well supported data read ,”Why you should act now”. Written by Tomas Pueyo. The data is well supported and a fair amount comes from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Washington.

    It is long but it is clean and makes this viral infection quite understandable and predictable. This is why the Governor of Washington State has taken such aggressive actions.

  2. Dave on March 17, 2020 at 12:06 am

    If you are not a lung destroyer smoker, and 15% of us unfortunately are, you will by most reasonable measures be fine. A very large percentage of deaths in China turned out to be smokers and most of them had additional issues related to their smoking. Heart disease and hypertension are bad but the lung issues due to smoking are just awful.

    Stay home and away from other people. If you are a prepared person, you are probably going to thrive. Fortunately I love spam and I have a freezer full of meat and another full of frozen veggies. I started prepping probably five years ago and thus am well supplied plus I live on a small farm with livestock and a large garden. Start prepping now for the next challenge coming down the road. All the best to you!

  3. John Brich on March 16, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Donald Trump said it will all just go away so we’ll all be okay, you know this is just a democratic hoax.

    • Alan on March 16, 2020 at 4:20 pm

      Unfortunately, Trump was wrong. I think he, like most of us, never imagined something like this would happen.

  4. Paul R Laska on March 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Testing is only effective among those who have contracted the virus. However, it is false assurance if a negative, it merely means you aren’t infected…yet. Yes, if infected, it gives positive affirmation of that, and one may take actions somewhat earlier, but that is all. Most locations will not provide testing unless one already falls into a high-risk group – a traveler, someone who has been exposed to a known case, etc. Rather than succumb to the hysteria, people need merely take personal responsibility – limit public activity, wash or decontaminate routinely, maintain awareness. Unfortunately, it appears most are submitting first to hysteria, and then to a trudge to an acceptance of a police state rather than accept their own personal responsibilities. Mostly, this shows how pitiful western societies
    have become…

  5. Nadine Roberts on March 12, 2020 at 9:56 am

    I think American’s are too complacent. Many think “it’s nothing to worry about, just wash your hands”. Has anyone thought about coughing or sneezing inside their elbow then giving elbow bumps to others? I have two individuals with developmental disabilities living with me. They both attend a day program Monday to Friday. There are over 100 individuals at this day program, not including staff. When the guys return home everyone living here is now exposed to all the people they were in contact with. The agency says ” just wash your hands” but very few people that attend are able to wash their hands independently . So the first thing I do when the guys return home is wash their hands, door knobs and railings. With poor judgement from the powers that be say just wash your hands, what about the individuals that can’t ? Have the staff been informed to wash the hands of the people they work with?One of the guardians of the person I live with is now on a cruse ship. He says ” there’s nothing to worry about, we’re not going near the countries that have a pandemic” but has he thought about all the people he will be exposed to on the cruse ship? Well he’s not coming to my house to visit his family member for 2 weeks after returning. I know many people are not in this position but for me, it is a very real concern.

  6. J Boehme on March 10, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Faroe Islands 1st case ?

  7. Stefano on March 10, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    As an Italian working in Mozambique, I am witnessing from distance my entire country being locked down, in an attempt to stop and reverse the numbers of infections.

    Key-frase on these days in Italy is: STAY HOME. Covid19 spreads fast; it may be not the deadliest, but ppl need to stay in ICU for weeks; some doctors are saying that, at this rate, they will be forced to give assistance by selecting between patients that can recover and those who have less chance.

    To be able to cope with this, tests should be available for everyone; isolate patients and communities were the virus has been detected, trying to avoid the spreading. Act fast, close schools, impede rallies and meeting of any kind. In Italy we are probably paying the fact that we did too little, too late ultil now. Economy will suffer, of course, but it will be even worse if you hesitate to act. This is exceptional: don’t think that European counties are overreacting: look at the numbers in Italy.

    US have the resources, the know-how, the will to cope with this. More, Americans are practical people, I hope they will be able to shift the ideological paradigm, if needed, to deal with this challenge.

    • Alan on March 10, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      Thank you for sharing. Feel free to let us know how things are going in the coming weeks. Good luck!

  8. Zycamzip on March 10, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Your numbers are off. They are under estimated in some cases, over estimated in others. But the key information is spot on. I’d like you to check out a great resource reddit.com/r/China_Flu that’s news about the spread. If you want the breakdown of what COVID-19 actually is, check out reddit.com/r/COVID19. Think of CoronaVirus being a generic family name, SARS-COV-2 the name of the virus and COVID-19 the name of the disease. This is a bit like saying that HIV causes AIDS. The average death rate is 7% across all ages, but even a 20 year old has a 1 in 500 chance of dying from COVID19. The chance of dying from the flu is .0015%. HUGE difference! Finally, I want to mention that of the 20% who have SARS-COV-2, who need to be hospitalized, 25% of those will die – usually from a Cytokine storm or from pneumonia. Look it up, it’s some nasty stuff – basically the body kills parts of itself to get rid of infected pieces.

  9. Marty on March 10, 2020 at 10:05 am

    It’s a controlled released bio weapon, nothing more nothing less. Used to achieve another means. An experiment really. Results are satisfying. CDC owns the patent to Wuhan 400, aka Covid 19. Look into it. Don’t panic, but don’t give in. It’s actually what they were hoping for. The stage has changed. Stay prepped, pray, stay armed, hold on to your freedom and security in spite of gov actions. Hey! If you’re gonna die (God forbid), die a free person. Relax and watch things unfold. Head on a swivel, watch your six, help your neighbors. Love one another.

  10. Anthony Worthington on March 10, 2020 at 9:57 am

    If this is to be considered the people that are really in danger are the ones where their immune system has been compromised, people such as those with cancer who are on radiation or chemotherapy.

  11. Robert Scholes on March 10, 2020 at 9:50 am

    The statistics for the comparison between Covid-19 and “flu” are all very well, with a fairly complete current breakdown of the Covid-19 mortality rate for various age groups but they don’t go far enough. For instance they don’t include any underlying health issues neither do they include the mortality rates for the various strains of influenza such as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1916 or the later Swine flu, neither do they include any mortality rates for “flu” which incidentally is also a corona virus.

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