Getting the straight dope on Covid-19
We repeatedly hear those talking heads on the news telling us to listen to the doctors and follow the science when it comes to dealing with Covid-19. There is one major problem. If you listen to them as intensely as I do for my commentaries, you will discover that even the doctors and the scientific statistics are inconsistent over time – and doctor to doctor. And once their information goes through the media spin machine, there is hardly any solid truth to be found – at least not as much as they intimate.
Let us be very clear on the generally accepted facts. Covid-19 is a particularly virulent form of the flu. There are several reasons for that. It tends to be more infectious – meaning easier to spread. That may be due to the fact that so many carriers are asymptomatic—and run around spreading the disease before they know they have it. The death rate from Covid-19 tends to be higher than other types of flus. It tends to overwhelm the immune systems of people with immune-deficiency diseases and compromised lung capacity. This means that it hits hardest on the most elderly with advanced chronic diseases – as does almost any other disease.
It is not my intention to dissuade anyone from taking whatever safety precautions they deem necessary – depending on their age, health, activities, and location. If you are over 80, with advanced illness – especially of the lung – live in a so-called hot spot and have to intermingle with people, you should take maximum precautions – wear masks, wash hands and stay home as much as possible. That is just common sense.
A major issue is whether the scary reports we get from the doctors and the news are legitimate or excessive. Again, the media reports seem to be narratives based on sensationalism and politics. Even as I observe the news media incessant reports on the numbers of cases, spikes, hot spots and deaths, the facts seem a lot less scary.
Before we take up some of the FACTS, let us consider what we heard over time in listening to the top experts. In January, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he did not believe that the Wuhan Virus – as we called it then — would pose a serious threat to the United States. That’s right. President Trump was listening to the professionals when he suggested that the impact on the United States would be minimal – but the press intentionally forgets Fauci’s professional opinion as they repeatedly blast Trump.
In a later interview, Fauci was asked if he would get tested. He dismissed the question with a bit of derision. He said he had no need to be tested because he did not have any symptoms. Only those with symptoms should be tested, he insisted.
There was a time when Fauci and others said that masks should be worn only by those infected because they do not provide protection from getting the disease. Now the campaign is to wear masks whenever you are out of the house. The media shames those they find in public without masks.
It was not long ago that the scientists were assuring us that for reasons unknown, younger people were not likely to get the disease. Now the news reports a growing number of cases infecting younger people – those between the ages of 25 and 55. The television talking heads speculate – without knowledge – that the virus may be mutating. Scary stuff. But, according to epidemiologists it is more likely that the increase in testing is identifying those who went undiagnosed because they were asymptomatic.
We hear the daily tally of the number of deaths, but what is not reported is that a remarkably high percentage of those deaths – especially in senior homes – is “assumed.” There has been no test – before or after death – to confirm that the deceased even had Covid-19. In one New York nursing home I researched, the “assumed” cases were 60 percent of the total deaths attributed to Covid-19. I did not know that assumptions were scientific fact.
You will also recall the warning about touching infected surfaces. This led to recommendations of obsessive hand washing, not touching the nose, eyes or lips, not shaking hands, wearing gloves, and wiping off surfaces. Just a week ago, the media had a doctor reporting that touch is a very poor transmitter of the disease. According to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one needs to inhale a large quantity of the virus over a prolonged period to absorb enough of the virus to overpower the immune system.
Emanuel also highly recommended going outside where wind and sun mitigate the potential of the virus. He had recommended against closing outdoor venues. At the same time, others were suggesting one stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
The one fact that seems to be consistent over time is that approximately 80 percent of those getting Covid-19 will not require medical intervention.
So … if we are to avoid risks, it seems relevant to know the risks. For example, what is the benefit of wearing a mask to avoid Covid-19? According to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, if you wear a mask your chance of contracting the disease is 1.7 percent. If you do not wear a mask, studies indicate that you have a 3 percent chance of contracting Covid-19.
Put another way, if you wear a mask, you have a 98.3 percent chance of NOT contracting Covid-19. And if you do wear a mask, you have a 97 percent chance of NOT contracting the disease. According to Gupta, there is truly little chance of contracting the disease whether you wear a mask or not. Let me restate that it does not mean those in the most vulnerable situation should not take maximum precautions, but only that the general public is not at as high a risk as we are led to believe.
Since 80 percent of those who get Covid-19 do not require medical intervention or a trip to the hospital, the odds are pretty good that if you contract Covid-19 you will be at home feeling sick for a while – and maybe not even feeling sick. But, if you are sick, stay home – just as you would be advised if you had the common flu.
There is much being reported about spikes in the number of cases. The press tends to poo-poo the argument that it is more likely due to increased testing rather than actual increases in number. But that facts suggest otherwise. States where these spikes are said to be occurring – such as Texas and Florida – are among the states doing the most testing.
What can be said is that we now have more “known” cases, but no proof that the spread is accelerating. The fact that the new cases are disproportionately among the young is further evidence that testing is identifying the hitherto asymptomatic folks.
Further evidence that Covid-19 is not spreading exponentially is the fact that the hospital rate has been holding steady and the death rate is declining significantly. If the cases were expanding apart from testing, hospitalizations and the deaths would be increasing commensurately.
It is easy to get panicked by Covid-19 – especially when there are so many folks overtly trying to panic us. Maybe it is hyper caution by medical authorities. Maybe it is the tendency of the media to sensationalize. Maybe it is the passing all the information through a biased political lens. But it is clear that the risks of contracting or dying from Covid-19 are not as high as most seem to believe. Even living in what is called the new hot spot or epicenter in southern Florida, I know of only one person who has contracted Covid-19.
If my chance of getting and surviving Covid-19 is around 98 percent, that is rather good odds for taking some risk. After all, I jumped out of an airplane for the first time in my life knowing that my odds of getting killed are about the same as dying form Covid-19. So, why would I not go out to my favorite restaurants, go bowling, play tennis?
So, there ‘tis.