DIMOND – Fact: COVID-19 Sickens but Rarely Kills

BY DIANE DIMOND

Yes. The world is in the midst of a pandemic of the COVID-19 virus. But in between all the political posturing and breathless, fear-inducing media coverage, can we all just take a deep, cleansing breath? In fact, take four or five.

I usually deal in crime statistics, but this week, let’s look at health statistics, shall we?

The World Health Organization warns that the U.S. may soon become the epicenter of the pandemic due to our “very large acceleration” of coronavirus cases. Well, of course there is an acceleration of U.S. cases because we are testing high-risk and already sick people at an accelerated rate. Common sense says that more testing equals more positive cases.

Not to downplay this pandemic at all, but the name of the game now is perspective. Let me offer some.

We are a nation of 330 million people. Last year, the seasonal flu claimed some 34,000 lives here. As I write this, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the coronavirus in the U.S. has killed fewer than 1,300. Other tallies put the toll at a bit higher.

I know this COVID-19 virus isn’t like the various flu strains that attack us every year. This is a brand-new disease — no one had immunity from it — and that’s why it spread so rapidly around the world. In that respect, this novel coronavirus is more severe than the seasonal flu. More people are getting it, but COVID-19 has not actually sickened everyone who contracts it. And, so far – please read this carefully — it hasn’t been nearly as deadly here in the U.S. as past viruses.

Most people who get infected with COVID-19 become sick and then they get better within a couple of weeks. If you are not a frail, elderly person with a weakened immune system, or suffering from a major health problem like cancer or lung disease, you don’t have to worry about dying from the coronavirus.

Here’s more perspective: Major newspapers reported on an early CDC briefing to health experts that laid out various scenarios about COVID-19. The absolute worst-case scenario estimated between 200,000 and 1.7 million deaths in the U.S. But – and please, read this part carefully, too – that was if there was absolutely no intervention.

As everyone knows, scads of government intervention plans are in play. Schools and nonessential businesses are closed, and stay-at-home orders have gone out, resulting in deserted cities and towns. Public health warnings about clean hands and masks are everywhere. If you don’t know how to protect yourself from infection, by now, you aren’t paying attention.

Readers have written me worried that this country may never recover financially, many businesses will fold and the stock market will continue to plunge. They fret over the prospect of mob rule and rising crime rates.

There will be pain, no doubt, but now is not the time for panic. Nor for partisan politics. It’s time for everyone to focus on one common goal — the health of this country. It’s time for our famous American determination to kick in.

You know, we Americans have not been called upon to sacrifice much in the last several decades. Certainly not like the greatest generation did during World War II, when food and gasoline were rationed, and record numbers of dead came home from war. After the terror of Sept. 11, as our sheltered lives were forever changed, we sacrificed some peace of mind. Now, here’s another defining moment in history, and we are called upon to endure lifestyle disruption.

No paycheck? The government promises to help struggling families. Late taxes, mortgages, rent and car payments will be tolerated. No, you can’t go out to your favorite restaurant or visit a loved one in a nursing home, but your temporary sacrifice will help stop the spread of this insidious virus.

In 1918, this country lost 675,000 souls to the so-called Spanish flu. In 1968, the avian flu claimed 100,000 lives. We have learned from those terrible times, and today, we have a more robust public health system and superior scientific minds and technology. Research on a COVID-19 vaccine is already well underway.

Perspective and fact-based thinking is the name of the game now. Let’s all try to remember that. Deep breaths.

Rockland County resident Diane Dimond is a journalist, author, and a regular contributing correspondent for the Investigation Discovery channel. To find out more about Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com