COVID-19 and 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ have one depressing thing in common

The coronavirus of 2020 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 have many differences and share many similarities, but they also combine at one point: their impact on the economy and employment, and in particular, how richer people had better opportunities to survive their respective pandemics.

Both pandemics involve new, highly contagious, respiratory viruses, spread around the world in a matter of months, and as of August 2020, COVID-19 – like the 1918 flu – is missing a vaccine. In the pandemic of 1918, people wore masks and used social distance as much as possible instead, just like today.

Related: Another 1918 Spanish flu warning for COVID-19: ‘Survival does not mean people fully recover’

A new working paper released Monday looked at the effects of the 1918 and COVID-19 flu on mortality and the economy, plus the role of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as mask wear and social distance, and the impact on workers and socio-economic status.

Even though these two pandemics were 100 years apart, they had one depressing commonality, according to research conducted by economists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

During the 1918 flu pandemic, rich people had a better chance of survival: Individuals of moderate and higher economic status had a mortality rate of 0.38%, against 0.52% for those of lower economic status and 1% for those who “were very poor,” she wrote.

The economists – Brian Beach, Karen Clay, Martin Saavedra – said pandemics could exacerbate health disparities by disproportionately affecting groups more likely to suffer from risk factors such as underlying, chronic conditions, including diabetes, and other cardiovascular problems.

“Compared to persons living in one-room apartments, persons living in two-room, three-room and four-room apartments, respectively, had 34%, 41% and 56% lower mortality,” he added. se. Similarly, multi-generation households were more at risk of coronavirus by 2020.

Women were hit harder economically by both pandemics

Some 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, were infected with the Spanish flu of 1918. An estimated 50 million people died worldwide, with some 675,000 deaths occurring in the US, according to of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 has now killed at least 800,937 people worldwide, and 175,817 in the U.S., says Johns Hopkins University. As of Saturday, the US still has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world (5,645,697). Worldwide, there have been at least 23,026,230 confirmed cases, which for the most part do not account for asymptomatic cases.

There were some differences between the first and second waves in 1918. Using military, insurance and death description data, earlier research showed that Blacks had lower morbidity and mortality, but higher rate of death rates than whites in the second wave in 1919. .

“This finding is striking considering the evidence from other contexts that lower socio-economic groups were more affected by the pandemic,” she wrote. “It is possible that Blacks may have a greater exposure to the milder spring wave and thus some immunity to the more deadly second wave.”

Although it does not seem likely that the 1918 pandemic significantly affected gender equality, as a few married women joined the labor force in 1918, a man who lost his partner to the virus in 1918 would probably be less likely to be economically influenced as a widow.

In 2020, the International Labor Organization said women were likely to be hit harder economically. They are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and less likely to cover social security, “because they make up the vast majority of domestic, health and social care workers worldwide.”

The organization warned that women were disproportionately affected, ‘with almost 510 million women, or 40% of all working women, working in the sectors with the most job losses compared to 36.6% of men, which includes food and accommodation, retail and irrelevance . ”

The 2020 pandemic could have a shorter economic shock

Both pandemics caused an economic contraction, reducing both gross domestic product and employment. “Businesses and schools are closing temporarily in many places, although those shutdowns were less severe than what happened in the spring of 2020,” the economists said.

“Many studies disagree about the magnitude of the shrinkage and how long the effects lasted. Some suggest that the economy was restored when the pandemic was over, while others claim that the economy was restored in two to three years. “

However, the two pandemics are part of it. “With COVID-19, working-age adults are one of the most likely to survive,” Beach, Clay, and Saavedra wrote. “It is therefore unlikely that COVID-19 will generate a similarly large negative job outlook.”

As a separate investigation by Deutsche Bank DB,
said: “For COVID-19, the parents have been overwhelmingly the worst hit.” About eight in 10 deaths in the coronavirus U.S. were among those 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the 1918 pandemic is forever associated with Spain, this strain of H1N1 was previously discovered in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the US. But similar to the Communist Party’s response to the first cases of COVID-19 in China, World War I censorship was buried or underplayed those reports.

“It is essential to consider not only the deep links between the Great War and the influenza pandemic but at the same time as a successive crisis, but more deeply linked,” historian James Harris wrote in an article on the pandemic.

Coronavirus update:The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA,
+ 0.68%,
of the S&P 500 SPX,
+ 0.34%
and the Nasdaq Composite COMP,
+ 0.41%
some army freed. This week, the minutes of the Federal Reserve call on Congress for more pandemic assistance, underscoring the challenge to the country’s economic recovery as the world anxiously awaits a COVID-19 vaccine.

AstraZeneca AZN,
in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE BNTX,
+ 10.18%
and partner Pfizer PFE,
+ 0.41%
; GlaxoSmithKline GSK,
Johnson & Johnson JNJ,
+ 0.88%
; Merck & Co. NOTE,
; Modern MRNA,
; and Sanofi SAN,
are among those currently working on vaccines for COVID-19.