It seems that the only thing that almost anyone can talk about these days is the coronavirus.
Here are 7 things you need to know to help you keep things in perspective.
1) “Flattening the curve” does not mean that less people will get the virus. So many people have been talking about the necessity of “flattening the curve” in the hopes that somehow it will prevent people from contracting the virus. However, it simply means that less people will get it at the same time, therefore reducing the concurrent load on our healthcare system. This is akin to the load on our electricity and power generation system; if everyone used all their household appliances during the day when factories and businesses are open there would not be enough generating capacity to keep up with demand.
2) This virus is unlikely to go away after we relax the stay home rules. The reality is that there are many people who are asymptomatic and have the virus without knowing. Because these people have little to no symptoms they can spread the virus to other unsuspecting individuals once we resume ‘normal’ life. The moment we fully open the borders again, someone will likely bring it in from another country. It is simply not possible to lock down literally everyone in the entire world for 2-3 weeks.
3) The fatality rates are misleading. Because we are not testing every single person to determine if they have the virus or not, even those who may have symptoms, it is impossible to know the total number of infected. The government of Ontario’s own website questionnaire advises that if you have a suspected case to simply stay home and quarantine for 2 weeks. As such your case would not be counted in the confirmed cases. Currently, we are projecting the fatality rate based on confirmed cases. As such, these figures do not say what most people think. The government of Ontario has projected 1,600 casualties in the province by the end of April. If our fatality rate is 2% like that of South Korea This would mean that there should be approximately 93,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the province. Currently, there are about 7,500.
4) Most, if not all, of us will likely end up contracting the coronavirus eventually. Because people can, and have, transmitted the virus to others without knowing, the confirmed cases only tell part of the story. This means that unless a vaccine comes out in the near future, the virus will begin spreading around once we lift the current societal rules. This is not to mention the possibility of the virus mutating and/or becoming seasonal.
5) Our society isn’t built for social distancing. From getting a haircut to standing in line to taking the subway to work, our cities, and indeed our very lives are not built in a way that can support permanent social distancing. From a simple biological point of view we are social creatures, not designed to live in isolation. Long-term isolation will have it’s own health effects.
6) Things will not go back to the way they were right away, if ever. While it’s true that we can’t stay in isolation or continue this level of social distancing forever, neither can we continue living how we were. We have to radically change the way we think about infectious diseases. The coronavirus virus has an R0 (Basic Reproduction Number) of about 2, meaning that every infected person passes it on to 2 others. The next pandemic could be far worse with a much higher R0.
7) We need rational thinking, not panic. The world is a mess right now, but that means we need more rational and level headed thinking to get us out of this. It’s easy to be overcome by fear and ignore the facts, but it is important that we keep perspective. There is no contradiction between a) Knowing the virus is dangerous b) Understanding that mass unemployment and economic collapse is also dangerous c) Remembering that authoritarian governments with unchecked power have historically proven dangerous.