Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Addressing the Bad Arguments About COVID

This is probably a fruitless exercise since this really addresses the incurably ignorant more than the rest of us, but I thought I would address a few of the arguments aimed at diminishing the seriousness of the pandemic.
  • This is just another flu.  We didn't shut down during seasonal flus so why now?  No, it is not just another flu.  
    • More Americans have been killed the last month by COVID than by any other cause of death.  That ain't the flu, well, not since epidemics in 1918 and 1957 or so.  
    • The whole idea of shutting things down is not just to prevent mass deaths but to save the health care system.  The flattening the curve bit is to keep the number of sick below the threshold at which the hospitals will be maxxed out.  The shortage of personal protective equipment [PPE] and the possibility of not having enough ventilators, ICU spaces, hospital beds raises the risks of a collapse of the system.  This would not only lead to more deaths now but make recovery incredibly hard.
    • Which gets to a fundamental reality in this pandemic--doctors, nurses, other caregivers are dying.  This does not happen in a big way in a regular flu cycle.  
  • Hey, you folks are counting people who died at home--we have no idea if they died from COVID.  There are direct and indirect effects.  People die from the disease itself, people die from how the disease interacts with pre-existing conditions, and people die from other conditions because they can't/won't get treatment in the middle of a pandemic.  These are all deaths that would not have happened otherwise.  So, dead is dead, whether it is direct or indirect.  
  • Hey, I am ok with taking the risks, it is none of your business a.k.a. FREEDOM.  While there is a heap of moral philosophy pondering individual versus collective responsibility, the point here is simply that one's behavior does reverberate.  That if a person takes more risks, one not only risks one's own health but those they interact, those that interact with those people, and so on AND one endangers the doctors/nurses by creating more work for them, filling beds, using ventilators, stressing out everyone.  
  • Update: one more: hey, it is only 45,000 or so... not so bad.  Well, that is essentially one month and it would have been far worst had we not shut things down (even if it was done inconsistently).  What we are seeing now is in some ways the best case scenario given where things were on April 1st.  But this best case scenario sucks.  And if folks had moved faster, far fewer people would be dead.  
Of course, the reality is that much of this "opposition" to stay-at-home stuff is performative--funded by Betty DeVos and others seeking to undermine Democrats, seeking to open markets up even as it risks the lives of others.  Polls show that much more Americans support stay-at-home rules than those who are opposed, despite how much the media is exaggerating the opposition. 

So, why argue against these specious arguments?  Mostly because we have plenty of time to rail against the actors of Bad Faith and the party of Bad Faith.  And I can't help myself.


wayne said...

You mean like the millions that died from the flu in 1958 and 1969 epidemics and the half a million that die every year from endemic flu

Steve Saideman said...

If we can avoid the losses of millions of lives, how about we try?

wayne said...

Is that what's going on, though? Or are we just spreading the deaths over a longer period of time so that the health system doesn't get overwhelmed initially? Do the millions of lives only matter if its from a coronavirus? What happens when the next influenza epidemic hits? Are those lives going to be worth less because it's just the flu and not a coronavirus?

brev00 said...

There will be many fewer overall deaths if we spread out infections over a longer period of time. Time is on our side. Time to get test kits in place, time to get ppe produced for health care professionals and first responders, time to get medical grade masks and hand sanitizer available for all, time for scientists to work out treatments and a vaccine.

Steve Saideman said...

If we stretch it out so that we don't collapse the medical system, fewer people will die.

Again, all forms of death are bad, and it would be great if we could eliminate them all, but COVID is distinct from the flu--it infects more people quickly, it has a higher death rate (even if the numbers come down, the flu tends not to kill 40 Americans in a month), and it is far more likely to cause the medical system to collapse. So, we do more to fight it.

I am not quite as willing as the "hey, it is just like the flu) crowd to write off the lives of tens/hundreds of thousands.

Wayne said...

So I see the first problem you think that the "flu" kills only 40 Americans in a month when the CDC's number is in excess of 100 a day and that is for endemic influenza not epidemic influenza. Do you understand the difference?

It is possible that by flattening the curve the health system might save some that would otherwise succumb due to lack of treatment however that is not certain at this point. Do yo know that 50% of patients taken of a ventilator are dead within 6 months(historically)?

The Italian numbers suggest that 50% of mortalities occurred in patients with 3 comorbidities. The NHS in the UK estimated that over 2/3 of their SARS COV-2 fatalities would have died this year statistically. The last numbers I saw have Ontario ICU's over 70% empty.

While we seem to be getting a handle on the epidemic in Canada, if enough people are not exposed we will remain at risk to experience this again. Better oversight of retirement homes, an earlier response/border closure, not throwing out our emergency supplies because of "expiration" dates and storage fees and perhaps Dr. Tam following her own report recommendations from SARS COV-1 instead of whatever she is doing could perhaps have put us in the order of Australia