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Stop the Coronavirus? But at what cost?

There appear to be three camps when it comes to the coronavirus.  Camp 1 is alert and attentive to what is transpiring, but skeptical about statements and forecasts regarding it; Camp 2 is alert and verging on panic, ready to believe all statements and quick to equate predictions as historical facts; Camp 3 is alert and attentive to any opportunity to pin the whole thing on Trump, and seizes each and everyone of those opportunities.

As to Camp 3, recent history has exposed them as mentally and morally compromised, and we have nothing to say to them.   There will be plenty of legitimate things to look at for improvement, some of them concerning Trump’s response, but listen to nothing out of Camp 3.  They don’t have your interests in mind.  They are just partisans.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you know that I am in Camp 1 and that I am super critical of the people in Camp 2.  I wish to point out that I have been complaining about Camp 2 for years, now.  This post, “Don’t be a Tool, you Child” was written in 2017, and has been prominently featured to the right of the main page ever since.  I suggest you read it, as it remains ever applicable, which is to our collective shame.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t recognize that the coronavirus poses a threat.  But since I am not a child, have an attention span greater than a goldfish’s, get my information from (generally) well thought out and researched treatises (in the old days, we call these ‘books’) rather than 100 character tweets–oh, and I live a meaningful life quite apart from the exhilaration of joining in whatever the latest national outrage is–I have questions.

Let’s go over some of those questions.

In a previous post, I compared the Wuhan Virus (COVID-19, ‘the’ coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV-2) with the standard ‘flu.’  You know, the one that has already killed TWENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE in the US ALONE, so far THIS YEAR?

I am not the only one to make this observation by any means.  There are many in Camp 1, you know.  Nonetheless, Camp 2 has risen up like an army to resist the comparison… cuz, I don’t know, 20,000 people dead is meaningless to them?  Some projected 50,000,000 infected (this year alone in the US!) is irrelevant?

Camp 1 asks, “If we’re going to put whole countries into lockdown for 500+ dead (Italy?), why aren’t we doing the same for 20,000 people dead, here?”

Dr. Fauci, the guy who is running this show at the Federal level was asked this question and gave this answer:

“Despite the morbidity and mortality with influenza, there’s a certainty … of seasonal flu”

LOL, this doesn’t answer the question, does it?  In other words, we KNOW that there are going to be tens of thousands of people who die from the flu, so wouldn’t it ACTUALLY follow that we KNOW we’re going to have to quarantine whole towns, call up the national guard, etc, etc, etc?

I can appreciate his point that there are a lot of unknowns.  This does not change the fact that reasonable persons, and a society of reasonable persons, should keep things in perspective and in proportion.  Bottom line, if you do NOT think we should already have been locking down our country for the flu, but you DO think we should do so for the coronavirus, I can only conclude that you are a malevolent monster who is quick to dismiss the deaths of tens of thousands of your fellow Americans, each year.

Ok, maybe not a malevolent monster.  Actually, the problem with the people in Camp 2 is they are not malevolent.  They are so benevolent that they lose the ability to use their brains, but, being confident of their own goodness and sincerity, are ready to inflict every measure on their fellow man “for the greater good.”  Whether or not doing so is reasonable is quite besides the point for them.

Nonetheless, it remains the case, that we know with CERTAINTY that tens of thousands of people are going to die each year, and yet there is NO corresponding national hyperventilating.

Why is that?

I used the flu in the previous post, and, as things usually go, the Camp 2 people come up with some reason to dismiss it.  But I was just making a particular point.  I could have made that point and other points by bringing up other diseases.  Camp 1 has been doing this, too.  Camp 2 cannot tolerate being distracted from panicky calls for the government to throw everyone into their homes, so these are not given any weight.

Why is that?

For example, I made the point in a previous post that there are actually plenty of coronaviruses on record.  Sure, this is a novel one, but there have been novel ones before.  In one of the early names of COVID-19, we get a clue: SARS-CoV-2.  By SARS, yes, they mean that SARS.

SARS 2003.

A friend was quick to diminish the deaths of 20,000 people due to the flu by hastily pointing out that COVID-19 had a case fatality rate of about 4.5.  Well, SARS had a CFR of 11 and killed about 800 people.  Clearly, CFR doesn’t tell the whole story.  A novel disease that only infects 1 person and kills that 1 person, will have a CFR of 100.  That may certainly be of interest, no doubt.  But the flu only has a CFR of 0.1, depending on the year.  WHAT?  ONLY .1!  Well, it must not be a big deal then, right?

Not so fast.  Because .1 of 50,000,000 turns out to be a pretty big number.

We don’t know what the final CFR is going to be from COVID-19, but whatever it is, this number has limited application, and will tell only a small part of the story.  For example, we are more likely to see the deaths because they present themselves directly than we are the people who get infected but the case is so mild that they don’t even go to a clinic.  As testing becomes more widely available, people who did not even know they were ill, or were ‘under the weather’ but didn’t attribute it to COVID-19, will be discovered to have had the virus.   This will drive down the overall CFR, by definition.

But I don’t think the 2003 SARS epidemic is the one we should compare it to, except I’d like to point out that it disproportionately impacted the elderly population.   We’ll return to this point.

H1N1

An even better comparison would be the 2009-2010 ‘swine flu’ (H1N1) outbreak.  This is what I mean about a short attention span.  I mean, people were alive in 2010, right?  Don’t you all have any memory at all?

I found this interesting article, clearly penned by someone in Camp 3.  Set aside the Trump criticism, and let’s look at what it acknowledges and admits:

From April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, in the United States, there were 60.8 million cases of swine flu, as well as 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated.

Question:

Do you remember that time in the US when there were almost 61 MILLION cases of H1N1?  Do YOU remember when there were 12,469 deaths?  

That was just in the US, friend.

Globally, one study estimated that some 250,000 people died. The CDC puts it at “151,700 – 575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09.”  That’s a lot of people, right?  This is from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt, but it looks right (it has a footnote you can verify with)

It is estimated that 11–21% of the then global population (of about 6.8 billion), or around 700 million–1.4 billion people contracted the illness — more in absolute terms than the Spanish flu pandemic.

700 MILLION to 1.4 BILLION.

Now, let me remind you of my position.  I am not at ALL diminishing the deaths of the 4,000 or so to COVID-19, or the incidences of infection, as of today reported at 121,517 today (3/11/2020).  I’m saying, let us keep things in perspective.  Let’s keep them in proportion.

NOW I ASK YOU

Where were the mass quarantines?  Where was the breathless hourly updates by the media?  Where was the social media scorn heaped on individuals for going into public places?  Where did they call up the National Guard?  Where was the shutting down of numerous colleges and schools?  The canceling of large events everywhere?    Oh sure, let’s go there:  where was the media constantly barking at the feet day in and day out of then president Obama?

None of these things, nowhere.   Actions were taken, certainly, but they were limited, narrow, and focused.  I was alive at the time, I don’t know about you.  I remember.  I also didn’t have a big problem with the measures that were taken, although I vaguely remember pegging my concerns to the existing cases of the flu, much as people are doing today, especially in Camp 1.  (My concern was with the handling of ebola; which killed, I remind you, more than 10,000 people.  Now THERE is a disease with a CFR of note–up to 90%!)

But… and this is wild… the CDC considers their response to the H1N1 epidemic a success!

On the whole, the response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic was successful. [page 91]

Well, ok.  If you consider 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths, in the stretch of just one short year to be successful, that’s your right.  274,304 hospitalizations????  But muh overtaxed health system!  Muh overworked medical staff! WE MUST STOP THIS CONTAGION BECAUSE OUR SYSTEM CAN NEVER KEEP UP WITH THEM!

We are up to about 1,016 cases (3/11/2020) already, and there is just NO WAY we can survive that!  WE MUST HAVE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE (I actually read this) NOW!  WE MUST [Insert draconian measure, here]!  Yes, I KNOW that just ten years ago our system handled 61 million cases and 274 thousand hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths (a CDC success!) but there is no way we can do it now!  SLOW THIS SUCKER DOWN!  LOCK ME IN MY HOUSE!  CLOSE MY BUSINESS!  SHUT DOWN MY SCHOOL!  Dear Government, SAVE ME!  SAVE ME!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Good grief, people.  Get your heads out of your asses.  And wash your hands.  Apparently, you need to be told to do that.  I am speaking to people, not persons.

Let us take a moment to remember that Italy has completely closed down their entire country.  I read somewhere (unverified) that defying the quarantine can land you in jail.  I’ll follow up on that sometime.  At any rate, they do have 500+ deaths to worry about… and lots of reports that their system is overloaded, too.  Let us then, for comparison’s sake, look at how Italy fared during the great H1N1 pandemic.

(Wikipedia has helpfully listed all the countries, so you can check them all out, here, but take it with a grain of salt; the US figures appear out of date.)

According to this site, there were 5.6 MILLION cases in Italy and 260 deaths, in less than a year.  How weird that their system was not brought to the verge of collapse, as we are being told is the case (eg, in Lombardy).  The full story, bolded for emphasis:

The global spread of H1N1 was observed by public health authorities and conveyed by the media. In the beginning, horrendous figures on mortality were discussed, but were found to be wrong later on. In Italy, the H1N1 pandemic was responsible for 260 reported deaths caused by complications stemming from pandemic influenza and 5.600.000 cases of influenza-like illness between week 31 of 2009 and week 17 of 2010. Soon after the dimensions of the outbreak became clear, the Italian government and health authorities started to implement first containment measures. These included antiviral prophylaxis for people who had close contact to cases and social distancing measures such as the early isolation of cases or preventive school closures. Furthermore, a health education campaign was launched by the Italian Health Ministry to inform the public about simple non-pharmaceutical measures such as regular hand-washing or staying at home if Influenza-like symptoms occur to prevent an infection with the H1N1 virus.

Interesting.  No mention about how they moved to shut down their country.

As of today, 3/11/2020, Italy has about 10,000 confirmed cases and 600 deaths.

And they shut down their country.  Wut?  [More below]

The bottom line here has got to be that either our response to the H1N1 was NOT a success, and we SHOULD have been shutting down whole countries back in 2009, just as we SHOULD be doing NOW with the regular ol’ influenza OR…

Or, we come clean and admit that this whole thing is being blown completely out of proportion.  We dial it back.  We mock the media, which clearly has a vested interest in spreading panic.  We mock the people in Camp 2–cuz they really need to grow up, before they really do something foolish.  (Ignore the people in Camp 3, as I said, as they are not worth our time).

This does not mean that we diminish the deaths we’ve had and are going to have or the infections.  But we keep it in perspective.  We’ve obviously decided as a society that we can live with 50,000 people dying every year from the flu (but if 1,000 people get the measles, with no deaths, apparently we can lose our minds about that!), without shutting everything down.  Something has got to give, here.  I submit that it is your enjoyment of participating in mass panic that should give, not the stability and economic well being of the entire country.

Containment

Which brings me to my final point.

In my last post, I took a shot at Jeremy Warner, who, in a perfect example of the kind of ‘disinterested’ malevolence I despise,

Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents.

I complained about such people in this post, in a different context, where I wrote:

I REFUSE to have a dispassionate discussion about skinning babies alive–as though it is a reputable position that good people can differ on.

The fact that COVID-19 clearly targets the elderly is not something that we should make ourselves comfortable with and I spit on the name of the person who does.  On the other hand, it is an objective fact that it targets the elderly–and interestingly, mainly spares the young, which is the opposite of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak–which means that if you were looking for a more reasonable, tailored response to this whole mess, you would focus your attention on the ELDERLY.

Did I not just say it targets the elderly and spares the young?  This is an evident fact.  AND YET, we are closing schools?  Universities?  You know, places where primarily the young inhabit?

A friend responded to this point by saying, “I am not saying that anything is warranted, but some of the best interventions to protect the most vulnerable in our society are population-wide.

Yea, sure.  This is true, but its trivially true.  That was the point I was driving at in my retort to Mr. Warner, when I then said,

People aren’t terribly bright, so they haven’t quite processed just what would be required to actually end the coronavirus threat.  The murder of all 7 billion of us would do it. [emphasis added]

Well, yes.  Simply exterminating the human race, with, say, bullets, would in fact stop the coronavirus from spreading.  But at such a cost?  Unless you are Peter Singer or David Benatar, whacking every human alive isn’t an option on the table.

Yes, I suppose that locking down the whole country of Italy will slow down the virus and perhaps, in the short term, prevent some deaths.  But, as I pointed out in that same post, unless you keep the whole of Italy locked down in perpetuity, eventually you’re going to have to let the virus in, and you’re going to have people get sick, and yes some will die.

An argument can be made for such a lock down, in the very, very, very short term.  But in the long term, it quickly becomes apparent that there are other costs to be paid.  This seems unlikely to happen (because as stupid as people are, even people aren’t this stupid), but imagine, if you will, that 1,000 people in Italy die from COVID-19, far less than the 10,000 that would die (immediately, anyway) from it, if left unhindered, but because of the lockdown of the country, shortages in food and other necessities occur, leading to the deaths of 100,000 due to starvation, diseases related to malnutrition, and so on.  Or maybe they couldn’t afford the food, because they are unemployed because their business had to be shuttered since it couldn’t stay in business at all.  You get the idea.

Like I said, something like this isn’t going to happen, for the very same reason it doesn’t happen in the United States every year when some 50,000 people die from the influenza virus.  We COULD perhaps save those lives by militarizing our streets, but we would no doubt decimate our entire social fabric in the process.  Without thinking much about it, we have processed what would be required to actually end the influenza threat, and we know, intuitively if nothing else, that nothing short of a police state could do it.

So, it isn’t really enough to simply state that certain measures will curtail the spread of a virus, because these measures come at a cost, themselves.

As I have already written, if indeed COVID-19 appears as though it was going to be something to warrant such measures, then by all means, we do what we have to do.  (Eg, hypothetically, the disease in the movie Contagion).   But we don’t just lock down whole regions because it makes us feel good to do it, just to make us think we’re doing something.  Lock downs come at a price, as well.  Involuntary isolations come at a price.  It all comes at a price.

We almost certainly can stem the spread of the coronavirus, but at what cost?

No one seems to be asking the latter question.  They are too busy getting worked up into a panic like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth.  It is almost like they don’t feel like their real life activities are meaningful enough that they WANT to be shut into their own homes to make themselves “feel” like they are participating in a great, national cause.  (Well, right now they mainly just want to shut OTHERS into their homes.)  The realization that such measures, enacted on a broad scale, will harm the country in other ways, perhaps even more profoundly and deeply than the coronavirus would ever do, is not something they even ponder.

However, I suspect they will figure it out soon enough, when, after four weeks of being stuck in their homes, they run out of toilet paper.  Or, their bank accounts drop to zero, since, you know, they haven’t been working, therefore, they haven’t been paid, but they still have bills to pay–so there is toilet paper, but they don’t have the money to buy it.  At this point, I bet even those in Camp 2 will decide its time for us all to brave the wild outdoors, taking basic precautions we’ve known all along were all that we needed to do, and focus our efforts on the actual vulnerable populations, instead of every person on the globe.

I should mention that it doesn’t bother me all that much what ya’ll decide.  I put myself and my family into quasi ‘self-isolation’ years ago.  I’m not quite to the level of the Amish, but I pretty much concluded ya’ll are going to foul it all up eventually, so it was in my best interest to plan accordingly.  However, while I will live longer than you in most scenarios, there are scenarios in which even I wouldn’t make it.  But these scenarios have similar features:  YOU, freaking out, being manipulated, failing to think for yourself, over-reacting, etc, etc, etc.

Therefore, this and other posts are designed to thrash you with reality in the hopes that you wake up to the real world and learn some lessons, so we don’t have to go through this every other year.  The law of averages suggests that if we don’t learn these lessons, a lot of people are going to get really hurt.  A lot more than 50,000 from the influenza.

Anyway, notwithstanding the above, there are some worrisome aspects of this particular disease.

There is the fact that being ‘novel’, there isn’t an immunity within the population which can provide protection.  But this was true with both SARS and H1N1, as well.  (With H1N1, interestingly, it was the young people who suffered from this novelty disproportionately.  The fact that COVID-19 seems to avoid harming the young is something that demands and explanation).

There is the fact that it seems to be able to spread very quickly, while people are not even symptomatic, and over periods of time that are reported to be up to 20 days in some cases.  This makes it a particularly hard to contain disease, which, I would add, by definition diminishes the value of mass quarantines–unless you want to quarantine indefinitely, in which case we are back to the ‘at what cost’ question.

These are reasons for concern, but not reasons to cease being reasonable.   Early on, we didn’t know as much about it, and there are still things to learn, but we DO know that it disproportionately harms the old.  It seems to me that reasonable people will focus our efforts there.  Not surprisingly, it appears that even in that case, the efforts we do are ones we already should have been doing.  Ie, hand washing; old people should avoid crowds, etc.

If you weren’t doing that, and you are a caregiver, then maybe you should take some responsibility for your own actions, eh?  Don’t blame the rest of us.  Remember, before there was the coronavirus, there was the FLU, which was already killing thousands of people.  Why are you now just getting on board doing what is necessary?  These are the kinds of questions that people in Camp 1 ask.

At some point, we’re going to have to take a hard look at China’s role in this.

I was disturbed by Cuomo’s partisan jab at Trump this morning, claiming that we have known about the coronavirus since November and have squandered our time.  This is not true.  CHINA knew.  The rest of the world did not.  CHINA knew, and concealed it for a long time, even as they knew potentially infected people were leaving their country by the thousands.   It is about time that certain people stopped handling China with kid gloves.  The coronavirus is a perfect case in point of what can go badly when we have normalized relations with China.  Let that be another lesson learned; can we learn it in time to not be exposed to their malevolence/negligence in the future?

I for one doubt it very much, and am planning accordingly.

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4 comments

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    • Jenifer Hernaez on March 11, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    “Dear Government, SAVE ME! SAVE ME!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

    I don’t belong in any of the camp in your category. I know what the disciples have gone through and all of the Biblical prophets in the manner that they died for speaking the TRUTH.

    There is a lot of wisdom in your article and I believe you are prepared for what is to come ahead. I always believe that He causes things to work together for good, evidently, in my own personal life when I still used to live in the slum starving most of the time. I actually think that my faith was stronger when I was starving to death. Because I truly learned that man does not live on bread alone but by His word. The comfort of living in Canada is good with having to previously owned a car that I consider a luxury. The faucet with ‘clean’ drinking water etc. I didn’t have to walk 5km back and forth to get some (clean) drinking water. So, my hope is the Lord Jesus Christ and He is my only refuge. I can see that in King David’s life when his own family turned against him and also with Joseph and many many more. He established the government but it comes with flaws and those flaws certainly didn’t come from God. We’re humans but He is a Sovereign God in charge of everything whether we would like to admit it or NOT.

    I haven’t eaten yet as I post this. I’m starving. Thank you and God bless!

    • Anthony on March 11, 2020 at 12:39 pm
      Author

    Yes, there are indeed other camps, I reckon. I do think there is at the heart of the problem here an infatuation with the System, and a loving desire to be One with the System. Thus, it should be shocking to them when the System fails them time and time again.

    One hopes that by pointing people to those failures they may remember that no matter what liberties they give up or take away from someone else, no matter how much medicine you take, no matter what, we ARE MORTAL.

    We can postpone death, we cannot prevent it. But we can hurt a lot of people in the process. Meanwhile, perhaps we may be awakened to the fact that our hope is not in the System, but rather the Actual One.

    • Darin on March 16, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    “At what cost?”

    While I appreciate the willingness of people to avoid social contact for the time being, we all know that can’t last forever. I’ve been out and about A LOT over the past week. It occurs to me that someone has to produce things, and someone has to buy things, or else getting sick is going to be the least of our worries. Last week was Half Price Books discount coupon week. I managed to visit our several area stored 15 times in 4 days and did not see much sign of panic in the other patrons. Grocery shopping, OTOH, was a different story. Yes, people are stupid. They’re also self-interested enough that they’re not going to engage in self-deprivation in perpetuity. If you’re right, and this is a panic, people will figure it out soon enough. When the world hasn’t come to an end, but their resources have, it will literally take an army to put everyone back in their houses. That ain’t happening in the US, I assure you.

    • Anthony on March 17, 2020 at 9:05 am
      Author

    “Yes, people are stupid. They’re also self-interested enough that they’re not going to engage in self-deprivation in perpetuity. If you’re right, and this is a panic, people will figure it out soon enough.”

    Quite right, Darin. Your whole post is spot on, but this sentence gets to the heart of it. What is the old saying, you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time? Unless this is a relatively short-lived clamp down, Americans are not going to put up with it.

    That does assume that we’re dealing with a virus which remains as observed. If it proves to be more deadly, there will be more patience. I think we’ll know almost everything we need to know as far as this matter is concerned within the next week or so.

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