Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, how does this public health crisis compare to the 1918 flu pandemic?
It is difficult to make direct comparisons, mainly because data from 104 years ago are tainted at best. The 1918 pandemic, often referred to as “the Spanish flu” due to a mistaken belief that the pandemic began in Spain, claimed hundreds of lives in Lancaster County.
The daily death toll from Lancaster Intelligence for the flu in 1918 totals 603 – which includes everyone from Lancaster County who died of the flu, no matter where they died. Considering that the county’s population at that time was probably close to the 1920 census of 173,797, this means that about 0.034 percent of the county’s population died of the virus.
As of February 28, 2022, COVID-19 killed 1,636 people in Lancaster County. (For perspective, this is about the population of Adamstown.) The county’s population at the 2020 census was 552,984, so about 0.029 percent of Lancaster County’s residents died of the virus.
In short, the data show that although the current pandemic has not yet reached the level of the 1918 flu in terms of lost lives in Lancaster County, it is not far behind.