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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Don't Panic! Do Think!

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Trump is now saying that the WHO Coronavirus mortality rate is wrong, and that people with the disease are, you know, going to work. It's fine. He has a "hunch" the rate is a lot lower. Hey, people just have low-level symptoms. They're even going to work. This is what he said. 

Numbers don't lie. However, I believe the mortality rate as reported in the US is going to drop as we get more testing kits out. (China is at right around 3.5% right now.)  

At this point 162 cases have been reported in the US, with 11 deaths and 8 recovered. That looks really bad. As in a 6% mortality rate. But remember, the number of test kits available a week ago only numbered in the hundreds, and were being rationed out to test people that were likely to have the disease. 164 cases is not as statistically significant as countries that have reported cases in the thousands. As we get more test kits out, the numbers ought to change. 

Like Sherlock Holmes, I'm going to scream for more data. And we just don't have it right now. However, I've no reason not to trust the WHO numbers. These are people with the best worldwide set of data. 

However, we have a situation in this country were too many people go to work with the flu or other communicable diseases. So what's different about Coronaviris? 

We at least have some herd immunity to the flu, thanks to widespread immunization. We have a pneumonia vaccine. Neither prevents all cases, but they're still very effective. Let's say that like me, you've had your immunizations. If the fast food worker who hands you your order has the flu, you're far less likely to get sick. If you practice good hand washing and other basic hygienic practices, you're going to be less likely to leave any "nasties" on your hands on doorknobs or other surfaces for other people to pick up. Those bugs may not attack you, but they can attack others.  

That's all common sense stuff, folks. If you're healthy, you get your shots, you wash your hands. If you're not, or you're allergic to the vaccine, you take extra precautions. You can cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. It doesn't stop the spread, but it can slow it down. We have data to back this up. 

Coronavirus is a new thing. We have no vaccine, and we won't have one before the election. The president is engaging in wishful thinking. There's such a thing as clinical trials. (Is the vaccine actually effective? Are there side effects? Do we want to rush anything to market that might have dangerous side effects?) However, the data on Cornavirus that we have shows that the same precautions we take against other viruses can be effective. 

But just like you shouldn't go to work while you're contagious with the flu or other bug, you shouldn't with this. It does seem to have a longer incubation period, which is why quarantines last for two weeks. Two weeks is a long time, and for an unisured or underinsured employee with little or no sick leave benefits, it can be financial ruin. They'll be applying for SNAP and Medicaid benefits. Ironically, if those benefits are granted, they'll get free flu shots. Which don't help against Coronavirus, but would have helped protect them and their children from the flu and the accompanying lost work and school time.  

Jonas Salk refused to patent the polio vaccine, which helped keep the cost low enough for mass immunizations. What do you think will happen with this vaccine? I'm not against making back costs of development, but there's a tipping point. Look at what's happened to the cost of insulin.  

The real costs are going to be economic. Cruises and flights are being cancelled. Companies with international business are reporting lower earnings. Conferences are being cancelled or postponed. Many factories in China are still closed, or trying to reopen. What happens when there's not enough work to go around? Layoffs. If the past is any indication, older people will be let go first, because experience means higher wages. We'll then have a group of older people without health insurance to fight a virus for which there is no vaccine. How do you think that's going to go? 

This is a very long and rambling way of saying we need some sort of universal health care program. We need better rules in place so people won't be afraid to take time off when they or their kids are sick. Is that government overreach? Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, they seem to be happy with the idea of killing off the surplus population. And there is no Ghost of Epidemics Future to change their minds.

(Note: At the time of posting, there were 164 cases and 11 deaths reported in the U.S. That number will change.)

Filed under: Politics   Coronavirus         
3/5/2020 10:49:28 AM
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