Saturday, April 4, 2020

A couple of theories about what to do in response to Covid-19

On my smart phone just now appeared: “Berlin district mayor defends deliberate coronavirus infection.  Berlin District Mayor Stephan von Dassel defended his decision to ‘almost deliberately’ get infected with the coronavirus. . . ‘I was ill longer than I thought. . . and thought I’ll be a bit sick for three days and then I’ll be immune – I can’t catch it and won’t pass it on to anyone, but it was a lot worse than I imagined . . .”

This crossed my mind as well, but I rejected the idea at once.  I try my best to avoid ordinary flu and have no interest in acquiring something comparable just to become immunity.  If I catch it, so be it, but I’m definitely not interested in volunteering. 

In the April 2, 2020 issue of the London Review of Books is an article entitled “Too early or too late?subtitled “David Runciman on political timing and the pandemic.”  Runciman writes, “only one politician has actually cited the actions of the mayor from Jaws as a model for crisis management, and it isn’t Trump.  Boris Johnson used to tease audiences by suggesting that ‘the real hero of Jaws was the mayor, a wonderful politician.  A gigantic fish is eating all his constituents and he decides to keep the beaches open.’  Usually Johnson would end his riff by admitting: ‘OK, in that instance he was wrong.  But in principle we need more politicians like the mayor.’” 

Perhaps it isn’t quite what Boris Johnson believes, but after reading of all the people thrown out of work, threats of impoverishment, even starvation, it occurred to me to wonder whether the approach that seems to be adopted almost world-wide, that of staying home, might in the long run kill more people than the virus.  After all, the gigantic fish didn’t actually eat all of the mayor’s constituents.  Anticipating that not working will kill more people in the long run, we could assume that the Covid-19 will be comparable to ordinary flu.  People die from that is well; so let’s individual stay home if we need to, otherwise work, work, work.  For if we run out of food because farmers, middlemen, and sales people are staying home and the hand-to-mouth people start dying off at a faster rate than Covid-19 victims are now, a few months from now Boris Johnson (if that is what he has been worried about) may seem prescient – or would so seem if he hadn’t backed away from anything that extreme.”

However, the “assumption” in the preceding paragraph may be wrong.  The Covid-19 may be much worse than ordinary flu . . . at least a blog entry, also included in April 2, 2020 issue of the LRB, and entitled “Quaresima, Thomas Jones reports from Orvieto” seems to suggest that it is.  His article is a list of days, beginning “Fifteen days ago: 2706 people in Italy had at this point tested positive for SarsCoV-2; there were 443 new cases; 276 had recovered; 107 were dead. . . “  He then describes whatever was going on 15 days ago. 

Jones article ends “Today: 33,190 positive; 4480 new cases; 4440 recovered; 3405 dead.  This issue of the LRB goes to press on Thursday, 19 March . . . This issue is dated 2 April, two weeks from now.  The day after that, in theory, schools in Italy are set to reopen.  But everyone knows that won’t happen. . . .”

Jones article is pessimistic.  We should sequester ourselves as he and his son are doing because people are dying out there and the risk is high that if we go out ‘there,’ that we will die too.  3405 dead out of 33,190 that tested positive is a little over 10%.  We have all heard that Italy has had a higher rate of deaths than any other nation.  But the Covid-19 is a new phenomenon.  How can we be sure that our nation won’t have percentages as high as those being reported from Italy?

It may be that the next wave of Covid-19 in Italy may kill a lower percentage of victims, but would we want to follow the advice of a “hypothetical mayor of Jaws” on the basis of such an assumption?

My smart phone just informed me that in Germany they are considering testing everyone to get better statistics; which makes good sense since we have been told that some people get it and barely have any symptoms at all.  If such cases are entered into the statistics then the death rate “might” end up comparable to that of ordinary flu. 

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