Was Trump’s Gut Instinct Right: Is It ‘Just the Flu’?

By Brian Giesbrecht
Brian Giesbrecht
Brian Giesbrecht
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
April 22, 2020Updated: April 24, 2020


President Donald Trump was pilloried by the liberal press when he compared COVID-19 to the flu. His gut instinct was to keep businesses open while the CCP virus ran its course, while taking the usual steps required in a flu outbreak.

However, he surrendered to the loud and unrelenting demands that he shut down the economy and put millions out of work and on government relief.

Test results now emerging from California and other parts of the world suggest that the president’s gut instinct might have been right after all. In fact, it could well turn out to be that the virtual worldwide economic shutdown, with its catastrophic consequences, was the single-most expensive mistake ever made.

While the sample tests that appear to be showing those results are still in their infancy, the early results are shocking. If valid, the tests suggest that the mortality rate for COVID-19 might not be any higher than it would be from any other flu in a bad flu year. We remember Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that COVID-19 had a mortality rate that was “10 times worse than the flu.”

If the results of these early tests are valid, Fauci was very wrong.

In fact, a more accurate statement could turn out to be that COVID-19 has a mortality rate that’s similar to a normal flu year.

All of the modeling has been done on the assumption that COVID-19 was far more lethal than the usual respiratory viruses that make their way through populations virtually every winter. It’s that assumption that drives the entire pandemic response strategy. If that assumption is wrong the models are wrong. Garbage in = garbage out.

In a nutshell, the tests suggest that far more people might be infected—but asymptomatic—than previously thought. For every person who gets sick from the virus, there might be as many as 50 or more people with no symptoms.

That’s bad news in the sense that it makes tracing, detection, and quarantining of infected people almost impossible. But it’s very good news for people who believe—as Fauci does—that their chances of dying from COVID-19 are 10 times higher than they are from a regular flu. That is, if it’s confirmed that instead of the estimate that two or three out of 100 infected people die from COVID-19, only two or three out of 1,000 die, it would be a game-changer.

People could still practice social distancing and other personal strategies, but they could go back to work confident that their chances of catching and dying from this new disease were no different than they would have been in any number of the bad flu seasons the world has seen in the past few decades.

Two or three deaths per 100 infected is very scary, but two or three out of 1,000 is just a normal flu year.

It would also mean that the entire lockdown strategy that most nations of the world adopted was probably a colossal error. It will be remembered that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice went from “nothing to worry about here, folks” to “the sky is falling” almost overnight. The WHO went from being the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece to the chief advocate of locking down economies, and keeping them locked down until infections completely stop (an impossibility).

The WHO’s politicization and tragic failure will no doubt be the subject of many books and articles in coming years.

Not every nation took the WHO’s advice—either the first “don’t worry” version, or the later “shut down your economies” version. Countries such as Taiwan and Sweden that didn’t shutter their economies as a response to the pandemic will likely emerge intact, while the rest of the world will be painfully trying to put the pieces of their wrecked economies back together.

It’s even doubtful that their ultimate mortality rates will be significantly different from countries that went into full lockdown.

The tests I refer to are a new kind of test. They’re not the swab tests done on individuals to determine if the person has been infected. Instead, these are blood tests that will determine whether or not the tested person has antibodies to the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus and which causes the disease COVID-19. If antibodies are present, it’s a strong indication that the person tested had been infected and the virus has passed out of his or her system.

The actual test done on the individuals is extremely simple and inexpensive to do. They involve taking a pin-prick blood sample, and can even be done in drive-thru fashion.

The California sample tests were undertaken by Stanford University professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and colleagues. A sample population was chosen in a way similar to the manner that any professional poll would be organized. Although the tests themselves are simple, the organization and implementation of such a test are extremely complicated and can only be undertaken by experts. Bhattacharya is a recognized expert.

The first test was done on a representative sample of the population of Santa Clara County. The astounding result of the test was that anywhere between 50 and 85 times more people had been infected than reported cases—but they had not been noticeably sick as a result. A larger study on Los Angeles County has now been completed by Bhattacharya; the results are not yet available.

It’s expected that many such tests will be undertaken by researchers now that the antibody test procedure has been perfected. The results of studies in Germany and Denmark are also expected soon.

The sample testing studies by people such as Bhattacharya should be both instituted on a much larger scale and supported financially. These studies are incredibly important, as they will probably guide our responses to this virus and similar viruses from now on. The immediate results of the studies can guide policymakers as they begin the arduous task of reopening the economy.

It seems reasonably clear that the next few years will be devoted to rebuilding shattered economies while trying to respond to this virus and other possibly more lethal viruses that follow. The world has been incredibly unprepared to respond to this pandemic.

While we obsessed about which pronouns to use, and how much carbon dioxide this or that project would emit, an immediate danger—this new virus—sneaked up on us and reminded everyone that we must prepare ourselves for such dangers.

The only way this can be done is with a strong economy.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Special Coverage:
For our latest coverage of the CCP virus outbreak, visit our new section and sign up for our daily newsletter.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.