The 1918 influenza pandemic, described by experts as “the deadliest in human history”, had killed at least 50 million people worldwide, noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is equivalent to 200 million in terms of the present day’s population of the world.
And an estimated 675,000 of those deaths had taken place in the United States.
And the latest pandemic – the coronavirus pandemic, has killed more Americans than the influenza pandemic in just 18 months.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, death of at least 675,446 Americans has been confirmed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic till now. And the number continues to increase with each passing day.
While exceeding the 1918 death toll is a dubious distinction, experts have pointed out key differences between both pandemics that one has to consider while comparing the impact of the two pandemics – especially when considering the much greater access to better healthcare options and availability of vaccines.
“These are two different viruses, two different times in history, at two different times of medical history, with what you have available to combat or treat it,” Howard Markel, professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, told ABC News.
The 1918 influenza pandemic started during the spring of that year and lasted for two years or so. It was caused by the novel H1N1 virus which jumped from birds to humans. According to the CDC, that pandemic had either caused the death of or infected at about one-third of the global population at that time – about 500 million people.
However, Dr. Graham Mooney, assistant professor of the history of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that the death toll in the 1918 pandemic was likely a gross underestimation due to non-registration, missing records, misdiagnosis or underreporting.
Similarly, some experts fear that the Covid-19 deaths could be undercounted because of inconsistent reporting of cases and deaths by states and localities as well as due to intentional exclusion of excess deaths in some countries or regions.
Experts like Markel also noted the differences in population in the United States between 1918 – which was at approximately 105 million, compared to the 2019 figure of 328 million, according to census data, compared to 328 million people in 2019.
The current Covid-19 case fatality rate is at 1.6% while the metric in the 1918 influenza was at 2.5% fatality rate for influenza in 1918, said Mooney.
Typically the fatality rate of flu is less than 0.1% and therefore the Covid-19 death rate in the U.S. is significantly lower than the one that was noted for the 1918 pandemic.
Hence, according to Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, the 1918 influenza pandemic was far deadlier compared to the coronavirus pandemic when comparison is made on a per-capita basis.
“The difference is that 1 in 500 Americans have died now, and about 1 in 152 died in 1918, although our number keeps going up,” Nichols told ABC News.
Nichols however notes that the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines had created a difference between the two pandemics even though the two were comparable initially.
“People were desperate for treatment measures in 1918. People were desperate for a vaccine,” Nichols said. “We have effective vaccines now, and so what strikes me in the comparison, if you think about this milestone, this tragedy of deaths, is that same number but we have a really effective treatment, the thing that they most wanted in 1918 and ’19, we’ve got. And for a lot of different reasons, we botched the response.”
There were no vaccines or treatment against the 1918 influenza, just like towards the beginning of the current coronavirus pandemic and hence people were unprotected. Hence, use of non-pharmaceutical interventions was critical for controlling the pandemic. Mooney said.
“The same kinds of measures — the so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions that were put on in 1918 — were the same that we saw last year: lockdowns, social distancing, hygiene masks, limits on gathering places,” Nichols said.
According to Markel, one of the biggest lessons learned from the 1918 pandemic was social distancing and had showed he world that if it was done early, and for a continued period of time, it can help spread of a pandemic.
The US Job Market Does Not Match Democrats’ Worries Of Omicron
The Biden administration entered the first week of February in what has become its default mode of operation: expecting bad news.
Loss Of Over 300,000 Private Jobs In January
The White House cautioned that the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on January’s job numbers would be shocking. Reporters were taught to put an unsatisfactory report in context by mentioning the omicron wave’s transient effects, which the company believed had slowed hiring. President Joe Biden’s team, on the other hand, had reason to believe that no amount of nuance would be enough to mask what they expected to be the second straight poor employment report. On Wednesday, ADP, a payroll processing company, predicted a loss of over 300,000 private jobs in January, far fewer than the Dow Jones estimate of weak but positive employment growth.
However, when the numbers came in on Friday, these concerns were unfounded. According to the BLS, private nonfarm payrolls did not only fail to decrease in January; they actually increased by 467,000 jobs. Almost every industry expected to be hit worst by the pandemic grew, from bars and restaurants to professional services, transportation, and even retail sales, which typically suffer after the holiday shopping frenzy. According to the BLS, the number of workers increased by 1.4 million. More good news: December’s job growth was raised up from 199,000 to a staggering 510,000 jobs, according to the report.
To summarise, Covid was not the economic drag the White House projected from its discovery in the final week of November to its current fall. This is due in part to the fact that the information ecology in which mainstream news consumers marinade has maintained a consistent drumbeat of negativity for the past eight weeks.
By late December, there was strong consensus that the omicron infection outbreak, although milder, was contagious enough to impair social and economic activities in a way that was indistinguishable from the deadliest days of 2020. According to a CNN report from America’s dark blue metropolitan enclaves on December 21, city dwellers were withdrawing to the shelter of their residences once again, and businesses were closing as staff phoned in sick. No one wanted a return to lockdowns, but a “voluntary suspension of activity—a soft lockdown, essentially,” as The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang put it, would sweep the country whether we liked it or not.
US Businesses Shed 301,000 Employees In January Amidst The Record Breaking Omicron Wave
As a consequence of a record omicron wave that kept individuals out of work and disrupted recruiting plans, private U.S. businesses cut employment by 301,000 employees in January, the worst decline since the epidemic began, reports marketwatch.com.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed economists who predicted a 200,000 rise.
The fall was the first in 13 months and the greatest since April 2020, when the United States lost about 20 million jobs amid a pandemic-era economic lockdown.
ADP is often used as a forecasting tool for the US Labor Department’s wider employment survey, which is released a few days later. During the pandemic, however, the two reports were frequently at odds, and ADP was less accurate as a predictor.
Nonetheless, due to the omicron issues, economists estimate the government’s official figure to be similarly low on Friday. Some even expect a complete fall.
Businesses are scrambling to fill a record number of available positions and meet the high demand for their products and services. According to a federal poll, there are about 11 million job openings in the United States.
The issue is that there aren’t enough people to fill all of the open positions. Several million employees who left the workforce earlier in the pandemic haven’t yet returned, and many are unlikely to do so in the future. Coronavirus epidemics have also made it more difficult for some people to return to work, such as women and caregivers.
The good news is that the Omicron is quickly fading, and industry leaders predict that recruiting and employment will soon restore.
Almost Every Organization Suffered A Major Setback In January
In January, almost every major sector of the economy suffered a setback.
Small businesses that primarily provide services, such as hotels, cafeterias, restaurants, entertainment facilities, public transportation, and so on, saw the greatest drop in employment. 144,000 jobs were lost by small businesses.
Due to business constraints or fear of contracting the coronavirus, customers stayed away.
During the omicron surge, major organizations lost 98,000 jobs and midsized enterprises lost 59,000. According to second government data, roughly 9 million individuals missed work in January, a recent record.
Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal predicted that the US Labor Department’s tally would show a gain of 150,000 new jobs in January before the ADP data. These data include the number of people employed by the government.
“There is no telling how close ADP’s initial January estimate will prove to be to the figures that will be reported by the Labor Department on Friday,” said chief economist Joshua Shapiro of MFR Inc.
Social Security Beneficiaries Will See A 5.9% Benefit Hike In 2022
Due to its annual cost-of-living adjustment, existing Social Security recipients will see their gross benefits increase by 5.9% in 2022.
More than 50 million people in the U.S. are, as of late, relying on Social Security for a part of their retirement income. When you also consider that about 180 million have paid into the system, it’s evident that the program is serving some foundation to the majority of the people’s retirement plans.
Albeit such a fact, its future is pretty much at risk. An example of it is Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen indicating its payments were at risk if the debt ceiling didn’t get an increase early this year. To that end, folks should expect these from the program next year.
It’s already a known fact that the highest cost of living adjustment (5.9 percent) in 40 years is scheduled to go live next year. Despite being deemed such, it may well seem that it won’t be sufficient to keep up the overall inflation that we endured this year. Additionally, according to Motley Fool, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the overall Consumer Price Index was upped by 6.8 percent in the 12 months through November this year.
Social Security funds going gone
Another thing to point out is that, albeit the increased tax burden in funding Social Security, simply under the calendar advancing a year, the date that the program’s trust funds are expected to run dry will be earlier than anticipated (projected to be emptied by 2034).
High income=Higher taxes
Next year, the wage base on which taxes from the program are levied will also be upped to $147,000 from $142,800. This is a $4,200 increase in income to Social Security’s 12.4 percent tax rate in which half of it will be paid by the employer, and employees will pay the other half.
Likely to do nothing
Social Security has been known to be the “third rail of American politics.” It borrows the moniker from electrified train tracks where touching the electricity-carrying third rail may likely result in a person’s demise.
Sadly, such infamy simply translates that neither sides have the eagerness to push forward reforms to Social Security until the trust funds are that close to drying out that they have no other choice. For the uninitiated, the last massive reform to the program happened in 1983 – before the trust funds were expected to empty the last time.
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