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R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic. USA TODAY

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This story has been updated with new numbers from Johns Hopkins University. 

I'm USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you'd like to get The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.

On Wednesday, more than 100,000 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus. The same day, 2,804 COVID-19 deaths were recorded, the most ever in one day. Still, many people think the virus is no worse than the flu. I wanted to understand why. 

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists case definition adopted Aug. 5."

And what about those who test positive, and then negative after, some asked. Are they counted?

"It's common for someone to test positive using a lab test. When the person gets retested (say a week or two later) and they test negative, it means they no longer have detectable levels of genetic material of the virus," Alltucker said. "It does not mean it was a fake case. They were positive, the virus shedded and detectable levels disappeared.

​"In such a scenario, it would still count as a case in the totals."

CLAIM: Most people who die of COVID-19 are older; younger people don't have to worry. "The real question to me isn’t why so many people take this seriously," wrote a 34-year-old man from New York, "it’s why anyone under the age of 60 is at all."

TRUTH: More than 50,000 people under the age of 64 have died from COVID-19 as of Dec. 2, according to the CDC.

"Older adults face greater risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19," Alltucker said. "However, others with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, obesity or diabetes also face higher risk of sickness or death.

"While death rates are much lower among young adults, research shows they are not without risk. A recent preprint study by Harvard and Yale researchers found COVID-19 has surpassed opioid overdoses as the leading cause of death of adults ages 25 to 44."

We also know that young people can have COVID-19 but not show symptoms. And they can pass the virus on to more vulnerable populations. 

CLAIM: Hospitals are inflating COVID-19 death numbers to get more money.

TRUTH: the extra 20% bump doesn’t compensate for the procedures rescheduled or cancelled due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are still losing money.

“I’ve filled out hundreds (of death certificates) in my career," Adalja said. "It’s insulting that people think we (misclassify death certificates), including the president who made that same comment.”

CLAIM: If you look at the number of COVID-19 deaths compared  with the U.S. population, it's a very small percentage, not enough to worry about. "There simply are not enough sick and dead people to impress much of the population," a Cleveland man wrote.

TRUTH: "While nearly 270,000 deaths may not seem like a lot compared to the 330 million people living in the United States, Adalja argues that it’s 270,000 more people who could still be alive if not for COVID-19," Rodriguez reported Wednesday. 

“The number of deaths that are occurring right now is an aberration. It’s not normal,” he said. “If this isn’t such a big deal then why are there follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free experience or electronic newspaper replica here. 

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