Homeland security chief Chad Wolf suggested Tuesday the flu is as dangerous as coronavirus, even though China’s virus seems to be ten times as deadly.
In a budget hearing with the Senate’s appropriations committee, Wolf was asked by GOP Sen. John Kennedy about the death rate from coronavirus, and then about the seasonal flu:
Kennedy: What is the mortality rate so far?
Wolf: Worldwide, I believe it’s under two percent.
Kennedy: How much under two percent?
Wolf: I’ll get you an exact figure, I’ll check with CDC on their monitoring [of] the worldwide mortality rate and I will get that for you.
Kennedy: But you don’t know the mortality rate today?
Wolf: It changes daily senator
Kennedy: Well, I understand that. What’s the average since we discovered the virus?
Wolf: Again, it is under two percent. It was as high as three. Numbers were recalculated based on reporting.
Kennedy: Is it between one and a half and two [percent]??
Wolf: It’s between one and a half and two percent.
Kennedy: Okay, what’s the mortality rate for influenza over the last, say ten years in America?
Wolf: It’s also right around that percentage as well. I don’t have that offhand but it’s right around two percent as well.
Kennedy: You sure about that?
Wolf: It’s a little bit. Yes, sir.
The mortality rate from the flu os 0.1 percent, according to MedicineNet.com.
DHS Secretary Chad Wolf claims the mortality rate for coronavirus is similar to the flu, both at about 2%. Senator Kennedy says "are you sure of that?" and the secretary doubles down.
The mortality rate for seasonal flu is closer to 0.1%: pic.twitter.com/Fo6nfQrbni
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) February 25, 2020
Wolf’s performance got poor reviews in the media.
The Washington Post wrote:
Appearing in front of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Wolf was on the receiving end of a brutal line of questioning from Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.). Throughout the exchange, Wolf struggled to produce basic facts and projections about the disease. Perhaps most strikingly, the hearing came at a time of heightened fears about the disease, with the stock market plunging over new estimates about its spread into the United States. It’s a moment in which you’d expect such things to be top of mind for someone in Wolf’s position.
The Hill.com wrote:
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) slammed acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday for Wolf’s lack of answers during a tense grilling on the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Yes, sir, but you’re head of Homeland Security and your job is to keep us safe,” Kennedy shot back, often talking over Wolf. “Don’t you think you ought to check on that?”
Fox News reported:
Kennedy, at one point, asked him how long it would take for the U.S. to obtain a vaccine for the deadly virus. Wolf said “several months.” Kennedy said he just heard testimony to the contrary and proceeded to reference the famous comedy routine.
Toward the end of his remarks, Kennedy put it bluntly: “You’re supposed to keep us safe and the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus and I’m not getting them from you.”