Panic on a National Scale

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So, for some months now we’ve been engaging in greater or lesser degrees of restrictions in order to “flatten the curve” (although now people are claiming it’s to completely stop–more on that in a moment) of COVID19 (which I like to call “Winnie the Flu”).

Few, if any of these restrictions make a lick of sense.

First off, the models that drove most of the reaction (and, let’s be honest, the panic) were created by Niel Ferguson, a “mathematical epidemiologist” who had previously made such predictions as…

  • 2002: Predicted up to 50,000 in the UK would die form Bovine Spongeaform Encephalitis (“Mad Cow Disease”). To date, there have been 177 deaths from that cause.
  • 2005: Predicted that up to 150 million people would die from that year’s Avian Flu. In the end, only 282 people died from that strain.
  • 2009: Swine flu this time. Based on Ferguson’s advice, a UK government estimate was 65,000 deaths in Great Britain. Actual deaths? 457.

So, given this stellar track record, the real question is: why did anybody give this idiot any credence at all when he, admittedly using undocumented 13 year old code intended for a then feared flu epidemic and not for coronavirus?

But, governments around the world, including those of the US and its component states, saw those dire predictions and panicked.

“Keep social distancing, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.” Why six feet? For viruses carried in normal breath it’s dramatic overkill. 3 feet, a fairly comfortable “personal space bubble” for most people in most situations, is plenty. Droplets carried by coughs and sneezes go farther, much farther than 6 feet. So in one situation it’s inadequate. In another it’s overkill. This is a case where “somewhere in the middle” buys nothing. If you’re going to dismiss the sneezing and coughing issue (maybe by expecting people to cover their mouths–which they should be doing anyway) then six feet buys nothing over three feet. If, however, you’re concerned about sneezing and coughing then six feet is as bad as three feet.

“Gatherings of no more than 10 people.” Um, okay. Ten people in the local Petsmart. Then 10 people at the drug store. Ten people at Kroger. Ten people at the local park. Ten people at a blot (call it a “bible study and support group” for those of a Christian persuasion). And so on. One person going from place to place and now all those people are exposed.

And a lot of things just seem to be so arbitrary. Married couple who live together sitting together on a bench? Separate, more than 6 feet, or be ticketed. Really? In what way does that make sense?

Man surfing all by himself. Arrested for violating quarantine orders–and put in a jail where he’ll be in enforced close association with a bunch of other people. How is “in jail” better from a perspective of slowing the spread of disease than is “surfing all alone, not another person in sight”? Boating (so long as no more than 10 people) okay. Drop a baited line off the boat (fishing) and that’s a violation. How does that make sense?

Then there’s New York. New York is a city utterly dependent on mass transit. So, shutdowns reduce the number of people traveling every day? Well and good. But with fewer people using the mass transit, the city reduces the number of subways and busses running, thus ensuring that the remaining ones are every bit as packed as they were before the shutdowns. Packed subway cars, a perfect breeding ground for the spread of disease.

COVID19 is largely harmless to people who do not have serious co-morbidities, to people who aren’t the very old, or with significant heart and lung problems. So, nursing homes are filled with the most vulnerable people. So why require nursing homes to accept COVID19 patients? Yet that was exactly what Cuomo ordered.

There is absolutely no sense to the restrictions being imposed on the American People in the name of COVID19. They range from the useless to the deadly. This does not mean that their are not things that can be done that would actually help the situation:

  • Wash your hands.
  • If you’re sick, stay home (unless you’re sick enough to need to go to the hospital).
  • Isolate those who are most at risk (the elderly, those with significant heart or breathing problems).

Really, you should be doing all of that anyway. If COVID19 gets people actually doing that then that’s a win. Not worth the other nonsense but, “it’s an ill wind” and all that.

But the rest? Not only useless but actively harmful. First, from the way diseases work, you want the low risk people to get the disease. Get it, get over it, and stop being a risk to everyone else. You want it to spread quickly and thoroughly through the low-risk population. By slowing that, you delay when “herd immunity” is able to protect the higher risk people. And then there’s the other effects of all the restrictions, the effects on the economy. People keep trying to dismiss that as “millionaires profits” but economic damage extends far beyond some millionaire having to find a less expensive brand of champaigne. It causes suffering and death for real people.  I know I’ve said this before, but I cannot emphasize it enough:

  • Because rising unemployment kills people. We’re already, as of the last figures I’ve seen 11% higher unemployment than before this started and it’s going to go a lot higher before we’re through. Another figure I’ve seen is that each 1% of added unemployment leads to 2 additional suicides per 100,000 population. Do the math.
  • Because food shortages (which we will have) and outright famine (which, if we don’t have here, other people will because the food we normally export we’ll be keeping to make up the shortages here) kill people.
  • Because delaying other medical testing and treatment in fear of “the Rona” will kill people. This is not a hypothetical. A friend of mine had a breast tumor biopsy delayed because “elective procedure” (“elective” in medical terms simply means “can be scheduled” rather than “get him in the OR right now or he’ll be dead right now”).
  • Because people going violently “stir crazy” by being cooped up at home and not able to engage in their normal activities kills people.

This “shutdown” that people are trying to call a quarantine (an actual quarantine is where you isolate the sick and known or at least suspected carriers until they’re no longer contagious) also kills people. And nobody, at least not at the decision-making levels, is doing any kind of realistic assessment of the costs (human and otherwise) of the measures being taken vs. the cost of the disease itself. At least then one might be able to chart a course that leads to the least suffering and death.  Instead, we’re getting a panic reaction, people running around with their hair on fire not even realizing that they’re just fanning the flames.

Oh, and those who are beating the panic drums in order to use the “crisis” for their own cynical political ends.

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