I think it's important, just for the sake of the fear, panic and sheer magnitude of the social disruption now taking place, to at least try to keep the present situation in some kind of meaningful perspective.
This does not mean that the potential for a genuine global catastrophe, even of the order of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, where upwards of 50 million people died, is not quite possible. It just means that along with a reasonable and responsible concern, we have to bear in mind that the news media is, and will, continue to sensationalize things out of all proportion for the sake of ratings and their own overweening self-importance.
The truth is that we simply do not know some of the most basic facts. But some significant facts we do know is that when something as simple as social distancing is voluntarily observed, or even brutally enforced, the mitigating effects can be dramatic. China, the country where the virus was first detected and with a population 5x the size of the US, now has less than 25% of the cases that we do.
I guess what concerns me most is that the fear and panic being induced by the media is responsible for a large part of the problem, and is, in fact, being wholly irresponsible in that regard. Every moment they remind us of how many infections there are globally and domestically (a number which it is simply impossible to know with any accuracy at present), and the number of deaths caused as a result. A number like 300,000 seems enormous. But as the title of this piece states, it is in fact only 0.1% of the total US population, with more than 1/3 of these cases being in the New York metropolitan area. And even there, Governor Cuomo reports that the rate of deaths is diminishing (Gov. Cuomo on Diminishing Death Rate: As of Sunday morning, 74 percent of those hospitalized have been released, according to the governor). Even New York State, with a population of nearly 20 million people:
"Currently, 122,031 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the state, which is an increase of 8,327 positive cases. Of those cases, 16,479 people are currently hospitalized, and 4,376 patients are in ICU.
"Cuomo says the number of coronavirus-related deaths is still increasing. However, over the past few days, the number of deaths has been going down for the first time.
"Cuomo says the significance of this information is too early to tell, but the governor added that based on current data, New York State might be near the apex or a plateau in coronavirus cases. The governor says they will learn more about this over the next few days.
"At this time 4,159 people have died from COVID-19 in the state."
That final number, 4,159, is 3% of the total number of people who have tested positive for the illness. And that represents .000021 of the total population of New York State.
The pandemic is, at the moment, not a reasonable threat to the vast majority of the people of the world, or the US. This by no means means it is something we can ignore. It is currently not a significant threat due to the people making great sacrifices to observe the official recommendations.
But please: I think we'd all be much happier if we managed to keep it in some kind of perspective.
I recently came across this article which seems to have some of the same things on its mind:
Some of the points I consider to be most significant are theses:
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