The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 06, 2020

The Sky is Falling

I was among the first to suggest that the (COVID-19 (a.k.a.) coronavirus, although a cause for global concern, had been hijacked by a media that looks at every "crisis" as an opportunity to drive ratings and generate clicks. I continue to believe that much of the public reaction to the virus is hysteria (see my earlier comments here and here) driven by dishonest, over-the-top "reporting" by news organizations worldwide. Based on the context free reporting on COVID-19, you'd think it's the equivalent of Ebola, an extremely deadly virus that would warrant extreme measures. It is not.

Now we hear that public events are being canceled by the hundreds, airplanes are flying empty, store shelves have been emptied of anti-bacteria wipes and face masks (that will do little good) and other commodities, the stock market has dropped by over 4000 points, the cruise industry is in shambles, and not surprising, (Democrat) politicians have decided that there's leverage in playing politics with a flu.

Here is a factual summary of COVID-19.

1. In most cases it is no more (and often less serious) than the common flu. You have a slight fever and some achiness that passes in about a week. About 9 in 10 sufferers recover without any medical treatment at all, another fraction should see a doctor, and a very small percentage become seriously ill or die.

2. Of the small percentage that becomes seriously ill or die, 95 percent are elderly. Of that group, the vast majority have underlying health conditions (breathing problems like emphysema or COPD). Of the remaining 5 percent who aren't elderly, it appears that they unwisely went without treatment as symptoms worsened (in their case).

3. Currently, there are under 300 documented cases of COVID-19 in the United States. In a country of 300 million people, that puts the infection percentage at 0.00001 percent. It will undoubted rise, but come on man.

There are a few questions worth pondering. Since the common flu kills tens of thousands of people (mostly elderly with underlying health conditions) every year,
  • Why hasn't the media created "scoreboards" for common flu in past years, listing every case and every death?
  • Why hasn't the common flu been a lead story on newscasts and news sites for days on end in past years?
  • Why haven't politicians demanded that millions of test kits and testing for common flu be used every year and that every case uncovered be added to the "scoreboard"?
  • Why hasn't there been a run of wipes and masks in past years?
  • Why did people travel and cruise in past years when flu season was in full swing?
  • Why was no cruise ship "quarantined" when a passenger got the flu as thousands undoubtedly did?
  • Why, in summary, did life go on, even though people did get sick from the common?
This is hysteria, plain and simple. Virtually every medical expert who is interviewed suggests simple measures to avoid infection and cautions against over-reaction. They further indicate that in general, the symptoms of COVID-19 are mild.

This is CYA, plain and simple. The government must plan for the worst—I get it. But it must work harder than it has to put all of this in perspective and to reduce, not increase, the level of hysteria among the public.

Watching the media's irresponsible, breathless, context-free reports of deaths (at nursing homes, no less), I'm reminded of the story of chicken little. A troubling new flu strain has emerged. It deserves our attention and well-planned preventative measures, but it hardly warrants a "sky is falling" narrative.