I don't know about you, but I am sick of COVID-19, commonly called the Coronavirus. I know that is different than being sick FROM the Coronavirus, but I am weary from the onslaught of information and panic related to the disease. A lot of us will never get this particular virus; but we will make ourselves sick worrying about it in the process.
Just last night we learned that all travel from (non-UK) Europe is being banned. March Madness will go on without the fans. The NBA has suspended play. Classes are going virtual. St. Patrick's Day festivities are being cancelled all over the world. And this mornings stock futures tell me my retirement will probably be moved out a couple more years later today.
In my travels last week, I saw people wearing masks and gloves. Those gloves, touching the same germy things in the airport as everyone's bare hands, offer zero protection once the wearer touches their face (something I saw plenty of). Planes have never been cleaner, as everybody and their brother seemed to be wiping down every square inch. On one flight, a woman next to me asked me if I “wanted a wipe.” I sincerely hoped she was talking about one of the sanitizing cloths, and not using the word wipe as a verb.
I declined in either case. At least millions of Americans are rediscovering the joy of washing their hands.
We should take a moment to really look at COVID-19, and what it actually means for millions of Americans. How does it compare to other frightening diseases that were at one time also going to wipe out all mankind?
Ebola has had 33,577 confirmed cases since being identified in 1976. It has a mortality rate of 40.4%
Nipah, identified in 1998, with 513 confirmed cases, has a mortality rate of 77.6%.
SARS, since 2002, has had 8,096 cases with a 9.6% mortality rate.
MERS has had 858 cases since 2012, and carries a mortality rate of 34.4%
Now the latest threat, COVID-19, has (as of Thursday, March 11th) infected worldwide 126,136, and has a worldwide mortality rate of 3.7%. Clearly this virus has the ability to make more of us sick than past threats, but its ability to kill is not nearly at the levels of those previous concerns. And it should be noted that some areas of the world do not have the advanced medical system that this country has.
Here in the United States thus far, the mortality rate has been around 2.8% out of 1,312 cases. 19 of the 38 deaths so far have been linked to one nursing home in Washington State. And we should note that out of all the cases of COVID-19 around the world, the percentage of cases in the US is only 1%.
So, the threat that some of us will get ill is increased, but not nearly as much as other parts of the world at this point. The odds of dying from the disease are very low, with the greatest threat being to the elderly and those with serious underlying conditions.
In other words, the same people most vulnerable to the flu. We may have bought all the toilet paper in the world a bit prematurely.
To listen to the news today, you would get the impression that it is the end of days. I have certainly never seen anything like it in my lifetime. It may just be my opinion, but it seems to me that the biggest actual threat we face is from the abject panic and over reaction to a serious but not life-on-earth-ending phenomenon.
Relax, people. The sun is still going to rise today; although as I write this at 7:19 it is still pitch black out there. Damn Daylight Savings Time. Maybe the sun will still rise today. I am optimistic, nonetheless.
In a few months this will all have passed. Conferences will be running once again. The stock market will rebound. We will soon be complaining about overcrowded airports and cramped airplanes. Toilet paper will magically reappear on the shelves. It will be like nothing ever happened, and for the majority of us, that will be true. Life will go on.
President Trump told us last night that this situation should not be political in any way, and he was right. Therefore, I am “reaching across the aisle” to quote a previous president with whose policies I mostly do not agree. Franklin D. Roosevelt once told this nation that, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” I don't agree with many things FDR did, but when you're right, you're right. His same sage advice applies today to COVID-19.
I just know that sun is going to show at some point.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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