GOP Senator Fails Math, Says Coronavirus Is No Big Deal Since Only 3.4 Percent Of Americans Might Die

As millions of Americans participate in social distancing measures to limit the strain of hospitals and other healthcare professionals, it’s clear that some Republicans just don’t get the seriousness of the situation surrounding the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, across the country.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who was one of eight senators to vote against an emergency paid medical leave bill this week, said he didn’t understand why shutting down the economy was necessary since only 3.4 Americans, in his mind, could potentially die from the disease, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported him saying.

“Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population…probably far less,” Johnson, who is chairman of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said. “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.”

Johnson’s comparison is a bit off, however. According to recent statistics, about 38,800 people died on the roads last year. His numbers, 3.4 percent of the U.S. population, is about 11.2 million Americans.

The 3.4 percent statistic is based on an estimated rate from the World Health Organization of people who might die that contract the disease, not the total population that’s at risk of dying. But even giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt, using those numbers, his math is still way off

If 3.4 percent of the low-end estimate of 70 million Americans who might contract coronavirus die from it, that’s still 2.38 million Americans who would die — equivalent to 61 times the number of car deaths that occurred last year, or 546 times the number who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Even suggesting that the death count could be significantly lower — say, 0.5 percent of those who get infected — would result in higher numbers than Johnson is making his car-deaths comparison to. With that extremely optimistic estimate, of the 70 million who might get infected, 350,000 could still die — 9 times higher than the number of car deaths that happened in 2019.

That’s an extreme human cost that Johnson just smugly says is no big deal. Either the senator is really bad at math, or he has an empathy problem that renders him unable to care about the American people who could be put at risk from COVID-19.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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