If we actually look at disease mortality proportionally to the population, the 1918 epidemic was far worse than covid. Considering that the US population in 1918 was one-third its current size, we find that deaths per million from the flu epidemic totaled about sixty-five hundred per million. Covid, by comparison currently comes in—in the official numbers—around twenty-two hundred per million.
…it tells us the comparisons to 1918 are quite inappropriate. Age-adjusted deaths increased by more than 265 per hundred thousand from 1917 to 1918. The same rate (metric) increased by 113 per hundred thousand from 2019 to 2020.
But this is all part of a larger pattern—one well embraced by the media—of presenting information with as little context as possible.
Since the makeup of the population is changing over time, it makes more sense to make comparisons over time using “age-adjusted” total deaths.
Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official age-adjusted numbers for total deaths, the trend naturally looks different. Age-adjusted death rates have generally declined for the past twenty years.
Moreover, looking more closely at the past twenty years, we find that the increase from 2019 to 2020 takes us back only to somewhere between 2003 and 2004 in terms of comparable rates.