Coronavirus is spreading, generating more headlines, greater anxiety and paranoia, and, of course, cancellations and closings. It’s high time to ask a critical question: Could our reaction to the fear of COVID-19 do more harm than the virus itself?
Liberty Nation is tracking the cultural toll of Coronavirus, maintaining a growing list of things you can’t do and places you can’t go. Somewhere along the way, we crossed the line from tourist attractions and sporting events shutting down to the government closing schools and even some privately owned businesses.
Avoiding the Virus
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to avoid catching the virus or spreading it to others is to:
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Cover your cough or sneeze.
- Keep hands away from your face.
- Avoid close contact with others and large public gatherings if possible.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly how we are already supposed to behave this time of year, otherwise known as flu season.
And Then There’s Politics
Let’s give credit where it’s due: A good deal of this panic is the result of the nigh constant and almost exclusively apocalyptic coverage in the news. Just as the left-leaning media like to hype up the number of gun deaths – the majority of which are suicides – but ignore medical mistakes, as if doctors don’t kill far more Americans than firearms, they’re now using Coronavirus as a way to target President Trump. See how terribly he’s handling this deadly pandemic? Do you really want to vote this guy back into office for a second term? It’s selective outrage: The media choose to highlight the issues that further the leftist agenda.
Not the Flu, Nowhere Close
Coronavirus is not flu, no matter how many times the two are compared. The reproduction number is about twice as high for COVID-19, meaning that the average sick person is expected to infect twice as many people as they would with influenza. That aside, while the Coronavirus is believed to have a much deadlier potential than the seasonal flu, that doesn’t change the fact that COVID-19 has claimed — according to the CDC as of March 16 — 6,606 lives globally, with 41 of those being in the United States.
The flu season is still in full swing, and the CDC doesn’t like to give exact numbers because not all cases are known, but so far America has lost between 22,000 and 55,000 to influenza since October of last year. Coronavirus has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to live up to the hype that it’s more dangerous than seasonal flu – here’s hoping and praying it doesn’t.
To Panic Is Human
Why don’t we freak out every year come flu season like we are now with Coronavirus? Well, we probably should be a bit more scared than we tend to be. Maybe thousands fewer would die each year. Our numbness to influenza has a few sources. For one, it’s hard to process numbers that big when we’re talking about people dying. Shying away from that is called psychic numbing, and it has led both individuals and societies to ignore everything from pandemics to genocide for centuries. On the other hand, the fact that we have flu vaccinations – often offered for free each year – has lulled us into a false sense of security. Finally, we’re just plain used to it. Influenza is old hat.
The opposite of those last two points is exactly why we’re panicking over Coronavirus: It’s new, it sounds really bad, it came from China, and we don’t know very much about it. To make matters worse, for some reason, the media aren’t tracking Coronavirus in the same way as other deadly illnesses (ahem, flu). One might expect the news to cover a serial killer’s body count as he makes his way across the nation in much the same way as this novel deadly disease from China – never mind the fact that the vast majority of people who catch it won’t know they had anything more serious than a cold or a touch of flu.
And yet, we’re only human. We don’t like things we can’t control or at the very least aren’t used to. They scare us. That’s nothing new; from inclement weather to stock market crashes to doomsday predictions, any hint of bad news sends Americans into a shopping frenzy. It’s as if all the dairy cows have died, toilet paper manufacturers have run out of trees, and the art of making bread – a boon of the agricultural revolution of yore – has been utterly lost to mankind.
But At What Cost?
At this level of panic, we have crossed a threshold. Because school districts are closed, many parents have to babysit their kids. As more companies shut down or scale back operations – either because employees have to stay home or because the state forces them to – workers lose time on the clock and money on the paycheck.
When Coronavirus dies down, whether in two weeks or two months, what will these people have left? Some will draw unemployment, but not all – and even that is nowhere near a full replacement for the lost wages. Will the mortgage holders, landlords, auto financiers, utilities, insurers, and grocery stores all reply to “I’m sorry, Coronavirus cost me my income” by keeping the lights and water on, maintaining insurance, offering grace on repossessions and evictions, and handing out free food?
When the dust settles, how many people will be left without a job, a ride, or even a home? When it’s all said and done, the 2019-2020 Coronavirus death toll will almost certainly be just a drop in the bucket compared to boring old influenza. This won’t make the books as one of the greatest plagues in history, but the economic collapse caused by our panic just might.
Read more from James Fite.