Q&A Of The Day - How Does The Current Pandemic Timeline Compare To 1918’s?

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Q&A Of The Day - How Does The Current Pandemic Timeline Compare To 1918’s?

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

Today’s entry: I’ve heard you discuss the similarities between the 1918 pandemic and the current one. I don’t remember all of the details but I believe you said there were a series of surges in cases over two to three years. Even with vaccines maybe history is going to repeat itself anyway. How does the current surge in cases compare to the 1918 pandemic and how many total surges in cases were there before it was over?

Bottom Line: I’ve talked about the 1918 pandemic in comparison to our current one a few times over the past year and a half. To address your question, I looked up the most recent story I put together on the topic and it was March 11th. The difference between then and now is telling. In March we were turning the corner on what had been the peak of the pandemic to that point in Florida. With the vaccine rollout and decreasing cases optimism reigned. What a difference four and a half months have made. I don’t think any of us expected we’d be reaching a new peak for cases this summer. But you bring up a good point. Is this just history repeating itself? Will COVID-19 follow the same cycle H1N1 did over 100 years ago

The H1N1, or Spanish flu, pandemic lasted a total of 26 months inside of the United States and included four waves. The timeline of that pandemic compared to what we’ve experienced with this one is almost eerie. The 1918 pandemic began in the United States in March and very quickly led to what was known as the first wave. The first wave was the mildest of the pandemic and largely subsided by June. The second wave kicked off in August and hit far harder than the first. October of 1918 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic in the United States. A total of 675,000 Americans died during the duration of the pandemic – nearly 200,000 of which happened during October of 1918 alone. The second wave hit the northeast the hardest. The third wave hit in January of 1919 and hit hardest in the south and west coast. The fourth and final wave hit in February of 1920 and was the worst of the pandemic in Midwest. What’s this potentially mean in the context of our current situation? 

The biggest takeaways from the 1918 pandemic, that may have relevance to this one, are these:

  • Four waves over the course of 26 months
  • The waves impacted regions differently
  • The second wave was the worst

Now if you compare our current timeline and situation to the 1918 pandemic, I mentioned it’s eerie, here’s where we stand:

  • 17 months into the pandemic
  • We’re experiencing a 3rdwave
  • The second wave has been the worst for all states but Florida 

While we don’t know how significant this third wave will be yet, it’s almost certain that it won’t be as bad as the 2nd for the country as a whole. While we’re experiencing the peak of the pandemic in the Florida right now, the country as a whole is only experiencing 75,000 new cases per day. In January, the United States averaged a peak of 255,000+ cases daily. The differences between the country today and 100 years ago are significant, however the pandemics do appear to be following a similar pattern, at least to this point. Should the pattern hold, we’d have one more wave next winter and about nine more months of the pandemic left. 

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