I can’t stop reading about coronavirus though I probably should. From a political stand point, it’s probably a disaster for the Trump administration. It will lead to a recession if we’re not already in one. By the time it’s over in a year and half or so, somewhere between 40% and 70% of the nation will have had it. It will likely kill between 500,000 and a million people, mostly elderly and people with compromised immune systems, according to most experts.
It’s disturbing to watch the misinformation and disinformation being spread. The biggest disappointment is the president, but it’s also the least surprising. He’s viewing the crisis through the lens of his re-election campaign, not what’s best for the country. A week ago, he called it a hoax and blamed Democrats for causing fear that crashed the markets. That’s a joke and, really, so is he.
We are finally taking some of the steps to slow the spread but we probably can’t stop it. Slowing the spread is necessary so we don’t overload our health system like they have in Italy. There, the cases are coming in so fast, they’ve run out of hospital beds and the supplies needed to treat people. Health care workers are getting sick, putting even greater strain on the system. The ones still working are making depressing choices about who gets treatment and who is left to either die or recover without help.
In Italy, the mortality rate is about 6% of confirmed cases, far greater than any flu we’ve ever seen. They’ve stopped the spread by closing most businesses except pharmacies and groceries. People are asked to stay in their homes. It will save lives but almost certainly crush the economy.
Cancelling conferences, concerts, sporting events, and schools is prudent, if unpleasant and economically harmful. If we can slow the pace, we can help our hospitals prepare for the onslaught of patients that are coming in May or June. We can also reduce the mortality rate by ensuring that we don’t run out of supplies or lose providers too quickly. Slowing the rate of infection is one of the best defenses against a disease that has no preventative vaccine or cure.
By now, hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are infected but they don’t know it yet. Many of these cases will be mild but more than a few will be fatal. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, caronavirus is ten times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
Social isolation and testing will do more to slow the spread of the disease than anything right now. Not much is known about it, but some experts believe the warm weather in summer will also dampen its impact. That’s somewhat speculative, but could give us a respite before cooler weather brings it back next fall. Ultimately, we’ll have a vaccine and we will weather this crisis. When it’s finished, though, we’ll be a changed nation.