It is hard to reconcile the reaction to past epidemics like SARS and H1N1 with the current near total hysteria and shut down of our economy.
The virus appears to be slightly more transmissible than these two previous pandemic causing viruses, but is also less lethal.
In fact, it is unclear exactly how dangerous COVID-19 is. The statistics are either unreliable or vary widely. At the moment, the virus is 20x more dangerous in Italy than it is in Germany. This makes it very difficult to predict the actual mortality in the event of an outbreak.
The people that are dying of this appear to be limited to elderly patients with other underlying conditions. Healthy adults get sick but recover, and children seem largely unaffected. While every death is a tragedy, it does not appear that this virus is going to wipe out huge swaths of the population. The numbers may not be any worse than the typical flu season, if some of the statistics are accurate.
So why are we in modified stationary panic over this disease? Why have we shut down the entire services industry in the country? Why have we purposefully pushed the economy into recession or depression?
- It could be that the masses are under-educated and don’t understand statistics or probability.
- It could be that the news media is whipping up hysteria to bolster ratings.
- It could be that the news media is trying to create a sense of chaos to undermined the Trump administration.
- It could be that Trump’s lack of verbal finesse and awkward communication style don’t give people a sense of calm.
- It could be that the news media and the Democrats are trying to crash the economy as a way to get Trump out of office.
- It could be that Democrats are trying to whip up hysteria and panic to let them enact their policy preferences for Nationalized Health care, Medicare for All, Paid Sick Leave, Universal basic income, and gun control.
- It could be that the near absolute safety and comfort of a rich capitalist society has left people so infantilized that they cannot cope with the slightest threat.
But I think it is all of them happening at the same time.