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

Sunday, April 19, 2020

It’s About Time

Casual observation indicates the vast majority of catastrophists are predominantly progressive in their ideology. It also appears that their heads are exploding as governors across the country begin the first baby steps toward returning to a pre-COVID-19 economy and society. Here in FL, progressive friends are outraged that Florida’s Governor has recommended the re-opening of beaches and parks beginning in Jacksonville.

“It’s too early,” they exclaim—oblivious to the notion that people locked in their apartments for the past 30 days need some outside recreation and enjoyment.

“They’re going to get the virus and give it to us,” they rant about beach goers—even though there is no evidence, study, or even anecdotal proof that going to the beach or just walking along the strand with responsible “social distancing” will accelerate the spread of COVID-19 any appreciable amount.

“They don’t care about 'lives,' ” they intone—perfectly willing to sacrifice the economic and psychological lives of millions who are out of work and worried about paying their rent or mortgage.

The catastrophists are generally innumerate, often quoting COVID-19 death statistics without context. Heather McDonald provides some perspective:
As governors and mayors debate when to lift their coronavirus stay-at-home orders, public health experts predict a flood of deaths should businesses be allowed to reopen before universal testing or a vaccine for the disease is available. These are the same experts whose previous apocalyptic models of coronavirus fatalities and shortages of hospital beds and ventilators have proven wildly inaccurate. It may be useful to look at some numbers for perspective.

As of 3.00 pm Eastern time on April 16, there were 30,920 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. New York State accounted for 14,198 – or 46 percent – of those deaths. New York City accounted for 11,477 of New York State’s deaths and 37 percent of national deaths. This week New York City started counting deaths as coronavirus fatalities if the patient had not been tested for the disease but was suspected postmortem of having it. This relaxed standard increased the U.S. death count by 17 percent. Other jurisdictions will inevitably follow suit.

The national coronavirus deaths represent a death rate of 9.4 per 100,000 of the U.S. population. Take out the New York fatalities and the New York share of the national population, and the coronavirus death rate for the rest of the country is 5.4 per 100,000 of the U.S. population.

In 2018, there were 2.8 million deaths in the U.S. from all causes. That is a death rate of 723.6 per 100,000, 77 times the national coronavirus death rate. The death rate for heart disease in 2018 was 163.6 per 100,000, or 17.4 times the national coronavirus death rate. (There were 647,457 heart disease deaths in 2017, the last year for which such numbers are available.) The influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model is now predicting 68,841 U.S. coronavirus deaths by August. Even if this latest estimate is accurate for once, that would make for a death rate of about 21 per 100,000, comparable to the 21.4 per 100,000 death rate for diabetes in 2018.

The year 2018 saw 708,000 deaths every three months. We are destroying tens of millions of people’s livelihoods for 30,000 deaths over three months, a number that will barely move the needle on the all-cause death count. The loss of each of those 30,000 victims is heartbreaking to their families and acquaintances, especially when the victim dies in isolation.

But the damage being wrought by the economic shutdown is also heartbreaking and is also a public health issue. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on April 15 that New York would decide which businesses could reopen based on how “essential” they were. To its employees, every business is essential.
But the catastrophists are unmoved by any of this. Instead they become hysterical when these numbers are mentioned, attacking the presenter with snippy statements that all boil down to “Well, you’re obviously unconcerned about lives.”

That’s a crock, of course, but it works to suppress any discussion that might weaken their narrative—to wit … keep the country shut down until unachievable and unrealistic goals (that BTW continually change) are satisfied. Can’t reopen until we have "more" (number undefined) tests, until we're sure we won't have a resurgence of the virus (absolute certainty is impossible), until, say, September—noooo problem. Let working people sit marooned and worried in small apartments, while catastrophists work comfortably in their home offices, collecting paychecks along the way.

They don’t like to hear this, but the catastrophists’ position is both uncaring and unsustainable, despite the media and Democrat narrative that largely supports it. The governors of many states are beginning to push back in small ways. It’s about time.


Roger Kimball discusses the aftermath:
I am hoping that the deeper and longer-lasting response will be a quiet revolution in sentiment against the people who abetted this wealth-destroying panic: against the media, first of all, but also the obscure bureaucratic elite that stoked the fear and helped spread the hysteria.

Every day, it seems, brings new reasons to distrust the models and projections that turned the American public into a fearful, quivering jelly. A month ago we were told that unless we turned our world into a giant condom and took care not to touch anyone or anything, millions would die. In recent weeks, those numbers have been revised downwards again and again, even as the strategies for counting cases and fatalities due to the insidious new virus have spiraled upwards. There is a great eagerness in municipalities thirsty for government funding to overstate the number of people affected by the virus.

In New York, the smoldering omphalos of the disease in America, with just over 40 percent of the cases nationwide, a third of fatalities were not even tested. Rather, they are said to have succumbed to “COVID-19 or an equivalent.” An equivalent, Kemo Sabe, like those generic drugs made in China that are supposedly the equivalent of the brand name varieties.

Things are moving quickly now. After losing some 10,000 points in a few weeks, the market has regained more than 5,000 points just as abruptly. Who knows whether that rally will continue. It’s pretty clear, though, that many of the 20 million jobs that evaporated and tens of thousands of businesses large and small that have been crushed will not be coming back. How do we deal with that?
The catastrophists don't seem to care, promoting a continuing shutdown that could very well result in another 10 or 20 million unemployed and a full-blown depression.

But there is some hope. Kimball concludes with these words:
The most awesome toll of this new coronavirus is not the number of lives it has claimed—tragic though the loss of every life is—but rather the stupendous damage we have done to ourselves. The American public has been dutiful to the point of self-harm in heeding the injunctions of the people who manage their lives and livelihoods. I suspect that that deference is evaporating. I regard that as a good thing, for it means that neither the instinct for self-preservation nor the taste for liberty has been entirely bred out of the body politic.