On Sunday, after mass, a friend asked me “What do you think, Thom? Is this coronavirus business real, or is it hype?”
I said, “yes.”
That earned me a funny look, (which one gets used to after a while).
Yes, 400 deaths in Italy in a couple of days is as real as it gets. Over 600 deaths in Iran is as real as it gets. Stories of apartment building doors in Wuhan, China being welded shut to isolate tenants sound pretty real to me.
People are getting sick — no question about that. How many? Depends on where you look, which leads us to the hype component.
A few years ago the World Health Organization got caught with its pants down by the ebola outbreak. WHO appears to be determined to be ahead of the curve this time. They’re making a lot of noise — hype — about the coronavirus, and what people should do. Epidemiologists are making a lot of noise, too.
Meanwhile, naysayers are talking about how common flu kills more people than the coronavirus. True — so far — in the United States. Not necessarily true anywhere else.
And, have you heard anything about Japan? Not much news coming from Vietnam, or Hong Kong either, near as I can tell. The lack of reportage from some places smacks of either virtually no cases, or a cover-up. I’m leaning toward cover-up, but you can draw your own conclusions.
The media are having a field day with this circus. They’ve finally found something that doesn’t say “Trump” on the front.
Now, the question I would pose is, would you rather have too much hype, too much caution? Or too little?
Reports I’ve read put the U.S. fatality rate from under 1% to about 4% of cases — cases, not total population. Another way to look at it is 96% of Americans who contract coronavirus will recover. Worst case scenarios I’ve seen project up to 150 million cases in the U.S. At a 4% mortality rate, that’s 6,000,000 dead. So, let’s say there’s little hype, little preparation or precaution, and the worst case plays out. There would be no shortage of toilet paper, and maybe six million dead bodies.
Or, the hype machine goes into overdrive. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper get scarce. People stay home in droves. And the epidemic is much less disastrous than expected. Would it be because of the hype? Because the virus wasn’t really all that bad? Would we ever know the answer?
Even if you are one of those people who believe they will never get sick, and the whole coronavirus is a hoax, humor the rest of us. Wash your hands often, including under long fingernails and rings. Take care, not just of yourself, but of your community.
The Quote: “A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” -Tom Stoppard