Pandemic Catatonia

Covid-19 has infected the world’s peoples, showing most poignantly humanity’s interconnectedness. To demonstrate their ineptness, most governments chose self-defeating shutdown as a response.

The covid-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China in late November 2019. The Chinese government was criticized internationally for dismissing early warnings from prescient Wuhan medical personnel and only belatedly instituting quarantines. It wouldn’t have made a difference. The virus was already on the loose.

Thanks to international air travel, by mid-December the disease had spread worldwide. Noticeable national epidemics began 2 to 5 months after the virus (SARS-CoV-2) had established itself within a population.

SARS-CoV-2 is a savvy sister to the earlier evolved SARS (V-1) virus which swept through China in 2002 and caused outbreaks elsewhere. V-2 is an evolutionary (saltational) leap from V-1: much more infectious (R0 = ~6 for V-2 versus 0.5 for V-1) and much lower lethality (~0.4% for V-2 versus 9.6% for V-1).

Covid-19 causes discomforting symptoms in only ~5% of those it infects. 80% of those bothered suffer just mild symptoms throughout the course of infection. Children especially may be infected and not notice.

Those in unsound health – the elderly and those with chronic health conditions – are most at risk. 90% of the fatalities from covid-19 are people 60 or older, with 80% of the deaths in that age segment being people with underlying health conditions.

Statistics are generalizations. People over 100 years of age have survived covid-19 and the disease has killed children. But, statistically, covid-19 is less worrying than the seasonal flu, which kills 0.9% of those infected.

There are no vaccines or antivirals in routine use for coronaviruses, which cause an upper respiratory tract “cold”. The treatment is bed rest and increased fluid intake. If pneumonia develops, oxygen can be given.

Worst case, a ventilator can be used to mechanically facilitate breathing. Ventilators extract a heavy health toll. The intubated tubes are physically traumatic. Being attached to a ventilator to survive can mean long-term psychological and physical damage. The longer on a ventilator the worse the damage.

China practiced economically crippling lockdowns for months to no good effect. The virus ran its course there. Perhaps China’s prudence in January was well advised, as covid-19 was considered more lethal and its virulence underestimated (based on the previous SARS experience).

South Korea, Japan, and Sweden have not instituted crippling lockdowns. Their epidemic outcomes have been better than, or at least on par with, other countries because people who get sick are taken care of. These countries have socialized health care regimes.

Other nations didn’t bother to think through what was going on with covid-19, which is infectiously unstoppable, not very lethal, and barely treatable. Collectively, instead of an intelligent response, the world threw a global pandemic depression via belated, ineffectual, autocratic lockdowns. The only thought of how to get out of the deep economic ditch dug by the stupid panic has been to print money and give most of it to every corporation with a tale of woe.

How many covid-19 deaths have been prevented by the brouhaha of lockdowns? Close to none is a fair bet.