Reports from out west suggest that the Coronavirus has already begun “community spread” in the United States. This means that it’s being transmitted in some way between people, probably similar to a cold or flu. It’s not limited any longer to people that have been in China or the other known hotspots.
You’ve probably all seen the articles suggesting we may eventually be forced to close schools, work from home if possible, cancel concerts and sporting events, and take other measures to avoid direct social contact as much as possible. Which makes me wonder…
Why Not Take Preventative Measures Now?
I don’t ask this from a place a panic. While it’s true the death rate from Coronavirus appears to be significantly higher than the flu — estimates are 1.4% to 2.0% versus 0.06% to 0.1% for flu — some reports suggest that many people infected will experience only mild symptoms and possibly none at all. This is not yet the apocalypse.
UPDATE: Since this posting, the World Health Organization has increased the estimated death rate to 3.4%. It’s still early to know the actual number, higher or lower.
But still, if we think community spread is starting, does it makes sense to invoke these measures nationwide now before the virus can get a foothold? Cut it off at the pass, so to speak. Advice to frequently wash our hands is sound, of course, but I’m not confident yet that we truly know its means of transmission.
This would be no small thing. The disruption and economic impact would be huge. But if we think there’s half a chance we’ll end up having to do this anyway, does it seem prudent to do so on our terms in a controlled way, not on the virus’ terms?
I’m just sayin’, as my blog name suggests.
Gazing Into my Crystal Ball
There’s at least one gaping hole in my thinking here. Even if we took measures like I’m suggesting, and even if we actually stopped the Coronavirus dead in its tracks here, it can still come in on the next airline flight. And then we’re off and running again! We can’t live forever in a bubble.
I am no scientist or doctor, and I had to spellcheck the word epidemiology. But… I suspect the Coronavirus will become a new routine fact of life like colds and the flu. If we’re lucky we’ll have a vaccine in 12 to 24 months. And if we’re really lucky, the Coronavirus won’t mutate like the flu does. It’ll remain reasonably stable and thus strengthen the effectiveness of a vaccine. That’s a lot to hope for, but only time will tell.
All this notwithstanding, I still come back to my question: Does it make sense to take aggressive preventative measures now? Would this slow the spread of the virus that much longer, giving the medical and scientific community more time to learn and more time to get a vaccine out?
Healthcare in the United States
My comment yesterday on Facebook and Twitter:
Since I’m writing, I’ll point readers to an earlier post I wrote about the whole question of healthcare in the United States. Our system here is woefully lacking, and current crises like the Coronavirus make this all the more evident. If you’re interested and want to indulge me, check out The Abominable Health Care Act.
A Request to my Facebook Friends: If you have a comment I encourage you to enter it below instead of on Facebook. This way everyone can participate in the conversation!