What we have here is a ham-and-eggs pandemic that’s growing exponentially. It’s like the chicken is involved in breakfast, but the pig is totally committed. While younger West Virginians are involved, older West Virginians are totally committed. It’s like we’re wearing targets. And that’s one in five of us. So, while we shouldn’t panic, dang it, stop being dismissive and spreading misinformation.
Arguing the typical flu kills more than the coronavirus, so why worry about coronavirus is dismissive. Some cite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projection that 22,000 to 55,000 flu deaths have occurred so far this season (October to March).
Exponential growth is the reason this doesn’t compute. The coronavirus is increasing at an unreal rate, doubling every six days.
Here’s something else. According to the CDC, the death rate for the flu for those over 65 is 0.83% where COVID-19’s death rate is 3.6% for those 60 to 69, 8% for those 70 to 79 and 14.8% for those older than 80.
While some will argue that these rates are high and should be ignored, that’s denial. While we all try to slow the spread and reduce the rate, understand this is what results with no intervention.
This is especially concerning in West Virginia, where 19.9% of us are older than 65 (358,200 of 1.8 million, according to census data).
Another dismissive argument is that other outbreaks have been hyped as cataclysmic, yet they didn’t materialize. That’s mainly because we successfully intervened.
In April 2009, H1N1 broke out in the U.S. and Mexico, however a vaccine against the pandemic strain was available by mid-September 2009.
But that’s luck. The same H1N1 hit us earlier, only we called it the 1918 “Spanish” flu. It got that name at the end of World War I because our press was censored and the full U.S. effect wasn’t reported. However, we did learn of the full effect in neutral Spain as their news wasn’t censored. That made it look far worse in Spain than here, hence the nickname.
Overall, the 1918 flu is believed to have infected about 27% of the world’s population, then 1.8 billion to 1.9 billion, and killed 17 million to 50 million. Other estimates put the toll higher.
Viewed another way, in the first year of the pandemic, life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by 12 years.
Therefore, while we have successfully intervened in some pandemics, that doesn’t mean we can assume we will win again. That’s dismissive.
Do some local math.
West Virginia’s population is 1.8 million. Five percent to 20% of people get seasonal flu, according to WebMD. At 5%, 90,000 people would be infected. Of those who get infected with COVID-19, 20% will experience a stronger mutation of the virus, according to the World Health Organization. That typically means hospitalization. Should that occur in this scenario, 18,000 people would need hospitalization.
The rub is, we have 5,712 staffed hospital beds and most have patients in them. Overrunning our care capacity would mean even more people will get sick and die.
Don’t panic, but don’t be dismissive of the coronavirus. Don’t allow yourself or others to flaunt common conventions. Slow the rate of infection. Wash your hands. Cover your coughs. Maintain appropriate social spacing.
If not for yourself, do it for me. I’m one of those West Virginians wearing a target.