Back to Fort Fairfield Journal      WFFJ-TV      Contact Us


Ignored by Media:  Maine Seasonal Flu Numbers Dwarf COVID-19 


Seasonal Flu: 10,206 Cases   COVID-19: 1,405 Cases

Maine CDC confirmed cases as of May 14, 2020

By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, May 20, 2020


   The 2019-20 flu season was supposed to be the worst in recent history.  Just after New Year’s Day, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases told CNN that this year’s flu season was on track to be as severe as the 2017-18 season, which was the deadliest in at least a decade, claiming 80,000 deaths.  “The initial indicators indicate this is not going to be a good season - this is going to be a bad season,” Fauci told CNN.

  These predictions were based on the common seasonal flu - not the novel  COVID-19 coronavirus, which was only a dim blip on the health radar when Fauci gave this prediction.

   In a February 21, 2020 US News & World Report story, Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. said, “There is a deadly respiratory virus that is circulating throughout the United States, and it’s at its peak.  It is not novel coronavirus.”

   “This has been an extended season, and we’ve certainly been seeing a lot of hospitalizations and bad outcomes from it,” Tosh said of this year’s seasonal flu outbreak in mid-February.  “We will likely continue to see high influenza activity for several weeks.  We are probably at its peak right now.  I sure hope it doesn’t get much worse.”

   At the time Tosh made his statements, only 26 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in the U.S. and none had died.  He was referring to the current strains of common seasonal flu that were burning their way through the U.S. at the time.

   “If they have a fever and respiratory illness, they should assume this is influenza unless they’ve had recent travel to China,” Tosh said.  “Although most people are going to be concerned about the novel coronavirus, the respiratory virus that’s going to cause the most damage in the United States continues to be influenza.”

  In a report on Outbreak Observatory, composed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security on January 9, 2020, Elena Martin reported, “Between October 1 to December 28, 2019, the US CDC estimates there were at least 6.4 million people sick with the flu, resulting in approximately 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths.  Additionally, 45 states and Puerto Rico are reporting widespread influenza activity, meaning at least half of the regions in each state are reporting increases in influenza-like-illnesses (ILI) or outbreaks of seasonal influenza compared to previous epidemiological weeks.”

     Martin noted, “According to the CDC, this flu season started earlier than any in the past 15 years.  The US CDC announced on December 6 that the 2019-20 flu season officially started, based on surveillance data from Week 48 (ending November 30)...The early start of this year’s flu season has been accompanied by a viral strain unanticipated at this time of the year.  In typical flu seasons, influenza A strains dominate in the early and middle months, and influenza B strains tend to emerge toward the end of the season.  The 2019-20 flu season, however appears to be exhibiting the opposite trend, with the influenza B Victoria strain driving early transmission.”

   Dr. Bernard Camins, medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City told U.S. News & World Report on March 13 that for the current seasonal flu vaccine, “the influenza B part of the vaccine is a 60% match to the circulating strain.  That might explain why that flu strain got such an early toehold.”

   The Maine CDC reports as of May 9, 2020 the active strains of seasonal flu in Maine are:


- Influenza A (pH1N1)

- Influenza A (H3N2)

- Influenza A (unsubtyped)

- Influenza B (Victoria)

- Influenza B (Yamagata)

- Influenza B (no lineage)

- Influenza (untyped)


   Like COVID-19, the seasonal flu strains also belong to a family of viruses called coronavirus.  In Maine, as of May 9, 2020 there were a total of 10,206 positive PCR and rapid antigen tests for seasonal flu strains, compared to only 1,405 confirmed positive tests for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus - or nearly eight times more seasonal flu cases than COVID-19.  

   This key contextual data was lost on the mainstream television and newspaper media as COVID-19 was claiming a hysterical level of attention by those groups over that period.

   A PCR test, which is what Maine is using to confirm COVID-19 cases, is less accurate than an antigen/antibody test, often times yielding false positives and false negatives.  PCR tests also do not identify those who have had the virus, then recovered, the way an antigen/antibody test does; it only identifies who likely has it at the time of the test.  Because of this skewing of the numbers, the rate of infection will not be accurate, thus creating an artificially skewed Case Fatality Rate until more numbers, and of greater accuracy, come in.

   The current Case Fatality Rate for COVID-19 in Maine, using the PCR method, as of May 13 stands at around 0.10% - just shy of seasonal flu’s fatality rate of 0.13%.  Other states, that now use the more accurate antigen/antibody test, are showing Case Fatality Rates between 0.12 - 0.26% but some of their individual counties are as low as 0.06%. Overall, the  CFR is higher than regular flu, but nowhere near the 4% - 5% fatality numbers the mainstream media projected from errant computer models early in the disease’s outset.

   What is intriguing about Maine’s flu numbers for this year’s season, however, is that at 10,206 they are lower for Week 19 (May 9, 2020) than they were for Week 19 of last year (May 11, 2019), which totaled 10,256.  Given the fact that all of the experts were predicting this year’s regular flu season was going to be one of the worst in recent years it is certainly curious why Maine was experiencing 50 less total cases than they did during the same period as last flu season.  Last year’s Week 19 logged  54 new cases of flu.  Meanwhile, this year’s Week 19 only logged 1.  Last year, the flu season peaked with around 500 - 650 new cases per week in and around the first week of February; in this year’s flu season, the peak new flu cases was around 1,000 per week from the last week of January through mid-February.

   So, the experts were correct, with nearly double the case numbers in Maine during its peak this year’s was a much harsher and busier regular flu season than last year’s; that is, up until the COVID-19 media scare kicked in.  At that point, the new case numbers for regular flu dropped dramatically as people began staying home from hospitals and suffering their flu in private, not being tested at the hospital and having that data sent in to the Maine CDC, irreparably skewing the 2019-20 flu season data perhaps forever.

   Another intriguing fact about the Maine flu numbers is this year’s regular flu hospitalizations totaled only 517 through May 9 while last year’s flu season - which wasn’t as bad as this year’s was supposed to be - saw 1,085 hospitalized at the same point in the season.  This discrepancy is likely due to hospitals, not yet fully sure how much COVID-19 was going to impact them with new cases, decided to not hospitalize as many people for regular flu as they ordinarily would have and sent more people home than usual.  Also, last year saw around 70 to 80 people hospitalized for regular flu in the last week of March, while this year’s last few days of March that number went to zero - coinciding with the statewide shutdown and stay-at-home orders, again artificially skewing the seasonal flu numbers for 2019-20.

   Last year’s flu season in Maine tapered out around mid- to end of May, 2019.  This year, the numbers of new flu cases hit zero six weeks earlier, around the end of March - again, coinciding with the statewide shutdown.

   This writer also reviewed the current year’s seasonal flu data from the CDC at Wisconsin, New York and North Carolina, along with Maine’s to provide context in the numbers.  In all of those states’ charts, the seasonal flu numbers curiously bottomed out to near zero on the middle to final week of March, just as the novel COVID-19 coronavirus was gaining 24/7 mainstream media coverage in the U.S.  There are two possible explanations for this trend; 1.) hospitals readjusting their outpatient protocols and people choosing to stay home away from hospitals caused the number of hospital-reported cases of seasonal flu to drop as precipitously as it did; or 2.) the active seasonal flu strains could have been counted in with the COVID-19 numbers.

   It is likely a combination of both explanations; the former showing why the premature drop in reported seasonal flu cases; the latter reinforcing the predictions from the first of the year that this was going to be essentially a “super storm” of seasonal flu this year with those seasonal flu bugs being errantly reported as COVID-19 due to PCR tests that aren’t always that accurate.

   In reviewing hospitalization data from the Maine CDC for this year’s seasonal flu and comparing it with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, the two seem to be on par with each other, with the COVID-19 numbers picking up where seasonal flu numbers dropped off, coincidentally right as the mainstream television and newsprint media begin their exhaustive COVID-19 coverage (see Chart 1).

   The Maine CDC also shows a similar trend in its Total New Case Number data, with weekly positive seasonal flu reports dropping off and COVID-19’s weekly positive reports picking up right around the same time as the mainstream media began its exhaustive coverage of the novel coronavirus (see Chart 2).

   The state of New York saw similar curious trends as well, with the seasonal flu numbers dropping precipitously as COVID-19 numbers took over.  As of April 11, 2020 the New York CDC issued a public statement on their website which stated, “For the past five weeks, the reported number of lab-confirmed influenza cases and hospitalizations have steadily declined.  With only sporadic cases being reported statewide and overall influenza activity remaining low, effective immediately, the New York State Department of Health will discontinue influenza surveillance reporting for the 2019-20 season.  Data for the 2020-21 influenza season will resume in mid-October.”

   This is certainly curious timing for a regular seasonal flu that was predicted by all in charge of monitoring it to be one of the most extensive and devastating regular flu seasons yet.  As the regular seasonal flu season numbers prematurely fizzled out six weeks earlier than normal, the mainstream media-hyped COVID-19 numbers filled in the gap right on cue and kept pace in the charts where the seasonal flu numbers ordinarily would have continued to track.