Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum on Wednesday called for the reopening of the U.S. economy by arguing that models for the coronavirus death toll were wrong and predicting that there may be fewer deaths from the pandemic than from the 2018 flu season.
“I think we’re going to have a long period, obviously a very difficult economic distress, and you cannot help but look at the numbers that caused it and the models which were incorrect that really were one of the biggest push points to shut down the United States economy,” MacCallum said during an appearance on “Bill Hemmer Reports.”
Then, rekindling a misleading comparison often made in the early days of the outbreak and frequently peddled by her Fox News colleagues, MacCallum suggested it’s “quite possible” that fatalities linked to the coronavirus might be “south of the numbers in the 2018 flu season.”
“And remember, the losses of 61,000 people in 2018 in the flu season was after vaccinations. After vaccinations. That’s the number that were lost in America,” she added.
“We certainly hope that they can get open soon. That’s really the key. Opening the country back up is the key. That’s what will save these companies,” she concluded.
Experts have repeatedly explained why these arguments are dangerous and misleading. Numbers are flattening in some regions because of the strict stay-at-home measures, and models work on the assumption that social distancing is enforced.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said, “models are as good as the assumptions you put into them, and as we get more data, then you put it in and that might change.”
Downward shifts in estimated fatalities reflect positive changes in the numbers reported, but this relationship can also move in the opposite direction if containment efforts are not maintained.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Model (IHME) often cited by the White House said it revised its numbers downward based on new data. Its current projection is 68,841 deaths by Aug. 4, with the assumption that social distancing is enforced until the end of May. It also does not account for a likely second wave of infections in the fall.
As for the flu season argument, a recent article published by The New Atlantis demonstrated why this comparison simply doesn’t stand.
Looking at data from previous flu seasons, other diseases and car accidents, it showed how the weekly death toll from the coronavirus nationally outstrips even cancer, and, in New York, surpassed all other causes of death (including the 2017-2018 flu season.)
Fox News hosts and pundits have reverted to minimizing the threat of the virus in past days, using revised projections to disparage lockdowns as an overreaction from the left and to urge resumption of “normal” life.
- Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic
- What happens if we end social distancing too soon?
- What you need to know about face masks right now
- How long are asymptomatic carriers contagious?
- Lost your job due to coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.
- Everything you need to know about coronavirus and grief
- The HuffPost guide to working from home
- What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.
- Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism without a paywall — and keep it free for everyone — by becoming a HuffPost member today.