On Saturday night, I was forced to quietly listen to a group of people complain about the media hype around the novel coronavirus and how it was just a ploy to destroy President Trump. And as I listened I realized they didn’t see the bigger picture. It’s not about the President and it’s not about the mortality rate. It’s about the strain on resources.
Let’s say 5% of the US population gets infected with coronavirus. As we have learned from Italy, China, and exposure on cruise ships, this is not a unrealistically high expectation of infection rates. To keep rates from reaching that level in Italy and China both countries shut down and forced all of their citizens into quarantine.
5% of the US population is roughly 15,000,000 people. Our healthcare system isn’t capable of dealing with that kind of medical emergency. I don’t think any country’s medical system is capable. Not only that but our industries can’t take that kind of blow. And it is coming… February 15, 2020 there were 67,000 cases of novel coronavirus worldwide. In just a mere 29 days the number has nearly doubled. In the US the cases have gone from 5 on February 29 over 3,000. Think about that in just 16 days we went from 5 cases in the US to more than 3,000.
The media isn’t blowing this out of proportion… we just wish they were. The problem isn’t the media freaking all of us out, it’s the disconnect between what the media is saying and what our government is saying. I expect by the start of April we’ll be forced to do the same thing that China and Italy have done – a nationwide shutdown to limit the infection rate. Some states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania are already trying to protect public health by instituting lockdowns as they force bars and restaurants to close and encourage large gatherings to stop. In Springfield, Missouri where there are multiple mega-churches the mayor has asked that attendances be limited to smaller groups by adding more service times.
Why? Because it is spreading and it is spreading fast. You think customer service sucks now, just wait until 5% of the US workforce is sick. No one really panicked over H1N1 because it was less contagious – a good part of the population had antibodies to fight against it already – we’d seen it several times in the past; it is a known strain of Influenza A. We don’t have that with Novel Coronavirus.
And our society is not set up for a serious illness outbreak. If you work in retail or in food service and you get sick, you should call into work and not pass it along to your customers. But the truth is most people who work in those industries can’t afford to take sick days. If they aren’t in the hospital there is a better than average chance they are still going to work. Even worse, they can expose hundreds of people a day to the illness.
However, the answer isn’t to hoard fifty thousand bottles of hand sanitizer and six thousand rolls of toilet paper. You should stock up, but it should have been done with common sense. For example, I spoke with someone that is hoarding nitrile gloves and toilet paper (I consider hoarding to be more than 50 packs of any one item). I asked why. They said they wanted to make sure they had enough. Enough for what? 14 days in quarantine… seriously how much stuff are you going to go through when you’re stuck in your house for 14 days with a fever and severe cough?
Considering how it’s been handled so far, I’m expecting rioting and looting in the near future along with a bunch of people getting sick. The government says “it’s not a big deal” the media says “this is a big deal”. Based solely on the incredibly fast increase in cases the media is correct… this is a big deal. Here’s the shitty part though, it could have been prevented to a large degree. If quarantine procedures had been followed when it first started and if we had properly dealt with the situation then we wouldn’t be seeing this alarming rise in cases… but coulda, woulda, shoulda, they weren’t. Staff at the quarantine facilities should have been outfitted with complete biological hazard suits. They should have been subjected to a preventative quarantine themselves… not allowed to leave restricted housing while they worked in the quarantine facilities along with a small quarantine themselves before they went home. And those on quarantine should have stayed in quarantine. In St. Louis a guy on quarantine decided attending a dance with his daughter was more important than public health, so he went to the dance risking exposure of everyone at the dance. But his desire to attend the dance is more important than Jenny’s 90 year old grandmother that lives with her instead of in a nursing home because the family takes care of her.
And so… since we can’t get our citizens to think of public health instead of their desires, I foresee a future in which a nationwide shutdown is enforced to prevent Novel Coronavirus from getting as bad in the US as it did in Italy and China. Because if we don’t stop it, we are looking at our health resources becoming overwhelmed and crashing as well as a huge blow to industry and agriculture as our workforce becomes too ill to keep the country going.
Interestingly, one of those in the group said “Imagine what would happen if the president cancelled the 2020 election because of the risk to public health.” I didn’t point out that Vladimir Putin has already started working towards that for the 2020 Russian election declaring that since there is a state of emergency in Russia elections should be suspended until 2036 and that he should just remain president until then. Which begs the question will coronavirus kill our 200+ year old republican democracy as well as our citizens? How could anyone advocate that we follow Russian President Vladimir Putin? He is an old confirmed communist who was quite happy living in a dictatorship. Is that an example we want to follow? I think the mere suggestion is terribly dangerous and close to treasonous. Because if we suspend the 2020 election for whatever reason then we are no longer a republic nor a democracy… at that point President Trump isn’t in the Oval Office by the power of an election he has taken over via coup (in the interest of public health) and the dictatorship has begun.
Plus, if we don’t have a handle on coronavirus by November 2020 (seven months from now) the amount of sick and dead will be astronomical and the country and world will be a very different place – it will be much like the 14th century after the first initial waves of the Black Death. No one will be untouched by the virus… We know nationwide shutdown works, it has helped in China and Italy, so if we get to that point and it hasn’t happened in the US then we obviously need new leadership to make those kinds of unpopular decisions so that we can get it under control.
There are my dark thoughts on Novel Coronavirus. I get my new cushion today. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the office more this upcoming week.