Most people will agree that COVID-19 and our response to it has been something of a cluster fuck. A goat rope. A monkey fucking a football. Most people will also agree that any response from a true leader (or organization dedicated to leading people) must be measured, reasoned, and based on facts.
Instead we have a bunch of thumb suckers running around like their assholes are on fire, screaming to the ceilings, pointing fingers and throwing shit at each other while they argue incessantly about whose fault it is that people are dead, while our economy spirals down the toilet, all in the name of garnering a few more votes through disinformation and oneupsmanship.
One day we’ll elect an actual leader instead of having to choose between a reality TV actor slash real estate mogul who speaking style makes your stomach roil or your great great great grandpa’s weird pervy neighbor in the retirement home who uses his unreasonable lust for his sassy black nurse as proof that he isn’t racist. But, that’s a path for a different Ramble.
It’s my position that we should have gone with the administration’s first plan; the plan where we recognized that there was a disease running around, and that people were going to get sick, but that life still has to go on. It was the plan that was going to be used before Trump et al. caved to the pressures of a populace stricken with uninformed panic and a handful of medical professionals who saw the chance for political gain and pop culture stardom.
People Are Dumb
In the words of Steve Perry, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.” We have, as a race (the human race, not the modern anti-racism racist definition of race), allowed hyperbole and fear to pull aside our reason, and governments the world over have given in to societal panic. COVID-19 presents in the vast majority of its patients as a cold, and a mild version at that. There is a percentage of people, varying by age group, that have a truly severe reaction to the disease. Something like 90% of hospitalizations from COVID are from people with aggravating conditions like hypertension (there’s a link between COVID and ACE receptors), obesity (lots of health impacts, typically including hypertension), chronic lung disease (you know… where COVID likes to attack ACE receptors), diabetes (which impacts your immune health), and heart disease (typically the result of an unhealthy lifestyle).
We see from the numbers (and we were seeing this back in March and April) that the virus strongly impacts the elderly, with something like a 5% mortality rate and a pretty staggering 20% hospitalization rate. There were places reporting numbers like 70% hospitalization rates for the elderly but those were very early on and we weren’t testing nearly as widely as we have been since then. We discovered that the number of mild and asymptomatic cases was much higher than we initially suspected, meaning that the total number of cases was higher, and therefore the proportion requiring interventional treatment was much lower. The real numbers seem to have settled somewhere around 15% average for those over 65. Keep in mind, that that’s hospitalization, not mortality and not even severity. That’s just the number who are admitted to hospital, even for observation.
We also see from the numbers that people under 20 are shrugging this virus off like a fly buzzing around a cow’s ass. The hospitalization and mortality rates for school-age children are virtually 0. That climbs steadily until around 50, where there is a jump, and then again at 65+.
So for a disease that strongly impacts a very specific demographic (65+), and has flu-like impact on the vast vast vast majority of people (99.5%), we decided to just roll with it and protect the vulnerable populations like we do every flu season, right? Oh wait… no, we decided it was best to SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN and let the economy atrophy until small businesses (you remember that whole American Dream thing, right?) all had to close and leave their owners destitute and dependent on stimulus checks.
It is my personal opinion that this was a mistake.
Now, I’m no supergenius, but even I could look ahead from March and see that locking everyone up in their homes for long periods of time would have all kinds of negative impacts. For me, personally, it has been a net positive: it forced my employer to allow remote work (which was something we always said was a reasonable measure, but management and customers weren’t fans of the idea), let me spend way more time with my family, and helped me build better relationships with my kids and wife. I recognized early on that I was one of the lucky ones. Imagine being single with no kids; you’re alone all day, every day, and every time you leave the house you have to abstain from any kind of physical interactions. That kind of isolation is absolutely devastating to a social being, like humans. Even extremely introverted people crave interaction with people they know and love.
This doesn’t even mention the emotional strain caused by people having sick and dying relatives that they can’t visit because of draconian COVID-fearing visitation policies in hospitals and care centers. Can you imagine not being able to gather around your mother on her death bed and be there to comfort her as she passes from this world? No chance to tell her one last time how much you love her? No way to feel her hand in yours one last time?
Take this kind of isolation and trauma and combine it with the superficial and unfulfilling relationships that people develop through social media and add in the absolute societal insanity that 2020 has brought along with it, and you have an emotional wrecking ball on your hands. Not having the relief of interpersonal interaction means that people aren’t able to level out between stressors, so it should be no surprise to anyone that suicides have skyrocketed during the quarantine.
Aside from these direct consequences, there are studies being conducted right now that are focusing on the indirect deaths resulting from COVID. These would include deaths as a result of hospitals/urgent care not being willing to treat patients who show up with non-COVID symptoms because they are trying to save space for critically ill Rona victims. Alternatively, people are choosing not to seek health care until they are critically ill, because they are afraid of catching COVID if they venture from their homes. Both categories of people then worsen under their own care until they are finally admitted to the hospital but it’s too late.
So what we’re seeing is a dramatic increase in overall mortality in the United States that far exceeds the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, and I believe that can be directly attributed to the implementation of a panic-driven strategy for containment, as opposed to a reasoned plan for cautious continuation of every-day life.
“Okay, wise guy, what’s your brilliant fucking plan then?”
My plan is to put kids back in school. There’s virtually no risk to them from Rona, but there are lots of risks (mental, emotional, and physical) to them staying isolated from one another and away from a consistent education.
Open businesses up and let people who can work do so. Those among us who want to stay in business and meet with our friends and relatives should be free to do so, at our own risk. After all, if people can gather for political protests, I can gather for a birthday celebration.
Keep the elderly protected under voluntary quarantine and don’t send COVID-positive people back into the most vulnerable populations in the country.. Spread the word that this shit will fucking wreck them if they get it, and then trust them to make their own decisions.
Most Fucking Importantly: STOP MAKING A HUGE FUCKING DEAL ABOUT NEW CASES
Nobody should care about the rising number of cases of COVID-19. It’s a God. Damn. Virus. A highly-contagious virus. People are going to get it. There’s not much we can do about that. What the media should be reporting on, and what the government should be basing their decisions on, is the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and interventional treatments.
Who gives a rat’s ass how many people test positive without symptoms? Who fucking cares how many people get the sniffles? Tell the people in charge how many people are seriously impacted so they can know when stricter measures are actually necessary. The only context in which total number of cases matters is when we need to calculate the percentage of cases that end up badly. Even then, there are so many factors at play with the human body, that total numbers like that are nearly meaningless.
We should have done 15 days to flatten the curve. That was okay. What should have happened was 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, on, off, etc. responding to the total number of interventional cases in the local populace, until we reached herd immunity. Instead, we fucked our economy, bankrupted thousands of small business owners and their families, and led a non-trivial number of people to suicide and you know what? People still fucking got sick. People are still dying.
The difference is we’re killing our prosperity at the same time.
Stay ready. Stay safe. Stay free.