Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19: Is it Over-hyped?

As of this minute according to a dashboard produced by Johns Hopkins with data sourced from the US CDC and the WHO, there have been 82,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that is now called SARS-CoV-2. That sounds pretty scary when the talking heads in the news media breathlessly toss out figures. And also as of this minute, 2,810 people, mostly elderly, immuno-compromised patients, have lost their lives as a result of this disease.

What the media are loathe to tell us, however, are the number of people in whom the disease has run its course and who are now recovered. That number currently stands at 33,252.

The news media are in the business of selling advertising. More viewers enable them to sell more ads at a higher price. And nothing sells air time like the latest tragedy, whether it exists or not. Humans have a natural fear of the unknown and COVID-19 was unknown when it burst onto the scene in December 2019. No one understood how virulent it was, or how deadly it was. Now that more information is available, a truer picture emerges…yet the media seem intent upon obscuring it.

Take for example today’s piece in Bloomberg that ran with the headline, “U.S. Identifies First Coronavirus Case Without Outbreak Ties”. This article was based on comments by officials at the CDC about a newly identified patient in California. The CDC posted their comments on CDC.gov. Nowhere in their statement did they confirm that a case without outbreak ties had been identified. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The CDC wrote on their website, “At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19”.

“It’s possible”.

It is also possible that a team of space aliens shuttled into the patient’s living room, coughed in his or her face and left. That’s not very likely but if you believe in aliens, then it’s possible.

What Bloomberg failed to note even though it appears in the same paragraph as the above quote is that the CDC went on to write, “It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.”

“…the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.”

Wait. It might not be community transfer and therefore would not be very newsworthy? Way to spin it!

Whether Bloomberg deliberately misrepresented the truth about this particular case is up for speculation. All that is clear is that they omitted a line that would have turned their story in to something far less frightening and much less confirmed than the author led us to believe. What we know about this case, which would have been the very first example of community spread of the disease, is that the CDC does not know how the patient contracted the disease. I suspect this gap in our knowledge is exacerbated by the fact that the patient is on a ventilator and would not be in a condition to respond to questions.

What do we know?

Reverting back to the cold hard facts, we know how many confirmed cases have been documented. The WHO is active in China and has been working with Chinese authorities to assist them in stemming the spread of the disease and reducing its mortality which in Huwei Province stands at just over 4 percent. Until we have some other means of verifying the number of cases in China, we must accept them as true. I have seen no reason to doubt them especially noting the upward adjustment that was made in mid-February.

The fact is out of the 58.5 million people who live in Huwei Province, 65,596 developed or are suspected to have developed COVID-19. Of those, 23,383 have already recovered.

Since the media seems to ignore the recoveries, I’ll repeat that. In Huwei Province, the epicenter of this disease, 23,383 people have survived the disease after developing it. Worldwide, the figure is 33,352.

33,352 people around the world have had COVID-19 and lived.

To add some perspective, the population of the United States is currently estimated at 327,200,000. Of that population in the current Flu season alone, the CDC, in their most recent Flu Surveillance Report, estimates that 41,000,000 people have suffered from the Flu. 41,000 have died from it.

More people in the U.S. have died from Influenza than have died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If the current trends continue, Influenza will have killed more people in the U.S. than the novel coronavirus will have killed worldwide.

Applying some basic math to the current situation, a person in the U.S. is 112 times as likely to get the Flu as a person living in Huwei Province is to get COVID-19.

Americans are 112 times more likely to get the Flu than a resident of Huwei, the epicenter of the disease, is likely to get COVID-19.

Influenza can be deadly. There are vaccines that are effective. In the current season, the CDC estimates that the vaccines are 47% effective. That’s roughly a 50/50 chance that the vaccine would protect one from the Flu. The odds of developing COVID-19 pale in comparison to developing the Flu, yet the media paints a very gloomy picture.

What should we do?

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Us a disinfectant gel with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes and face in general.
  • Avoid sick people.
  • Get a Flu shot if you haven’t already received one.

These simple things will help protect you against both COVID-19 and Influenza. As for wearing a mask, you might be surprised, but the typical surgical mask is only intended to minimize the risk of a practitioner infecting a patient. They do very little to prevent you from becoming infected and there is some research that suggests that wearing one may increase your chance of becoming infected.

Why are the media trying to scare us so?

I think we already know that answer.

Sources and Useful Links:

Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

CDC Media Statement: CDC Confirms Possible Instance of Community Spread of COVID-19 in U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0226-Covid-19-spread.html

CDC How COVID-19 Spreads: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

CDC Coronavirus page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html