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CNN  — 

As the United States nears 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, a majority of Republicans still don’t grasp this basic fact about the disease: it is considerably more deadly than the flu.

Just 40% of self-identified GOPers in newly released Gallup data said that the coronavirus’ mortality rate was higher than that of seasonal flu, which kills roughly 1 out of every 1,000 people who get it. That number is largely unchanged from a mid-March Gallup survey that showed 42% of Republicans believing that coronavirus is deadlier than the flu.

Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the 9 in 10 Democrats who told Gallup that coronavirus is killing more Americans than the flu and the two-thirds of independents who said the same.

It’s also in stark contrast to the known facts regarding coronavirus’ mortality rate.

Because Covid-19 is a new virus to humans, it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific mortality rate. (We still don’t know how many people had it without even realizing it, how many people died from it but those deaths were ascribed to other causes, etc.)

At the moment, the mortality rate for coronavirus in the US is around 6%, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins. But as The Washington Post notes:

“The crude case fatality rates, covering people who have a Covid-19 diagnosis, have been about 6 percent globally as well as in the United States. But when all the serological data is compiled and analyzed, the fatality rate among people who have been infected could be less than 1 percent.”

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument that the mortality rate for Covid-19 winds up at one of the lowest scientific estimates available right now: .6%. That would still mean that it is SIX times more deadly than the seasonal flu. And that is something very close to the best case for mortality rates from coronavirus.

So, why do so many Republicans simply not buy it?

Here’s Gallup’s Zacc Ritter:

“Beyond partisan affiliation and political ideology, news diet is a powerful predictor of how Americans view the lethality of the coronavirus. For example, the likelihood that a hypothetical politically moderate independent with a conservative news diet would incorrectly answer this question increased four percentage points between mid-March to mid-April, compared with decreases of seven points for the same individual with a mixed news diet and 19 points with a liberal news diet.”

Put more simply: Republicans’ “news diet” – which we know, for a majority of them, is Fox News – is feeding them misinformation about the virus. While the likes of Chris Wallace, Neil Cavuto and Bret Baier have attempted to provide facts about Covid-19 to viewers, many of the network’s prime-time hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have sought to portray the virus as an overblown media creation that is nothing worse than the common flu.

(Sidebar: President Donald Trump played a part in all of this flu framing as well, insisting early on in the pandemic’s surge in the US that it was no worse than the flu. “This is a flu. This is like a flu,” Trump said at a coronavirus press briefing in late February. “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.” )

That rhetoric from the President and his Fox News allies has had a clear impact well beyond the fact that a majority of Republicans don’t believe that coronavirus is more deadly than the flu. It’s led to the politicization of mask-wearing, a demonstrably effective way to limit the spread of the disease. It’s created a rush among many states to reopen despite the fact that very few have met the federal guidelines to do so. And most of all, it’s undoubtedly led to people getting sick – due to their skepticism about established facts on the virus – who simply did not need to.

What the Gallup numbers affirm is that facts are under assault in this country. And in a situation like this global pandemic has created, ignorance of facts (or ignoring them) can get people killed.