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SoVaNow.com / March 12, 2020
I’m going to excerpt an article from The Atlantic to the max allowed under copyright law because this was one of the first things I read with my morning coffee on Wednesday and by late in the day it had all come true. The title? “Cancel Everything.”

Helpful, and prescient. (Let’s express our thanks to the author, Yascha Mounk). Here you go:

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways — right now.

The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.

The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.

Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today.

The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. Early guesstimates, made before data were widely available, suggested that the fatality rate for the coronavirus might wind up being about 1 percent. If that guess proves true, the coronavirus is 10 times as deadly as the flu.

But there is reason to fear that the fatality rate could be much higher .....


.... Okay, I guess that stretches the rules of fair use just about to the limit. You can go read the entire piece here.

Like I said, I read The Atlantic piece in the morning. By afternoon, the stock market had tanked again, the NCAA announced it would keep fans out of arenas where March Madness tournament games will be played (the ACC and NBA later followed suit, with the latter suspending its season, and on Thursday the NCAA tournaments were cancelled outright), and the point person handling the coronavirus response for the Trump Administration, an actual scientist named Anthony Fauci (he’s the longstanding director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases) told Congress that COVID-19 “is going to get worse.” A lot worse, in fact, as in there’s a potential for millions of cases in the U.S., and untold suffering..

There is no other rational or effective response for this disease other than “social distancing” — trying to keep people out of situations where infections can spread wildly. (This is the third “crucial fact” that Mounk alluded to in his Atlantic article: “so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing.” Yes, it’s an awful plan. Except for all the others.

In the days and weeks ahead, we’re going to have to get used to this new reality. It’s no fun, as we all know. But you know what’s even more terrible? Scams are already proliferating, promising miracle cures and prevention shortcuts and all the other things we might wish to be true but aren’t. I got an scammy email yesterday and rather than ignore it, I went through the effort to unsubscribe from the list (like that’ll do any good). For good measure, after typing in my personal email address, I made up a second one in the hope that someone on the other end might be reading. It ended with the server name, “@godieinafire.com.” No, I’m not sorry.

This is how it works: We get through this together. Just as communities do when a hurricane comes crashing through or a snowstorm knocks out power or causes motorists to drive into a ditch. The obvious difference with this particular natural disaster is that it’s probably going to last several months, maybe a year or more. We’ll adjust. Take care of your elderly relatives and friends (but don’t get too close), get a flu shot (it won’t help against coronavirus, but it’ll help prevent from doubling up the trouble of coming down with the flu), and at the first sign of sneezing and cold-like symptoms, stay home and call the hospital or the health department. It’s boring, replacement-level advice, and it’s all true.

Parting words from our featured expert:

When the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing hundreds of thousands nationally and millions across the globe, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death.

As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.

In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

In the coming days, thousands of people across the country will face the choice between becoming a Wilmer Krusen or a Max Starkloff.

In the moment, it will seem easier to follow Krusen’s example. For a few days, while none of your peers are taking the same steps, moving classes online or canceling campaign events will seem profoundly odd. People are going to get angry. You will be ridiculed as an extremist or an alarmist. But it is still the right thing to do.


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