Pandemic of Virus or Pandemic of Fear
Why are we reacting like the sky is falling? Why are governments reacting so violently to this Coronavirus? Is this pandemic fact based or fear based? Is it hype or reality? It’s all a matter of perspective.
Early on in the history of this Coronavirus (COVID-19) (SARS-CoV-2) or “THE VIRUS” each mass media player presented some facts and then hyped the stories into warp speed to ensure they got to the audience before their competitors. Then as more information and data came out, scientists began publishing experiences and reports. Then statistics from China and Italy were tallied and compared and with death tolls rising, the “Pandemic” came to life. March madness, without the basketball.
The entire world is now in a frenzy. Ok, there is no doubt the virus spread fast, but not as fast as the media coverage. Now the world is in a panic. Whoa, lets slow down, review what we know and compare to some numbers of the influenza outbreak that we experience every year.
This paper pulls together facts from public and published sources and organized in a way to make things a bit easier to understand.
The United States president and other world leaders are taking unprecedented actions and creating massive economic and societal stress based on estimated death tolls and actions outlined in Imperial College COVID-Response Team, 16 Mar 2010 report, “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand”.
Now that we are getting more real numbers, we need to re-look at death toll numbers attributed to “The Virus” and compare them to the flu. Based on the numbers and looking at death rates by population versus death rate of only those symptomatically identified as having the virus, the projected death toll in the U.S. drops from the estimated 2.2.million indicated in the study to a more manageable 109,230.
Yes there will be higher death tolls, possibly 2-3 times higher than other flu seasons, but is the “Treatment” worse than the Disease? Are the consequences of the current actions of isolation, social distancing and shutting down the U.S. economy worth a potential loss of some lives?
We have put the lives of our military on the line many times and lost more lives to protect our economy and freedom. Should we not consider this a war that the world wages to protect the future of our global economy and global society?
These are the questions our President, our politicians and our country must make now before it’s too late. “The only thing we have to Fear…Is Fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt
I have likened some of the current situation to the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” skit, not to make light of the issues, but to lighten our spirits as we contemplate our future.
Coronavirus – What is it?
Coronavirus is a general term for viruses that have a lot of points sticking out with knobs on top that resemble the top of a king’s crown. It is not the specific virus affecting us today. The strain of the virus is SARS-CoV-2 “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2”, named by some international committee that makes up names for viruses, or COVID-19, meaning the Coronavirus Disease discovered in 2019 named by WHO, (No not the WHO from the Abbott and Costello skit “WHOs on first and WHATs on second…”), the World Health Organization.
Not only is this a Coronavirus, but it is a novel Coronavirus (No not because they’ll be writing books on this forever), but because it a new type of coronavirus that humans have never encountered in the past. Why is this important? Because scientists say the human being has no specific antibodies from past exposures to fight off this virus. Therefore, this virus can spread faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100m dash. All the body has to combat this virus is its normal, powerful immune system which defeats most illnesses AND cancers throughout a person’s life.
How fast and strong is the Coronavirus?
OK, we know it moves fast, it got around the world in about 80 days (hey I think Phileas Fogg and Passepartou did that in a hot air balloon) and is continuing to infect more and more people every day. Well how did it travel so far and infect so many so fast? Well, most people that have “The Virus” don’t even know they have it. Why?
“The explosion of COVID-19 cases in China was largely driven by individuals with mild, limited, or no symptoms who went undetected,” says co-author Jeffrey Shaman, Ph.D., professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School.
In fact, in most people (80% or so) it will be defeated by their natural immune system and if they get physically ill it appears a lot like a cold or the “normal” flu, so they treat it like the flu and move on with their lives and pass it on to other people. Also, people may have “The Virus” from 1-14 days before showing any symptoms, if they show any signs at all.
There is, however, a difference in who is more likely to get seriously ill or have a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. While 80% of people will have mild (or even no) symptoms, it’s thought that about 20% will get seriously or even critically ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high-risk groups include older adults along with people who have serious chronic medical conditions.
Now some people’s (20% or so) immune system is not too strong and they will get further complications like pneumonia and possibly more severe respiratory problems that put them in the hospital. Even so, most of these will recover, but some will die (maybe as low as around 1% – more than 3%, the jury is still out as to the real mortality rate). So now we know why it’s fast and can be strong.
What are the numbers?
Well even though scientists and statisticians use numbers to support their positions, sometimes the numbers are fuzzy, SWAGS (Scientific Wild Ass Guesses), or just not really known. There can be wide ranges of estimates of the numbers of people that get the flu or might get “The Virus”, but here are some those numbers.
The CDC estimates 3%-20% of the United States population gets the flu every year.
The commonly cited 5% to 20% estimate was based on a study that examined both symptomatic and asymptomatic influenza illness, which means it also looked at people who may have had the flu but never knew it because they didn’t have any symptoms. The 3% to 11% range is an estimate of the proportion of people who have symptomatic flu illness. (Source: CDC Website)
The numbers for “The Virus” are more like WAGS (Wild Ass Guesses) since there is not enough solid data to even scientifically guess how many people have or will have “The Virus”. (These numbers are like Abbott and Costello’s “I Don’t Know” is on third base)
Why? (“WHY” is the player in left field and some of the numbers you see in the media and reports are also from left field) Remember many if not most of the people with “The Virus” won’t show any signs or will think they have a cold or the normal flu and never go to a doctor. That stated you might hear that anywhere from 20%-80% of the population will get “The Virus”.
Now let’s talk about mortality rate. So, the CDC has lots of numbers and data for the mortality rate for the flu. Each year from 2010 – 2019 the number of deaths in the U.S. range from around 12,000 to over 60,000 with illness numbers ranging from 9.3 million to 45 million. See diagram below from the CDC’s website.
The higher numbers come from the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 where the CDC estimated 60.8 million symptomatic cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), with around 12,469 deaths in the U.S. (range: 8868-18,306) and between 151,700 – 575,400 deaths from flu/pneumonia worldwide. The greatest number of deaths between 2010 and 2019 was in the flu season of 2017-2018 where the CDC estimated about 45 million symptomatic illnesses and around 61,000 deaths due to flu/pneumonia. The overall U.S. population in 2010 was approx. 306 million and in 2020 approx. 330 million.
The approximate death rate due to flu/pneumonia ranges from 0.0038% to 0.019% when compared to the total U.S. population.
Now let’s look at the numbers for “The Virus”. In the Imperial College COVID-Response Team, 16 Mar 2010 report, “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand” the study predicts 81% of the U.S. (and Great Britain(GB)) population will be infected during this pandemic. They also predict the death rate in the U.S. to be 2.2 million (510,000 in GB) if nothing is done to slow the rate of infection across the populations.
Unmitigated epidemic scenarios for GB and the US. Projected deaths per day per 100,000 population in GB and US.
Why are the U.S. and State Governments shutting down schools and businesses?
The death rate in the report is predicted to be extremely high and will be compounded by the hospitalization numbers being 30 times higher than the critical care bed capacity in the nations. To reduce the number of deaths, the study recommends several courses of action to reduce the spike in hospitalizations the demand for critical care beds.
The U.S. and State governments are implementing the actions recommended in the report to include: Closure of schools and universities, Isolating anyone that shows signs of “The Virus”, Household Quarantine and Social Distancing, as well as combinations of those actions. The results of the different actions are predicted to flatten the curves as indicated in the diagram below.
As indicated in the Figure 2 above, the more severe the restrictive actions, the flatter the curve. That stated, the red line at the bottom of the figure shows the surge critical care bed capacity. Every scenario indicates demand far exceeds the capacity and that by implementing the most restrictive recommended actions, the impact of “The Virus” on society and the economy extends until February 2021. As indicated in the report, “Since the aim of mitigation is to minimise mortality, the interventions need to remain in place for as much of the epidemic period as possible.” The report does state, keeping the most restrictive actions in place for the extended timeframe is unlikely since it means locking down businesses, schools and the population for over 11 months.
The Study estimates versus reality?
- Let’s look as a few more numbers before we make decisions.
Based on the actual numbers being reported, the death toll in Wuhan, the initial epicenter of “The Virus”, per NBC News reporter Elizabeth Chuck in the article “Wuhan study offers new insight into fatality rate of Coronovirus” published 19 March 2020, the total rate of the people symptomatically identified as infected is 1.4%. That stated, the death rate compared to the population of Wuhan is currently is only around 0.0099% (2169 deaths/22 million population).
Now let’s look at Italy. As of 19 March 2020, there are 3405 death attributed to “The Virus” which when compared to the population of Italy, the death rate is 0.0056% (3405 deaths/60.55 million population). Yes, there will be more deaths, so let’s bump the number of deaths to 20,000. At 20,000 deaths the death rate compared to Italy’s population would be 0.033% (20,000 deaths/60.55 million population).
Now let’s compare that to the death rate from the Imperial College COVID-Response Team, 16 Mar 2010 report. The study estimated 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. That would mean the death rate is 0.66% (2.2 million deaths/331 million population), which is 20 times greater than the exaggerated death toll of 20,000 deaths in Italy. If we apply the .033% to estimate to the U.S., the fatality toll will be 109,230 deaths which is magnitudes less than the study’s estimate of 2.2 million.
Is the “Treatment” worse than the disease?
If the death toll rate of deaths compared to the population of Wuhan and Italy are correct, the impact on the U.S. will be orders of magnitude less than the death toll projected in the “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand” report, 109,203 deaths compared to 2.2 million. This is a huge difference on society and would make the years 2020 a terrible year for flu and virus related deaths, but it is nowhere near the loss of over 2 million people in the United States.
Now I ask, are the governments of the United States and the world, overreacting to the perceived threat of “The Virus”? Is it worth putting the entire world’s economies into the worst global recession or depress in the history of mankind? Do we risk potential violence, turmoil and rioting that could erupt as the dis-ease of modern society grows to a boiling point.
Maybe we should reconsider the current direction now and re-examine the foundation of the decisions being made namely, the death toll projected in the Imperial College COVID-Response Team, 16 Mar 2010 report. We have already rocked the core of our economic system, but we can reverse course before it’s too late.
“The only thing we have to Fear…Is Fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt
Let’s put GIVE A DAMN at short stop, and ask our left fielder WHY and not just accept the answer from our Center fielder BECAUSE, in order to enable our catcher TODAY to throw the ball back to our pitcher TOMORROW so he can throw the curve ball to win the World Series.