Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, set Fox News host Sean Hannity straight Tuesday night on the dangers the novel coronavirus outbreak presented to the United States, pointedly telling him that the virus is much more lethal than the seasonal flu.
Fauci, who earlier in the day starkly informed the public that “we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago,” appeared on Hannity to discuss what still needs to be done to mitigate the outbreak.
Hannity, who is sometimes referred to as the White House shadow chief of staff, spent the majority of the interview praising President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response and setting up Fauci to do the same.
After Fauci applauded Trump for banning travel with China early on in the outbreak, calling it the “right move,” Hannity—who has repeatedly downplayed the dangers of the virus—asked the doctor “one more very important question.”
“So the average age mortality for ‘corona’ is 80,” the Fox host said. “So this virus is impacting people with compromised immune systems, underlying other medical conditions are the most vulnerable. What about the other 99 percent? If people got the virus, worst-case scenario, how dangerous is it to them, compared maybe to the regular flu?”
Fauci responded that while 80 percent of those infected would get only mildly sick and quickly recover, roughly 15 percent “will get into trouble,” and the mortality rate in that group is “very high.”
“But Sean, to make sure your viewers get an accurate idea about what goes on, you mentioned seasonal flu,” he continued. “The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1 [percent]. The mortality for this is about two, two-and-a-half percent. It’s probably lower than that, it’s probably closer to one. But even if it’s one, it’s 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You gotta make sure that people understand that!”
Somewhat flustered, Hannity sputtered “no, no, no, no” before eventually asking Fauci if the task force has done everything possible to this point.
Last week, Hannity hosted Dr. Marc Siegel—a member of Fox News’ “Medical A-Team”—to claim that the “worst-case scenario” for the new coronavirus is that “it could be the flu.” This came days after Trump himself appeared on Hannity’s show and invented a coronavirus mortality rate based on his “hunch.”
Hannity has repeatedly contrasted the COVID-19 outbreak to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, criticizing the Obama administration’s response while noting that 12,000 Americans eventually died from the swine flu. H1N1, however, was an extremely prevalent form of the flu that infected one in five people worldwide during that pandemic and had a death rate of 0.02 percent.