By V. Susan Hutchinson
Unless you have been living in a cave without internet access you have heard at least something about COVID-19, aka coronavirus. If you are active on social media, you’ve heard more than you ever wanted to know. All coronavirus related posts on social media should be reviewed with skepticism, especially if they are just a meme or someone spouting a bunch of numbers.
A friend of mine re-posted a meme showing the number of deaths per cases of coronavirus vs influenza in the U.S. The conclusion was that because the numbers were lower, it meant it isn’t any worse than the flu.
I calculated the percent of deaths based on the numbers in the meme and posted a comment back that coronavirus, according to the “data” was 7% vs. 0.6% for flu. Data actually shows the current global rate of death is about 3.4%. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not classify this as a mortality rate due to extreme variability in data collection.
There was no response to my posted comment.
People will say anything to downplay the significance of this WHO-declared pandemic because it’s more comforting to trust some random stranger, or your second cousin once removed on social media than experts.
Plus, it keeps it at arm’s length.
It’s About Containment, Not About You
Everyone wants to compare coronavirus to the annual flu outbreaks when they should be comparing it to the Spanish flu of 1918. The response then was to close movie theaters, schools and prohibit public gatherings.
Sound familiar? Restricting interactions where there are large groups has been shown to decrease the spread.
As more and more new cases of coronavirus were reported in the U.S., scientists warned that the spread would be greater when people gathered together at events like conventions and concerts. The public outcry when events started being cancelled was mild. Some grumbling, but whatever.
Until the NBA announced it was suspending the season. That got the attention of millions who didn’t have an opinion before. Now the NHL and MLB have followed suit.
I can’t tell you how many people are now posting on social media that this is an outrage. How dare they cancel sporting events! Why don’t you take my guns while you’re at it?
And yet there is still no concern about the continued spread of this potentially deadly virus; no concern for the players who have tested positive or how much it may have already spread throughout the NBA, MLB or other pro sports teams.
Compared to Spanish flu, coronavirus is exposing just how selfish people are now. Accepting all recommendations to contain the virus in 1918 was not only not questioned, it was readily complied with. But in 2020, self-interest, social media, an irresponsible President who wants to manipulate this to get re-elected and the dismissal of science all add up to one thing:
The coronavirus may end up being more devastating, both health-wise and economically than the Spanish flu.
One more important comparison of note is the global response to H1N1 (Swine flu). The time from the first detected case in California on April 17, 2009 to the declaration of a potential pandemic by WHO was 12 days. An approved U.S. test was available at 11 days and by May antiviral medicine was available worldwide. Schools were closed as were other facilities where there was a potential for an outbreak. Everything was fast tracked to get ahead of the situation and try to contain it as well as global cooperation from all countries.
Need I remind you who was President in 2009? But just in case you have forgotten, his name was Barack Obama.
Note: If you want real data and the most detailed information about coronavirus, all you have to do is visit the WHO website.