No Worse Than The Seasonal Flu?

novel coronavirus, image by Gianluca Tomasello

Author’s note: This is from a post I just made on Facebook, which I normally do not do, but felt the need to rant at people out there.

I’m tired of seeing the return of the “this is no worse than the seasonal flu” argument.

By now, we all know the argument…the flu causes so many deaths each year and so far this coronavirus is nowhere near those numbers, so why don’t we go through all of these extreme measures for the flu each year? The implication here is that the media has over-hyped this virus and put everyone in unwarranted panic and it’s not as big a deal as it’s being made out to be (presumably to hurt the President’s reelection chances, because everything needs to be political nowadays).

Stop it. Please, just stop it.

It seemed that we were finally getting beyond this inane argument when most everyone started to understand how serious it was a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s coming back, and frankly, it’s going to cause more people to die.

We are now being told at the highest level of leadership that it now appears the mortality rate is not as high as people were warning, and that many areas are not as bad as others and we should start relaxing social distancing criteria. This is a dangerous message to be putting out there and it’s causing the “it’s no worse than the flu” argument to come back and that causes people to not take it seriously, which causes an increase in the spread, and the end result is an increase in death.

If you don’t think this is any different than the seasonal flu, all you need to do is look at Italy and New York today, right now…with your very own eyes and ears. You don’t have to consider some article from some pundit suggesting it’s just a conspiracy…you don’t need to consider a Facebook meme that shows such nonsense…you can see it for yourself, in real time.
Does the regular, seasonal flu cause such a devastating situation in the hospitals in Italy where doctors are, literally, deciding which of the many, many people lined up in the lobbies, waiting rooms, and hallways are going to live and which are going to die?

Does the regular, seasonal flu require New York to set up multiple makeshift hospitals, each able to accommodate 1000 patients each year during the flu season?

They are currently getting half a dozen of these set up as we speak and looking at adding many more, using college dorms, hotels, and other such facilities. This is in addition to the navy hospital ship being deployed to New York which adds yet another 1000 beds (which is great, but is not the solution that resolves things as much as touted, no matter how much fanfare).

Does the regular, seasonal flu drive emergency nurses to post emotional pleas to everyone to take this seriously as the situation in the ER is worse than they have ever seen or ever imagined it could be? They are already highly stressed by how real and how serious this has already become, and we are not even near the apex yet. It’s foolish and absurd to take stock in any Facebook meme or random article that downplays this over the very real pleas we are hearing from very real medical people on the front-lines.

Any rational person looking at these specific things that are happening right now, and are easily verified, can see that this threat is very real and very different and potentially very much more deadly than the seasonal flu.

So, please, stop sharing information that suggests otherwise…it is not helping and could very well cause more people to die.

What we are seeing in Italy and New York today will be happening in other areas as well, as this virus continues to spread. We are already seeing that in states like Michigan, Louisiana, and others.

When all is said in done, it will most likely be that this virus takes as many and more lives as the seasonal flu, even with all of the extreme measures we are taking. Hopefully, it does not take many more lives than that, but that will totally depend on how seriously all of us take it and understand why.

We are told by our leadership that the mortality rates we are seeing may not be as bad as some predicted. Unfortunately, this message will give people a false sense of complacency. Current numbers for the U.S., as I write this, show 116,505 confirmed cases and 1,925 deaths. That’s a mortality rate of 1.7%, compared to the seasonal flu of about .1%. That’s already 17x more deadly than the seasonal flu. I know, I know…many are out there that have not been tested so the actual mortality rate is likely much lower than that. That’s very true, but the same thing can be said for the seasonal flu, so it’s not a compelling argument.

But the 1.7% mortality rate, as bad as it is, is not the big problem. Our leadership tells us that’s a good thing because many were predicting 3-4%, and since it’s much lower than those predictions, we can start to adjust (relax) what we’re doing. This is completely the wrong way to look at this.

The 1.7% is the “natural” mortality rate, meaning it is the rate that we are experiencing before any overload of our hospital systems. So far, we have not had to deny crucial medical needs to any patients that need it (like ventilators). Unfortunately, all signs point to that changing very soon and if we relax what we are doing, that will make things much worse.

How do we know this? Look at Italy. Italy’s numbers reflect a situation that has greatly overwhelmed their healthcare capacity and when that happens, you see much, much higher mortality rates. Current numbers for Italy are 92,472 confirmed cases with 10,023 deaths. That is a staggering 10.8% death rate. That is the very real cost, happening right now, that results from exceeding the hospital capacity.

This is what it’s all about, people. We are attempting to prevent the possibility of turning a 1.7% death rate into a 10.8% death rate. For the population of the United States that is a difference of between tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands (or even into the millions).

Now, I don’t believe that the U.S., with all of our vast resources, will allow it to get to the same level as Italy’s problem. However, it’s very easy to envision it to get to an extent where that mortality rate gets to the 3-4% numbers, which still means a huge increase of death, not for natural reasons, but rather for the fact that we don’t have enough equipment to treat them. That is the tragedy we’re trying to avoid.

This is why so many governors and doctors and nurses from so many states are currently begging for help with increasing hospital beds, PPE equipment, and ventilators, as well as medical personnel. They understand the situation all too well.

I can only imagine the feeling they get when they see a post on Facebook that suggests people shouldn’t take this as seriously as most are. They know this type of thinking will get people killed.

You might think that the area you are in is not affected nearly as bad as New York. In many, many cases that is absolutely true. This will definitely hit major areas of congestion much harder than lesser congested areas. So, big cities are going to be hardest hit. But that does not mean those of us in the smaller cities and rural areas are immune. And remember, most of the ICU beds with ventilators are going to be located in the bigger cities, so anyone needing hospital care from the smaller cities and rural areas will still be relying on those hospitals in the bigger cities.

It is now being suggested by our leadership that since many states have fewer than 200 confirmed cases, it would be a good idea to relax our social distancing requirements in order to at least get these people back to work. To that I would have you note that this same leadership, just 30 days ago, was telling us that there were only 15 confirmed cases nationwide and that would soon be zero. Thirty days later, there are 116,505 cases and nearly 2000 dead. Don’t be comforted by the notion that there are “only” 200 cases in your state.

Until we get a widespread, nationwide, thorough testing of this thing, we are fighting it blind.

With new testing options becoming available, hopefully we can have a much better handle on the situation in just a couple of weeks. Until then, we need to strengthen our resolve, and hammer home to everyone how serious this really is and quit confusing it with arguments that are likely going to make it worse and cause more unneeded death.

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About Steve Wood 257 Articles
I am a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a Citizen of the United States. As my avatar depicts, I believe The People need to relearn and focus on the basic principles that our Republic was built upon. My contributions here will be geared toward that end. Please join me in rational, civil discourse.