Nelson: The coronavirus hype
Mike Hulett in his excellent column last week reviewed how Americans handled epidemics such as measles that infected millions and polio, which was less widespread but more devastating individually. Despite those grave concerns, he writes, “we continued our regular lives.”
We are a different people now, more afraid and thus more cowardly than our ancestors. Staring an economic implosion in the face that might dwarf the Great Depression and the possible imposition of martial law and suspension of habeas corpus, we can scarcely muster the will to put things into perspective. Instead, our savings perhaps will be wiped out, businesses destroyed, dreams shattered; suicide, crime and depression are almost sure to reach for the sky. Virginia has imposed a lockdown on its population until June 10th—almost two and a half more months. Two other states have no end date.
All these things and more to fight a disease that is not the Bubonic or Justinian plague, or even the Spanish flu in the 20 th century. My crystal ball is as murky as the next, but the COVID-19 bids fair to be far less deadly to America than the Spanish flu (675,000 dead, millions more seriously ill, in a population a third what it is now), and America still stayed open. Remember the 2009 swine flu? So much for the “unprecedented” coronavirus plague. If Americans only had a memory lasting longer than a week....
This is not to make light of the present epidemic. Its deaths are as final as dying in a plane crash, and the tears of the survivors just as real. The elderly and the ill are already at risk and should take extraordinary measures to ward off the virus. I am a member of the high risk group, thus the coronavirus is no small thing to me. But looking at the numbers, including those of skeptical scientists, it seems that laying waste to much of the world to fight this virus is akin to “making a desert and calling it peace.”
Our media have done a wretched job of it, and not just the mainstream bigots. Fox News fired Trish Regan for saying out loud what everyone knows: that liberals are using the epidemic to pound President Trump. The front page of the Bismarck Tribune had in huge letters that seven more cases were confirmed in North Dakota, doing its share to drive fear into everyone despite far more common flu infections, not to mention flu deaths. Even WZFG (“the Flag”) interrupted live programming to tell us that two—two!-- more cases were confirmed. The news couldn't wait until the top of the hour?
I wonder how much cerebrum must be surrendered to become a national reporter. One asked Trump if calling the coronavirus “Chinese” was racist. His answer was perfect: It came from China. Like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), German measles, Spanish flu, Zika (from Uganda's Zika Forest), West Nile, Lyme (after Lyme, Connecticut) and many others, diseases are usually named for the places of their supposed origin.
More on the faulty and incomplete estimates of COVID-19 later.