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Justice dismisses claim that COVID-19 no worse than the flu

MORGANTOWN — Anyone spending time on social media will inevitably encounter varying degrees of skepticism about the COVID-19 pandemic. At its most extreme are those who say it’s all manufactured to pave the way for a One World Government.

More common are those convinced COVID-19 is no worse that the flu and all the social distancing and mask precautions are unnecessary.

More or less out of the blue, Gov. Jim Justice brought up the flu theory during his Friday COVID-19 press briefing. He gets frequent calls that 99.93% of the people who contract COVID don’t die.

He pursued his point in a Q&A with COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh. He asked Marsh if that’s true.

Marsh replied, “That is absolutely untrue and inaccurate.”

Then Justice brought up the flu claim. Again, Marsh said that is also inaccurate.

As it happens, The Dominion Post asked Marsh the flu question during a Monday interview and he delved into greater depth on the question that he was able to on Friday.

Marsh said on Monday that both are viral. But the flu is more typically present in fall and winter. Some of the symptoms of COVID are similar in people who are affected less severely.

But the flu is much less severe, he said. Its overall mortality rate is .05% to .1%, compared to 4% for COVID-19. And the more chronically ill the people are who acquire it, and the more health care systems are overwhelmed, the higher the rate. It hit 10% in Italy and 13% in Spain.

Flu doesn’t attack blood vessels, Marsh said. COVID does, so people who acquire it and die are often dying of blood clotting, heart attacks, stokes or kidney disease. Through blood vessel obstructions they they also undergo amputations or suffer “COVID hands” or COVID feet” with purple or red lesions.

Also, people can lose their smell or taste with COVID.

He pointed out that the often-cited 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was H1N1, not influenza.

CVID-19’s spread rate is higher than the flu’s, Marsh said. The R-naught, R0, for is 1 to 1.5, usually about 1.2. The average R0 for COVID-19 is 2.5 and got as high as 5.7 in Wuhan, China, where it originated.

Similarly, COVID-19 is more transmissible, Marsh said. As of Friday, 13.9 million people around the world have been infected and 592,806 have died (from the Johns Hopkins dashboard). Age and vascular disease are the biggest risk factors and people with Type A blood experience more severe problems.

The U.S. has 4.8% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s cases and deaths, Marsh said. “The rate of spread here in the U.S. has been quite extraordinary.” States with mask mandates see their cases drop while states without see their cases rise 70-85%. “I think we pretty much know what to do.”

Responding Friday to Marsh’s more succinct summary, Justice said, “Absolutely West Virginia, it is real stuff.” The mask order is the only bullet in the gun to protect us.

He said once again, “You have absolutely become the miracle. I don’t want anything shut down. I absolutely want everything going.” And we can but we have to put up with the inconvenience of the mask.

“Don’t believe these myths that people come up with, because they’re not right. They’re just plain not right.”

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