Fear Itself When I was in high school I was always puzzled by a December 7th, 1941 quote attributed to President Franklin Roosevelt that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Now, having worked in health education during the Swine Flu epidemic of the 1970s, then with the Red Cross after the attacks of 9/11 and the new nearly constant threat of terrorism, I understand what he meant. Fear paralyzes, fear fuels panic buying, fear causes hoarding, spreads misinformation, and generates poor decision-making at a time we can least afford frightened, self-absorbed thinking.
Our leaders need to keep us both calm and informed, while they tap the resources of our federal, state and local governments to stop the spread and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 until a vaccine is widely available, likely the better part of a year from now. Try doing THAT in any election year, much less one so polarized as this one.
Look at it this way. This is our BIG chance to prove there IS intelligent life on earth. If all those flying saucer reports are to be believed, (or if even one is) the aliens must by now have presumed there is no intelligent life here. It’s our chance to prove them wrong.
The New York Times reported that the Trump administration may call upon a 70-year-old law, the Defense Production Act, to speed up the manufacturing of medical supplies needed to deal with the threat of COVID-19, Alex M. Azar II, the health secretary, said on Friday. A prudent idea.
COVID-19 has captured the attention of the world, despite killing far fewer people worldwide than influenza has in the last 12 months in the U.S. alone. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, in the five months from October 1, 2019, through February 29, 2020, there have been: between 34,000,000 – 49,000,000 flu cases and between 20,000 – 52,000 flu deaths.
Worldwide Johns Hopkins has reported that so far there have been 116,588 total cases reported with 4,090 deaths.
So It’s Bad, But Why So Much Fuss? Because we don’t yet fully understand the virus and because COVID-19 is spread so easily compared to previous contagions. While most who contract it will have few if any severe symptoms and recover fully, between 1 and 4 % will die.
In fact, it appears that, unbeknownst to us, the virus may have been spreading for a while in this country. Genetic analysis by computational biologist Trevor Bedford at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle indicates the coronavirus might have been circulating in Washington state over the past six weeks, according to the Washington Post.
“This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks,” Bedford concluded. “I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China.”
If You Get It And Recover Can You Get It Again? Unknown as yet, but it’s considered unlikely. There have been some cases in Washington State of people who got COVID-19, were sick, recovered and a few weeks later came down with symptoms again. We all know people who had that sort of flashback from regular flu, so until the science dictates otherwise, the answer is, “we don’t know yet, but probably not.”
Are Medical Workers At Higher Risk That Public At Large? It seems so. We all heard the heartbreaking story of Doctor Li Wenliang who first identified the virus, warned fellow doctors and was threatened by the Chinese Government for “spreading fear.” He relented, subsequently contracted COVID-19 and died. Despite the fact that the virus is a far greater threat to people over 60 than the public at large, about four percent of the Mainland China deaths were younger healthcare workers as young as 29 years old. Doctors and healthcare workers, it seems, may be at higher risk because of overwork, increased exposure to the virus and perhaps lack of protection before the high communicability of this virus was better known.
Gates Foundation Will Make Home COVID-19 Tests Available One of the first orders of business in the U.S. is, of course, identifying who may be affected and preventing them from infecting other people. Yet for a brand new virus, unknown to science just three months ago, there is no stockpile of test kits because they didn’t exist at all before now. Companies have been in high gear developing and testing kits, something that takes less time than developing a vaccine because testing poses no health threat to the person being tested. Injecting a new, never-before-tried vaccine? Well, you first.
According to website ExtremeTech: “The Gates Foundation is creating a home testing kit you can take by swabbing your nose and sending the sample to an address for analysis. Results would be shared with local health care officials, who would notify you of the diagnosis. Infected people would be asked to provide information on their movements and contacts via online forms. The goal is to be able to process thousands of kits per day, which would be a substantial improvement over existing testing capability.”
Thank God for Bill and Melinda Gates. As a Rotarian, I’ve known for years that the Gates Foundation has teamed with Rotary International and the World Health Organization (WHO) to eradicate the poliovirus. Now, if only more of the ultra-wealthy in our country could step forward to help protect the rest of us…
Ultra-Rich Seek COVID-19 Vaccine For Themselves OK, reference back to the title of this blog post. A new Bloomberg feature looks at how some ultra-wealthy are preparing for COVID-19.
By asking their pocket boutique docs whether they can apply liberal amounts of cash to get the first crack at a coronavirus vaccine before the huddled masses get theirs. How nice.
According to the Bloomberg story, “The tidbit comes via Tim Kruse, a private doctor in the wealthy city of Aspen, Colo., who told Bloomberg that his patients have been asking about a coronavirus vaccine — even though, you’ll remember, a vaccine for the virus doesn’t even exist yet.
“The answer is no,” Kruse told the magazine. “They just want to know.”
How sweet. Please let them know we’re all rooting for them to choke on their foie gras pate and they had better hope their names don’t slip out in the press.
Resist and Persist In the grocery today I turned a corner and came upon a fully restocked supply of hand sanitizer refill bottles. I bought two and left the rest for the other folks who shop there. What, just so some idiot can swoop in behind you and grab it all? Yeah, well, it won’t be me doing that. My mother would come back and haunt me. Resist the temptation to scoop up everything to avoid running short. Sooner or later you end up on the wrong end of that twisted math you’re doing there. What should we do? Persist in looking out for the high-risk people around us: elderly family, friends, and neighbors. Offer to make a grocery run for them, or pick up their prescriptions. They may be OK on their own or they may not. They probably wouldn’t ask. They probably would be pleased if you did.
Check the News Once A Day Last, consuming vast quantities of news coverage during a crisis is likely to only make you crazier, not better informed. As a survivor of the world of journalism (it was still a respected profession back then) they have a job to feed the maw of the 24-hour news cycle. We have no such responsibility to consume it all. I was a Red Cross executive when 9/11 happened and learned from a psychologist on our team that people can best protect their own mental health if they resume their normal news consumption habits as soon as possible in a crisis. Did you use to get your news from NPR on the way to work? Faithful to The Five on Fox? Watch the local NBC affiliate over supper at 6? CNN? MSNBC? The BBC?
Whatever. Stay informed, not overdosed with the news. Trust me, you’ll be just as safe and likely happier. We’ll get through this just fine if we have the discipline to work together and look out for each other.
The aliens are watching…
Richard A. Lee is the author of the technothriller “HIGH GROUND”