Where we are now on coronavirus

by Kevin Roche

One place we are for sure is all very tired of coronavirus and the over-stimulated media coverage of a not that serious epidemic for the general population.

In regard to the pathogen itself, the parameters are fairly clear, for like 99% plus of people it doesn’t cause a serious illness.  If you are old and frail, it is a different story, and if you are very obese and have hypertension, you need to be careful as well.  It may be harder for the virus to be transmitted than we initially thought.  Whether because of pre-existing immunity, or just the adequacy of the average immune system, a lot of people don’t become infected on exposure.  So sustained, high viral doses may be necessary to cause illness, other than in those frail elderly persons.  This means that the transmissibility numbers used in the models were very wrong and far too high.  As doctors have learned more about the disease, they have become more adept at treating it.  Ventilators are used much less frequently.  Immune system over-reactions are caught and treated.  So while the current strain of coronavirus is dangerous, again, for almost everyone, it is low risk.

Unlike the virus, our governmental reactions to the epidemic have been dangerous to everyone.  There is miniscule risk to children and they are not sources of significant transmission, but we shut down the schools, ruining the educational, social and health interactions that are critical to them.  We closed businesses and told people to stay home, putting tens of millions of people out of work.  Massive numbers of layoffs are still occurring.  We have so frightened the population that their confidence as consumers is gone and with it most economic spending.  We did serious damage to our health system.  We have decimated government revenues, leaving them less capable of dealing with all these problems.  And these consequences have hurt low-income and minority persons the most, creating the tinderbox that worsened the recent rioting and is tearing the country even further apart.

Now our so-called leaders, the ones who wanted acknowledge science and data and end the shutdowns, are digging in and refusing to accept their responsibility for what has happened and pretending like coronavirus disease is a more dire threat to the country then the damage done by their extreme over-reactions.  This will only get better when we completely end all business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.  People who are worried, rightly or not, can do whatever they think they need to do to protect themselves.  But most of us need to get back to work and back to enjoying life so that we make economic progress, which is the foundation to everything that improves the quality of life.

And the most hopeful sign of recent days, both in my benighted home state of Minnesota and nationally, is that people are out and about more.  I suspect that large numbers of people have realized that being alive is a risky proposition and you have to accept that you can’t control all those risks and that trying to do so makes for a miserable and unsatisfying life.

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