If flu deaths were counted like COVID-19 deaths, the worst recent flu season evidently killed 15,620 Americans

Hospital in Boston
(Image credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The U.S. now has more than 63,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, and most experts say that's almost certainly an undercount. Still, if you compare that number to the 2017-18 flu season, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates killed 61,000 people, it looks like COVID-19 might be similar to a bad flu — President Trump has made this point, as have many conservative media personalities. But the data so far show that this new coronavirus is much more lethal than the flu, and Dr. Jeremy Samuel Faust has an explanation.

Faust, a Harvard Medical School instructor and emergency physician at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in Scientific American that he started wondering about the flu-to-COVID comparisons when it occurred to him that in nearly eight years of hospital work, "I had almost never seen anyone die of the flu." Neither had any of the colleagues he called around the country. So he did some research, and this is what he found:

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