There are three general narratives being pushed to keep Americans calm about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The first is that there are only 8 cases so far in the United States. The second is that it’s not nearly as deadly as the flu which has killed 8200 so far this season alone. The third is that officials have taken the proper precautions to keep it from spreading, such as stopping foreign travelers who have been in China in the last two weeks.
All of these are partially true. The part that should scare people is that the conspicuous lack of emergency-level warnings have not been issued. In fact, we were given more warnings in the early days of SARS in 2002, swine flu in 2009, and Zika in 2016 than we’re getting now with the coronavirus.
It’s silly to think there are only 8 cases in the United States. Yet media reports aren’t explaining the real risks this virus poses or the reasons it’s certain there are many more cases than we’re being told, reasons I’ll describe below.
The “less-deadly-than-the-flu” narrative is especially heinous because it’s a disingenuous statistic. Yes, 8200 have died from flu this season, but that’s against 15,000,000 reported cases. That means only one out of every 1829 cases are fatal. The coronavirus has an estimated fatality rate of between 2%-3%. This is lower than SARS which had a fatality rate of nearly 10%, but there’s a reason even this statistic makes the 2019 Novel Coronavirus much more dangerous. I’ll cover that below as well.
The third “keep calm” narrative is both hopeful and concerning. It’s hopeful because it’s clear the Trump administration is taking this seriously. It’s concerning because enough has not been done to warn and prepare the population for what’s really going on.
This coronavirus has some extremely alarming traits. It’s slow to manifest with incubation rates of up to two weeks. There’s as much as a week from the time the disease becomes contagious to the time the carrier starts feeling symptoms. It is an airborne contagion that can infect through the eyes. All of these traits combine for a recipe of total disaster for any nation, including the United States, that has many travelers to and from China in general and Wuhan in particular. It’s rare for a virus to be contagious when the carriers are asymptomatic for such an extended period of time. Diseases like this were made to circumvent modern-day preventative measures.
Last week we posted a video showing the real numbers at that point of Chinese infection rates may be 10x higher than they’re reporting. The communist nation’s penchant for secrecy and disinformation make the conspiracy theory estimates seem realistic. Even if those estimates are exaggerated, they’re still terrifying.
But let’s not get too wrapped up in conspiracy theories, as the bulk that are floating around now are simply untrue. Some are saying this was manufactured for population control. Others are saying it was a bioweapon that was accidentally unleashed on the population. These and other conspiracy theories are distractions from the reality that it’s a virus borne from someone consuming an unclean meat from an animal that is known to carry these types of diseases. It happened in a highly populated area with many travelers in and out. There are times when stirring up fears of government conspiracies is necessary. This is not one of them.
What’s important to understand is that Americans must take proper precautions. These are the same precautions we should be practicing at all times anyway, especially during flu season. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, ears, or mouth with unwashed hands. Limit exposure to contagious surfaces and wash your hands if you do touch them. Did I mention washing your hands?
We must address this with increased diligence. The fact that it spreads so rapidly before symptoms are present is why reports that there are only 8 confirmed cases are misleading. The death rate being lower than other diseases like SARS is good, but there’s a negative side effect as a result. Since people aren’t getting as sick as quickly, the spread of the disease is much higher. I’m not suggesting it’s a bad thing that a lower percentage of people are dying from it, but it does make it easier to spread. The government needs to start issuing warnings and educating people on proper actions to be taken. Telling people to wash their hands more often than usual would go a long way to slowing the spread.
The first thing they say when situations like this arise is, “Don’t panic.” 99 times out of 100, this is great advice. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus appears to be the 1 in a 100 times when calls for calm are misplaced. We must take precautions for this one immediately.