The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

At the moment, Americans are trying to deal with a pandemic that purportedly has the potential to kill millions of people. Death from disease has always been lamented by Americans. Life is not cheap in this country. So, the response to this situation has expectedly overwhelmed our lives for a few months, with much more to come.

I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss what America has done well and not so well in the face of a killer virus. Let me begin with non-medical issues.

Do you appreciate that world leaders have virtually shut down the entire global business community on very short notice? The theory is that everyone should stay home, isolate and distance themselves from others. The devastation that this self-imposed economic paralysis could have on the world economy is something that we should all be very concerned with. But, the effort to keep people from interfacing with each other at work, in school, at play and in familial settings has been astounding. The results are promising.

In a related regard, a great deal of business is still being done over the Internet. Americans can buy food and supplies (most importantly toilet paper) online. And although our access to food is somewhat limited, it’s still possible to find it, even from restaurants on a take-out basis.

Many companies are concluding that it may not be necessary for workers to congregate at their facilities. Work can often be done with a phone and a computer remotely. It will be interesting to see whether the trillions of dollars of real estate owned by corporations to provide services will be divested in the future in favor of a stay at home strategy.

And just as mind-blowing is that every elementary school, high school, college and graduate school is conducting classes from afar. The Internet has enabled teachers to communicate with students that are safely at home. This is a great development, but also, it has been heaven-sent for parents who are trying to keep their children busy.  Just imagine what homes would be like if the kids did not need to spend a few hours each day doing schoolwork.

Changing direction, I want to give another shout-out to our first responders, doctors nurses, soldiers and everyone that has given money and time (and risked their lives) to help those who have been crippled by this menace. As far as I can remember, first responders have always stepped up and did their jobs at great peril. They deserve our eternal thanks for once again helping us survive in a dire situation.

And finally, there are those in the medical profession who are striving to develop treatments and vaccines and manage the process of keeping Americans healthy. Limiting their advice to staying home, washing hands regularly, distancing, and not touching one’s face has been brilliant.

Keep in mind that medical researchers were surprised by this new disease and neither the world nor the US knew exactly how to respond at first. Doctors had to retool, study the disease and figure out how to treat those who became sick. You can’t effectively combat an epidemic much less a pandemic without data. In just a few short weeks, data amassed has enabled these people to make wise, conservative recommendations to our leaders.

Regarding leadership in America, there are many unfortunate criticisms that must be noted. First and foremost, our leaders in previous catastrophes have performed far better than our current president, congress, governors, mayors, and local organizers. When you think about Lincoln, F.D.R., John Kennedy and even George Bush you can appreciate the importance of leadership during difficult moments. Politicians all want to be great and have their own chapter in the history books.  The only thing that will be read 100 years from now is that our leaders were too political and more concerned about their own reputation than saving America.

Getting Back To Normal

Now that our leaders have completely shut down the country, we need to start thinking about getting ourselves back to some representation of normality, socially and economically. The big risk is a recurrence of the pandemic and/or infections infiltrating the US from foreign countries.

The data being received about the danger of the virus has been incomplete and tardy. The president, governors and mayors are saying they want to restart the economy, but do the experts have what they need to help our leaders make good decision. What does it mean to restart the economy? To a great extent Americans must end their isolation and begin to interact with family, fellow workers, people in stores and restaurants, at sporting events, etc. Exacerbating the situation is that some data that would be useful to the experts and to all Americans has not been showcased. See the other blog I posted today for an example of this unfortunate phenomenon.

This is a risky proposition. We’ve been told that social distancing, isolation and good sanitary habits are the only way to defeat the coronavirus. And now we will be asked to re-congregate with other Americans even though some may be infected with the virus.

The other side of the coin is equally disconcerting. If we delay the process of revving up our economy, which would entail Americans being close to other Americans, people will likely starve, some will lose homes and some will become destitute. The risks affiliated with not being social as we were before all this craziness began is as great as the perils associated with remaining dormant economically in an effort to fight the disease.

To be more specific, unemployment is supposedly going to reach double digit figures. Every day more people are being furloughed, mortgages are not being paid, individuals have less and less money to buy food and so on. The government cannot provide for a hundred million people without sustaining a shortage of funds for other necessary services.

So, as I see it, isolation must end soon, but how will mothers react to sending their children to school? How effective will we respond at work if we are frightened that an officemate might infect us with the virus? Would we even consider going to a restaurant with friends and family like we did a few months ago? And what about baseball games, concerts and ballet? No, Americans are going to tread lightly, and all these events where people congregate will suffer for many more months to come regardless of urgings from our leaders.

Getting back to work will be a colossal undertaking. Employees will be concerned with their safety, while employers won’t want to endanger those that work for them. We must be diligent and patient about getting back to the norm, or it all could spin out of control once again.

 

Are Americans Receiving An Accurate Perspective Of COVID-19?

I happen to come upon this chart created by the New York City Department of Health that shows Deaths Among Confirmed Cases of the virus through late April.
There were 10,290 total deaths in NYC attributed to the disease. 7,474 were accompanied by underlying conditions that are delineated below. 61 deaths had no underlying conditions. 2,755 may or may not have had underlying conditions.
If you are a female under the age of 18, the statistics show that you have a 4/10,290 (.8%) chance of dying from COVID-19, even including deaths in the age group that have unknown underlying conditions (there were 0). If you are over 75, you have a  4973/10290 (48%) chance of dying of the virus (including unknown underlying condition deaths).  This is based up stats accumulated to this date and could vary prospectively.
To conclude, the chances of dying from COVID-19 are slim until you reach the age of 45, and even then they are low if you don’t count deaths with unknown underlying conditions.
Wouldn’t it make sense for this information to be showcased widely. Consider decisions about youngsters returning to classes. There is practically no chance of a child being infected and dying from the virus. Of course, falling ill and infecting adults needs to be taken into consideration before any action is taken to open schools.
The point of this blog is that perhaps the panic button was premature and the return to normalcy, if we protect the aged and infirm, can be expedited. I will leave that ultimate decision to the experts. I just hope they are receiving the data needed to make wise decisions. The general population is certainly not being informed by anything but horror stories caused by the disease. I wonder if reporting is politically motivated.
Demographics of New York City COVID Deaths
Each day the New York City Department of Health releases demographic data on COVID-19 deaths. Overwhelmingly, those who die of COVID are aged 65+ and/or those with pre-existing health conditions, which the DOH defines as: “Diabetes, Lung Disease, Cancer, Immunodeficiency, Heart Disease, Hypertension, Asthma, Kidney Disease, and GI/Liver Disease.” Note: these demographics include “confirmed” COVID cases only, and exclude “probable” deaths.

?Unanswered Questions?

As I pass the hours of the day waiting for the end of the pandemic and escape from my self inflicted prison, the only really good news is that our first responders, doctors, nurses and research personnel are finally getting credit for all they are doing to save others. It’s about time that these brave souls were cited for their dedication, empathy and determination.

Beyond this, there are more questions every day. Our leaders and others around the world are playing politics with the virus epidemic. How low can you go? Why isn’t saving lives and ending this menace the first priority of Trump, our Congress, Xi, Putin and all the European heads of state? What the hell is so important about taking credit and passing blame? The renown doctors and scientists must worry about offending two-bit politicians, presidents and despots every time they make a discovery. Negative reports are taboo in this day and age.

Every American I speak with wants answers to the important questions. Like:

How many Americans have contracted the virus?

How many Americans are infected without symptoms?

Can asymptomatic individuals with the disease pass it on to others?

How many Americans have antibodies from a bout with the coronavirus?

Do the antibodies prevent these people from contracting the disease a second time?

Can a person who had the virus and has antibodies infect others?

How long do antibodies last? If it’s a long period of time, and many people have antibodies, the risk of another outbreak should be less. Is this correct?

How many people have died from the virus? This is important if we are ever going to know when the slope of the infection is going down. We need the facts about every death, including the sex, age, location and general health of the deceased, if we if we if we ever will be ever will be able to combat the disease.

Where do we stand with vaccines and other treatments?

Are there enough hospital beds and related equipment available to care for those who are seriously ill?

Instead of worrying about how Trump will respond to a new update, advisors and doctors should focus more on developing treatment and a vaccine. And very importantly we should get answers to the damn questions mentioned above.

Here in Florida, the Mayor of Miami is taking a bold step to put his constituents on the road back to normalcy. He is allowing people to congregate in certain places if they follow the guidelines relating to separation. The decision is partially based on a decline in the number of new cases of the virus and a desire to get the local economy on track. The risk is another outbreak if the locals fail to heed warnings about improper activities.

 

Tracking The Death Toll From Virus Is Critical

Isolation and quarantine have given everyone around the world time to assess the performance of their leaders during the health crisis. Given that nothing like this ongoing pandemic has occurred in 100 years, and considering medical advances since that time, disease status assessments have been a bit shaky and not that informative.

Nevertheless, there are basic facts and data that would really help mankind in its efforts to survive the coronavirus. In the face of Trump’s constant barrage of positive self-assessments, many believe data that should be the basis of public policy is slow to arrive and is hampering the progress of dealing with the pandemic.

What data do medical people need to observe to give them confidence that the situation is improving? Most importantly, they must have an accurate count of how many people have contracted the disease and how many died from it. This would reveal whether the situation is worsening, has leveled off or is improving. Determining new cases has been a problem because there were not enough test kits available at the start of this huge problem. But knowing death statistics can and should be available with a relatively simple compilation effort.

Let’s dig further into the death count issue. Assessing the worldwide coronavirus situation is interesting, but not so informative. More useful is knowing how each hotspot around the world is progressing or regressing. So, consider New York City because it is recognized as the current epicenter of the disease.

To make projections about whether the pandemic is getting better or worse, medical statisticians have to know how many people are dying every day from the disease. The data should be presented by areas of New York City, by age groups and the causes of death, which is usually respiratory related.

To gather this information every hospital and doctor must cooperate and complete a recap of deceased virus victims. It should be a relatively easy process. Who died? How old were they at death? What was their sex? What killed them specifically? Where did they live?

What would this data do for the medical projections and expectations related to the coronavirus? Here’s a short list:

  • We would know how many people died each day which would enable health experts to forecast, with some accuracy, the current slope of prospective fatalities.
  • We would know what parts of New York City are the most infected.
  • We may be able to identify specific facts about a hotspot that make it more susceptible to the virus.
  • We would know the sex, age, race, physical condition and location of every person that has died. Why is this important? One observation made recently is that poor people are more vulnerable to the disease. Is this because the people live close together, have poorer sanitary conditions and/or are they not inclined to follow guidelines from the authorities? This could encourage greater involvement by local leaders, which could in turn result in fewer deaths.
  • We would know whether age and sex were related to the deaths. This information will likely decrease panic throughout the population.

I’m not a statistician, but this assessment alone would greatly assist authorities as they guide us through the pandemic. We have gone to the moon and conquered all types of diseases over the years. We should be able to account for the deaths in our City and use the information to combat the pandemic.

 

Missing Earth’s Golden Days

I have to admit that my overactive imagination is getting the best of me in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, especially now that I have so much time on my hands. Look at it from a science fiction perspective and tell me an extraterrestrial is not responsible for this mess.

Mankind had been progressing quite nicely day-to-day up until just recently, without consideration to the crazy political environment in the country. The economic situation was under control, or at least it was in the US. There are squabbles occurring globally all the time, just like there have been since the beginning of time. The large players were managing to get along with each other as they attempted to increase their dominance militarily, economically, politically and religiously.

But something really bizarre is occurring now. An unknown virus has been unleashed on all of mankind. By whom? Mother Nature? Someone from another planet?

It began in China, where the locals always try to cover up serious problems to save face. The outbreak of coronavirus has been particularly contagious, so getting off to a slow start to combat it, was not good for anyone including the Chinese. You owe us one Mr. Xi.

But the virus is not really a brutal killer, although any loss of life is always a tragedy. It makes people sick, but not that sick unless a patient is hampered by other health issues, such as respiratory problems and old age.

However, the virus spread like a wildfire. Two people passed it to four, four to 16 and so on. You get the picture. It’s been exponential. Entire countries have been overwhelmed in a matter of days.

The affliction is spread by airborne contact. Just to make the situation more eerie, many are wearing protective masks as every other human is a potential coronavirus Mary (reference Typhoid Mary).

World leaders in conjunction with infectious disease experts, are taking action. They concluded almost immediately that the way humans socialize makes the disease stronger. Big crowds where people are close to each other can easily pass on the bug.

World leaders decided to bring the planet to a complete stop. No travel, no going to the office to work, no schooling in classrooms. In fact, everything that humans did as a group before this bug surfaced was now being done online, with no physical contact.

The staggering implications of this new way, and hopefully, temporary way, of interfacing with others are so great that world leaders are concerned that their societies might change permanently, lest new bugs uncontrollably assault us every few months. But the experts are still hanging their hats on new (and old) treatments and new (and old) vaccines. If a drug can stymie malaria, maybe it can stop this virus.

In a world where everything revolves around political, economic and religious domination, humans globally are now depending upon the most creative medical minds to stop the spread of the disease. And this leads to conversations that are not pleasant relating to medical ethics. They include who should live and who should die.

For instance, if an elderly patient is on his last legs being completely overwhelmed by the virus, why use a bed or a ventilator that can be used to save a younger, healthier patient? Very tough question with no good solution.

And now social talking heads are considering the implications of un-socializing mankind. It is safer to spend less time in large groups, at work, in restaurants, at sporting events, at family get togethers and at religious ceremonies. The experts are saying that if you don’t create some separation from your neighbor, you have a substantially greater chance of becoming sick and dying, if not from Corona, a bug that blooms in the near future.

And what about all the sociology books written by scholars who claimed that social interaction is the key to a great society? Those that don’t participate with others will be left behind they say.

Another monstrous sword is hanging over our heads as the economic implications of all this spacing between people and working at home become more obvious. Our economy morphed from the best ever, if you believe our fearless leader, to an economy that is dead on its ass. When the disease passes just like they have for millions of years, will everything resort back to what it was previously? Will we have low unemployment? Great productivity? A high standard of living? Will we be happy?

One thing that will change will be our readiness to deal with another pandemic.

My family has been fortunate. We had a few cases of the virus and outlasted the little buggers. But we are in suspended animation as we wait for light at the end of the tunnel and a signal to return to our former lives.

The New York Metropolitan area is now the center of the world relating to coronavirus. The medical people keep telling us to separate and wash our hands, hoping that new cases and death will subside. We need to turn the corner. Every day I read the papers and listen to the talking heads, I want to hear about how we are about to experience better conditions. I miss the old days that ended three or four weeks ago.

Society Versus Mother Nature

What is the status of our world, and the threat imposed by the pandemic virus?

The first observation relates to how our leaders have asked us to respond to the Coronavirus. They want everyone to self-isolate and avoid congregating for any reason. Staying at home and allowing the pandemic to pass over our homes is what has been recommended for all. The biblical reference to the forthcoming Passover holiday is ironic.

Have you really thought about how epic the lock down is to mankind? For all intents and purposes, six billion people are supposed to quarantine themselves for two to four weeks. The world is no longer social. No one has committed a crime, yet our leaders have taken our freedom. Of course, it is for the common good.

And yet, there are some who are resisting authoritative demands to keep their distance from others. Experts say this technique will facilitate the end of the pandemic, probably. So many having their freedom taken away is a really serious moment for our world population.

No crimes have been committed, so some civil libertarians are objecting to unwarranted loss of freedom. Why is it so difficult to gain the cooperation of the masses for the benefit of all society? Why is short-term inconvenience so hard to swallow even when the health of mankind lies in the balance?

In America, freedom is the most important right we have. It’s why we fought wars and faced down tyranny. Over the years, blood has been shed and heroes received medals for protecting our civil liberties.

Are we now at the point when the health of society outweighs the rights of each individual? Are some people so self-important about their freedom that they set aside the well-being of our species? Purposefully ignoring edicts not to congregate and to keep one’s distance should be a crime against humanity. It’s attempted murder when an American endangers others by challenging the law.

A small mistake can theoretically imperil the human race. If you think about it, this pandemic can have a much greater impact on mankind than nuclear weapons. And yet, less credence is given to the risks of pandemic. It’s not man versus man on a battlefield where collateral damage, to save our freedom, is at stake. It’s Mother Nature creating a conundrum. Her methods can be significantly more dangerous and threatening than a nuclear encounter.

What needs to change after the pandemic is over? For one thing, the United Nations needs to split into two equally important organizations, one that protects the world from man versus men annihilation, and one that protects mankind from Mother Nature. Both have the potential to turn Earth into a dead planet. Just like we prepare for conventional and nuclear holocaust, the world needs to study and anticipate the evolution of disease that guns and bombs are not effective against.

The actions by China to save face were despicable. Every country in the world should be prepared to work with its neighbors to protect mankind. There is no amount of political, social or religious influence that can offset a threat to mankind by a bug, a virus or a germ.