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Fear is more contagious than the Wuhan Virus

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 58 people in the U.S. between ages 0-24 have died from COVID-19 as of May 6. As tragic as that is, for comparison, 250 people in the same age group have died this year from pneumonia and 126 from the flu, but our nation doesn’t close down those non-COVID cases. As I have been saying, fear is contagious:

This panic illustrates the real hazard with nCOV 19. The real hazard is fear induced panic, and the people demanding that the government (or the medical field) do something. It doesn’t matter if the something that is being done is actually effective- just that they are doing something. We see this all of the time, which is the reason why we have to suffer through the Kabuki Theater of security everywhere.

Over 92% of the people who have died in the US are over the age of 65, and more than half live in nursing homes. When I pointed this out over at Aesop’s place, he resorted to emotional argument:

What’s your point? Are older people expendable by fiat? Where is that principle in the Constitution, state law, or common law…? Should we also crash test cars with old people? Use them to clear minefields?

We can argue and quibble over things like infection rate and death rate, but the numbers aren’t there. Ignoring projections, which are as accurate as the ones declaring Hillary would be President, or that Hurricane Dorian was going to wipe out the state of Florida, the real numbers have been less than scary.

The entire US has had about 1.3 million confirmed cases and 82,200 deaths. A six percent fatality rate would be rough, but remember that the total confirmed cases is not a valid number.

New York metro area was hit the hardest with 490,000 cases and 36,000 deaths to date, which represent more than a third of all cases and nearly half of all Wuhan related deaths for the entire country. In fact, DNA sequencing of the virus has shown that New York was the source of most of the infections in the US.

During crucial weeks in March, New York’s political leaders waited to take aggressive action, even after identifying hundreds of cases, giving the virus a head start. And by mid-March, when President Trump restricted travel from Europe, the restrictions were essentially pointless, as the disease was already spreading widely within the country. Just as the restrictions are pointless now.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been, and remain, a staunch advocate for taking the Wuhan virus seriously. In that same discussion, I said:

If you want to debate whether or not shutting down the economy is a wise method of preventing the spread of the virus, that’s one thing, but denying the existence or deadly nature of it is pure bullshit.

It’s time to have that discussion. The facts are showing us a few things:

  1. New York caught the brunt of it, with other major cities seeing a lot of cases, but there appears to be some reasons for that related to population density.
  2. Nursing homes also appear to be a focus, probably because of the fragile population and the fact that they are so close to each other. 
  3. The younger a person is, the safer they are. 

No one should accept this lockdown as “the new normal.” Even New York City is not having many new cases lately. At its peak, the virus was claiming 800 lives a day in New York City alone, but the last few days show that the danger is receding. On Monday, the entire state of New York had 410 deaths. The data we have at this time simply doesn’t warrant maintaining a total lockdown. Of course, the pandemic is a fluid situation and things could change for better or worse in the coming months. Aesop, who is advocating an indefinite lockdown, has this to say:

Flattening the spread of COVID-19 using lockdowns allows health systems to cope with the disease, which then permits a resumption of economic activity. In this sense, there is no trade-off between saving lives and saving livelihoods. 

He is wrong, because there is, of course, a trade-off. The Wuhan virus has caused a lockdown of most of the countries that drive the world economy. The projection is for the world economy to recede by 3%, down from 6.3% annual growth. In other words, the global economy shrank ten percent from its pre-lockdown levels. This means a cumulative loss of over $9 trillion over the next two years.

It is easy for those in the health professions, those who are essential, and others who don’t need to work to sit there and demand that everyone else starve so they can continue to live in their homes in fear of getting a virus with a survival rate of at least 95%.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, said

The decision to reopen schools cannot be made based solely on trying to prevent transmission. I think we have to take a holistic view of the impact of school closures on kids and our families. I do worry at some point, the accumulated harms from the measures may exceed the harm to the kids from the virus.

The same goes for the rest of the country, not just the schools. We can’t let the cure be worse than the disease. If people don’t speak up and demand that the country reopen, that’s likely what will happen — regardless if a resurgence of the virus takes place or not. The stark reality is that the Wuhan virus may be with us indefinitely, just like the seasonal flu, and we must adapt to it rather than revamping the entire U.S. economy.

Perhaps the lockdown can be lifted, beginning with the sparsely populated counties and states. We could restrict access to nursing homes and hospitals, with screening of visitors. What the country should do is offer people a choice: For those who are afraid to be exposed, those people should stay home.

The rest of us need to get back to work.

Sound reasonable? If so, contact your local school officials today.

Note:

The problem with Aesop and his blog is that he has gotten a boner for every deadly disease outbreak for the better part of a decade. When Ebola came to the US in 2014, the guy was practically salivating at the thought of the disease killing thousands. He has this macabre fascination with disease that we see here in Florida with people who get excited every time a hurricane comes within a thousand miles of the state.

3 replies on “Fear is more contagious than the Wuhan Virus”

Thank you for your recent comments over at Aesop’s place. I have visited his site for years, but recently I’ve been stopping by just to see if he has climbed down from his high horse. I’m looking forward to scrolling through your posts.

Can you point me to the data you cite around deaths in nursing homes? I'm not arguing. I just couldn't find it on my own.

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