I spend a large amount of time reading about coronavirus and the reactions to it. On the available data, so much doesn’t make sense, but I have theories.
The question I’m hearing more often from neighbors, Facebook friends, email messages, etc., is why we’re going more crazy about coronavirus than we did about AIDS (when we knew very little about it), MERS, SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu/H1N1, the ordinary flu (30,000-70,000 deaths annually), and MRSA, just to name a few?
In no particular order, here are a few theories:
1. We really have flattened the curve. The data from just last week is already irrelevant, so comparing the two sets of data (then versus now) is an apples vs. oranges exercise that only causes confusion. Incidentally, that’s what the epidemiologist who predicted 2,000,000 American deaths says: Predictions are lower now because we’ve changed our behavior.
2. Just as with climate change, all these predictions are based upon computer modeling which is subject to the usual Garbage In, Garbage Out principle. We won’t know until after the fact which models were accurate, but everyone wants to be cautious about the disease’s rapid spread and high mortality rate, so they’re erring on the side of hysterical caution.
3. Socialized medicine is awful. Even in the good times, it operates by rationing care, so the slightest uptick in demand puts unbearable strain on it. Also, since it has top-down management, with the “top” being politicians, it cannot react in real-time to changes on the ground.
4. China suddenly panicked, which excited the world’s lizard brains. If China was panicking, then we all should panic.
5. Each political leader is terrified of being the one who didn’t take it seriously. Starting last week, every political leader thought to him- or herself, “If just one person dies from coronavirus on my watch, I’m going to be lynched if I can’t prove that I took every precaution, no matter how extreme.”
6. Nobody trusts the data out of China. Even the mainstream media types who are credulously reporting that China has no new cases must know, someone deep inside, that this is a lie. The coronavirus is still spreading in China and, quite possibly, people are still dying.
There’s also no way to correct this misinformation. Now that China has touted its miraculous response, it can no longer cop to any actual data about the virus. This means we’re flying blind about the bell curve in the most populous nation on earth and, moreover, the one in which the virus began.
7. Innumeracy is the order of the day for the media. Many don’t seem to understand that the mortality rate drops as more people are diagnosed but don’t die. They don’t seem to understand that the US having the most diagnosed cases isn’t because we’re the worst place for the virus but because we’ve just tested the most people. They don’t understand that population size matters in terms of testing and in terms of mortality rates.
Finally, they don’t understand that it matters if most of the people dying were on the verge of death anyway. I don’t mean that in a cruel way. I mean that in the sense of my experience with my mother. Mom survived three bouts of pneumonia in the last year of her life. We assumed there would be a fourth, fatal bout, but it was her congestive heart failure that finally got her. What really killed her at that point was old age.
8. This is the only time in my life history that the media has reported every single hospital death anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that death is both normal and inevitable despite the fact that, in the modern world, we’ve managed to stave it off until late in life, not to mention hiding deaths away in the hospital. The reality is that a ton of people die every die around the world and here in America.
According to the world death clock, 56,000,000 people die every year around the world. That’s about 4,666,666 per month. That means that, in an average year, we should expect 13,999,998 deaths around the world by the end of March. Can you imagine if the media reported every death in breathless tones, along with buckets of blame?
The same holds true for numbers in America. In 2017, the last year the CDC has deaths and mortality data, 2,813,503 Americans died. That means that Americans died at a rate of about 234,458 people per month. Over the course of two months, because American coronavirus deaths started in February, we would expect 468,916 people to die (although there would probably be more in the first three months of the year than, say, in summer, because of flu season).
Again, as with the deaths around the world, can you imagine if the media made it a regular practice to announce every day how many people had died? And then told sad stories? And then blamed someone?
9. To date, and here I’m more than willing to be corrected, the number of coronavirus deaths abroad and at home is not in the “epic proportions” category. According to the world death clock, at the end of the day on March 27, a total of 13,382,500 people have died around the world, which is right where one would expect the number to be in any event. Of that 13,382,500, as of now, 25,035 – or 0.2% — died from coronavirus. I’m not the greatest math literate myself, but I don’t think 0.2% is an Armageddon-like plague.
Much the same analysis holds true for America. As of this writing, 1,701 Americans have died. That means that 0.36% of American deaths in February and March were from coronavirus. Again, I’m not seeing the Black Death here.
By the way, please be assured that I don’t mean to discount any individual death. If a grandparent, parent, or child could have lived even a week more, that would have been a blessing. I’m just saying that, statistically, we’re not seeing a mass die-off here.
10. The American media want to hurt Donald Trump. It is therefore in the media’s interest to make this experience as bad as it can possibly be. No matter what Trump does, he’s lambasted for having done the wrong thing or, if he did the correct thing, for having the wrong motives. Given how terribly wrong he is, every death is his fault and every penny’s damage to the economy is his fault too.
11. Some people are going to figure out that capitalism and the free market work better than communism. Others, despite having the evidence thrust hard into the faces, will still refuse to recognize that fact.
None of what I wrote above is meant to discount the virus. I believe that coronavirus is very contagious and moves quickly through a community, putting tremendous pressure on the medical infrastructure. I believe that it kills cruelly, causing people to drown in their own lungs, a sensation similar to dying from pneumonia or congestive heart failure. I wouldn’t wish that death on anyone.
However, I can’t get past the fact that people will always die. We’re all headed down the same road and something is eventually going to get all of us.
I also believe that science will win. We will figure out a treatment. It won’t be perfect but it will be good enough to resume normal life without the excessive paranoia that’s driving everything into the ditch.
I also believe that this treatment will come down the pike very quickly. I don’t know if Easter will be the precise date, but I think it’s a good guesstimate.
A few other things I believe:
America will emerge from this still strong, for the market needed a correction.
America will become more self-sufficient, which is a good thing. We never should have farmed out so much of our manufacturing, especially drugs and technology, to the Chinese.
China will be weakened around the world. This is a good thing too because it’s always bad when a totalitarian country has too much global reach.
A lot of people will back away from woke craziness. There’s nothing like a brush with mortality, even an imaginary brush with mortality, to help give perspective. If you go to the hospital thinking you have coronavirus, no one is interested in your pronouns.
Trump will look good. Biden will not.
The Dems will try to push Andrew Cuomo as the candidate. Whether they’ll be successful remains to be seen. I think Bernie would resent it greatly, as would his supporters.