Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tried to downplay fears of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday by claiming “350 million” Americans had influenza this year alone.
During an interview with Fox News, McCaul said that shutting down the Capitol Building over virus fears would not be “the right message to the world” even though at least six lawmakers have quarantined themselves after they came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“I don’t think it’s time to panic,” he insisted. “The risk is still low. To put it in perspective, we had 350 million cases of the flu this year alone in the United States and somewhere between 20,000 to 50,000 deaths.”
“Not to say that this virus is not serious,” he added. “We take it very serious. It’s very contagious.”
According to the CDC, there are between 9 million and 45 million cases of influenza in the United States each year. Between 12,000 and 61,000 of those cases result in death.
The Census Bureau estimates the U.S. population in 2020 to be approximately 329 million people.