It is not ridiculous, and no, the world has not lost its mind.
The impact of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, in the United States and locally here in Lyon County has exploded this past week. In just the last few days, we’ve gone from the status quo to schools calling off classes, sports seasons being wiped out completely and regular updates from our local health department.
Thursday evening, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly declared a state of emergency when Kansas recorded its first death due to the virus.
The fact of the matter is, this is a serious situation. Still, there are many online chastising others for being “ridiculous,” lamenting that the entire world has gone crazy or claiming that everything is being blown out of proportion.
”The flu has killed way more people,” is a popular rallying cry for those holding to those beliefs. And it’s not wrong, but it also is essentially comparing apples to oranges.
According to information released March 11 by Johns Hopkins University, about 61,000 people in the United States die of the flu each year out of about 45 million people who contract it. That is a mortality rate of .14 percent — or a little more than one death per 1,000 patients. As of March 11, there were 1,039 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Of those, 29 of them resulted in deaths. That’s a mortality rate of about 2.79 percent — or about 28 per 1,000 patients. It’s been much higher in other parts of the world.
The difference between one and 28, in this case, is a big one. To put it in perspective, if the same number of people who get the flu each year got the coronavirus, there would be more than twice as many deaths — about 125,550 to be exact. When you put it that way, the virus is much more deadly.
But — and don’t confuse this for “fear-mongering” or “sensationalism” — there are vaccines for the flu. Though scientists are working on it, there is not one developed yet for COVID-19, and the exact rate of spread is still essentially unknown; we just know it’s fast. There is a very real, if not likely, chance that many more people will be infected with coronavirus than who get the flu if immediate and drastic measures to stop its spread are not taken.
That brings me to the second excuse for blowing it off I’ve noticed a lot online. “It’s only deadly for the elderly and immunocompromised. I’m young and healthy, so I’ll be fine.”
Again, that’s probably true — although it doesn’t account for what the virus does when, not if, but when it mutates. Again, this is a new virus that we really have no way of predicting at this point.
The problem is, scientists are saying it can sometimes take a week before someone who has contracted the virus shows any symptoms. In the meantime, they can go about their daily lives and unknowingly spread it to countless people with whom they come in contact.
The reason cities are putting a moratorium on large gatherings; games, concerts and shows are being canceled or postponed; and schools are delaying in-person classes indefinitely is to curb the spread of the virus. If 18,000 people attend an NBA game and even a handful contract the virus, who knows how many people they might spread it to before even knowing the’ve been infected. The cycle continues and multiplies with the patient who caught it from the person at the basketball game.
And, yes, I’m 34 years old and in relatively good health. If I were to catch the virus, though there are no guarantees, the odds of beating it would be in my favor. But what about my immunocompromised friends and family members, or elderly people I might come in contact with before realizing I have the virus? They might not be so lucky.
What we’re seeing now is not panicking; it’s taking proper, albeit unfortunate, precaution.
The truth is, I have a lot of people whom I love that would be in a high-risk category. If there is any way to curb the spread so that they don’t catch it, I’m all for it.
I’d rather make a few sacrifices and be inconvenienced in March and April than spend May and June attending funerals.