What We Should Fear

By May 21, 2020Commentary

A few observations on the epidemic, and some concerns we should address.

I think most people still don’t understand that all the business shutdowns, stay-at-home orders and social distancing are largely only designed and only have the effect of delaying cases and deaths.  So if we do have a second wave, a lot of people may not understand that we did that to ourselves by not allowing the virus to have a more complete spread through the population.  And they will be dismayed that we haven’t “defeated” the virus.

I am especially concerned because it is very clear as I have read a couple more studies that the existing strains of coronavirus are very seasonal.  Infections basically die out in June through September.  If we see that pattern here, people may be even more likely to think the epidemic is over.  Obviously what we don’t want is to have politicians and the media given an opportunity to terrify us all over again next fall into doing even further damage to the economy.

This strain perhaps won’t be as seasonal because it is more lethal to the vulnerable, but I doubt it.  If it is seasonal and infections drop off and it isn’t apparent that we have a high level of immunity in the population, then I would suggest we should open everything up, except the vulnerable groups, and encourage big crowds.  We aren’t going to get many infections, but even a few could help.

I also am concerned that people are overly optimistic about either a therapeutic or a vaccine.  A widely beneficial treatment or vaccine is not a certainty.  But if people have that hope, they may be more supportive of unnecessary and extreme shutdowns.  And if neither comes to pass within a few months, people will have greater level of despair unless we start giving people a more realistic appraisal of their true low risk.

I worry that our current suppression efforts may only encourage mutation of the virus.  We may be helping select for mutations that allow it to persist for longer outside a human host, or are more lethal.  And our obsession with hygiene may encourage other pathogens to mutate as well.

And I am concerned that people do not understand the depth of damage we have done to jobs and the health system.  This won’t be a quick snapback.  We need to stop scaring people and encourage them to resume normal lives as soon as possible.

That’s my list of worries.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • DuluthGuy says:

    Is it just me or was closing schools the most counter-productive thing we possibly could have done? Kids for the most part have no symptoms with it. The quickest and least destructive way to herd immunity (which will be reached one way or another) is letting it spread among the least vulnerable.

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