Your Monday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering a murder investigation in South Korea surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, the aftermath of sectarian violence in New Delhi and the state of the U.S. presidential race.

Last week, President Trump tried to calm public fears by likening the coronavirus to the flu. But that comparison may not be a happy one.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I’m being too alarmist or whether I’m being not alarmist enough,” Donald G. McNeil Jr., a veteran science and health reporter for The Times, told The Daily podcast on Wednesday. “And this is alarmist, but I think right now, it’s justified. This one reminds me of what I have read about the 1918 Spanish influenza.”

The 1918 flu was a very big deal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one-third of the world’s population became infected in 1918 and 1919, causing at least 50 million deaths worldwide. Early indicators are that the coronavirus mortality rate is similar to the 1918 flu, roughly 2 percent.

“The annual flu, in a bad year, has a death rate of around 0.1 percent,” Donald said. “So we’re talking about 20 times as bad.”

“You know, I take some comfort in the fact that 80 percent of the people have a mild disease,” he added, “and that might be me and everybody I love, too. We might all get lucky. But not everybody we know is going to get lucky if this turns into something like 1918.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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