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Have we overreached in the face of COVID-19?

Have we overreached in the face of COVID-19?

The news media has reported on COVID-19 as if it were the Bubonic Plague – wiping out high percentages of the human race.  As we are seeing the crest of the pandemic – and more accurately assessing the economic damage – it is a good time to consider the level of the response.

The media and political narratives seem to ignore that economic damage is also measurable in human suffering and loss.  We do not want a cure to be worse than the disease.

In looking at the issue objectively, we cannot say that COVID-19 was just another flu.  By all measures, it posed a more significantly dangerous threat to humanity than the common flu or cold.  There are three reasons for that.  COVID-19 was much more infectious than common flus.  Though not the worst, the death rate is significantly higher.  The combination of a higher mortality rate and increased infectiousness creates an exponential impact on the populace. Added to that, we have no vaccine to carry out massive inoculations — and consequently, COVID-19 becomes an unprecedented threat, at least not seen since the Spanish Flu of the early 1900s.

Even though COVID-19 is a big deal, It does not mean we did not overreact.  The combination of flawed modeling and media sensationalism – enhanced by political biases – may have created an unnecessary and counter-productive public panic.  No … there were not people running madly in the streets or jumping out of windows, but the fact that the media was revving up fear and anxiety is irrefutable. Not only is it the media’s nature to sensationalize and politicize, the press saw it as a civic duty to pour out ominous warnings on a 24/7 spin.

To back off the myopic eye of the media, we need to look at the overarching data.  At the time of this writing, there are about half a million cases in America.  That is about 0.15 percent – fifteen hundredths of one percent.  In terms of national health, that is a very low number.

HOWEVER – and that is a big however – the number of deaths in America (18,000) from COVID-19 is about the same as from ALL other infectious diseases so far this year – about 16,000.  On the other hand, that number is below normal because social distancing has greatly reduced common flu and cold infections.

The nation’s number one authority on COVID-19 at this time is Dr. Anthony Fauci.  He made a very important observation about the epidemiological models that are to give us insight into the progress of the disease.  He said they are always wrong, but occasionally useful.  That is particularly true in this case because COVID-19 is a “novel” virus – meaning that we have not past examples upon which to base prediction.

In one case, the model suggested that if we did nothing more than routine cautions, the number of dead Americans would exceed 2 million.  Today, the prediction is potentially less than 60,000 Americans.  That is a huge difference.  Some say that the 2 million number was avoided by the success of social separation.  More likely, the 2 million projection was just grossly wrong.  Still, it was used by the media to gin up public anxiety.

There is also the issue of overcounting of the deaths caused by COVID-19 – including people who may have died WITH COVID-19 and not from it.  Dr. Deborah Brix calls it “co-morbidity.”  An obvious case was an infant who sustained a deadly injury in a home accident but was discovered to have had COVID-19 at the time.  The child was initially reported as a COVID-19 victim in an attempt to show how even the youngest die from the disease.

If an 85-year-old person with COVID-19 dies of a sudden heart attack, was COVID-19 the cause?  The answer is … maybe it was or maybe it was not. If a person has terminal cancer and contracts COVID-19, what actually killed him or her.  What suggests that we may be counting people dying WITH COVID-19 as opposed to FROM it is the apparent drop in normal deaths from heart attacks – or even the flu.

Yes, there are nutty conspiracy theories out there.  Anyone on social media will have seen them.  But that does not mean that there are not serious questions as to the scope, the prospects or the fatality of COVID-19. In other words, were those extreme estimates needlessly ominous?

Since the percentage of Americans contracting COVID-19 – and the number of fatalities is now estimated to be only a fraction of those earlier projections —  it is fair to ask if we overreached in our precautions.  While the precautions undoubtedly saved lives, ascertaining that exact number – or even a close number – is not obvious in the data.

From the Center for Disease Control, we know that the flu season in 2017-2018 resulted in 61,000 deaths in the United States – and we did not even issue anything more than perfunctory warnings.  We shut down nothing.  In what CDC described as a very mild flu season in 2018-2019, there were 35,000 deaths.

The imponderable is to know how many people would have died of the flu in the 2019-2020 season.  If we take the 2017-2018 figure as a typical “bad year,” the 60,000 for this year is not so shocking.  However, that is not to suggest that COVID-19 did not significantly increase the number of deaths over any previous year.  It is just that the net increase due to COVID-19 may be some number well under the 60,000 projection.

If the net increase-over-normal of the COVID-19 breakout in America is in the 20,000 to 30,000 range, the wisdom and benefit of crashing the entire national economy can come into question.

Of course, we are not done with COVID-19 – or rather, it is not done with us.  Maybe the number will soar and justify the extreme measures.  And there is always an issue of localized outbreaks.  Obviously, New York has to deal with COVID-19 in the harshest of measure.  Part of the post-COVID-19 analysis will have to answer the question as to why New York took such a hit – much more than any major city in America and even more than virtually every nation on earth, including Italy and Spain.

COVID-19 was not a hoax.  It was not some Black Swan event created in a laboratory or launched as germ warfare.  It is more than the usual flu – but how much more is currently up to debate.  That will have to be determined by epidemiologists after the fact.  As the numbers look now, it will not rise to anywhere near the fearsome level promoted early on by the media and partisan politicians.  That is a good thing – AND it is a bad thing.

So, there ‘tis.


About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. DB

    I would rather error on the side of caution because to error the other way is fatal when your 73.

  2. Sono Fabich

    The lefty Corona virus did what Stormy Daniels and Robert Swan Mueller the 3rd and Pelosi and Schiff and Nadler couldn’t do. The virus took down the economy and Trump’s chances of winning the election.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if some lefty names xis gender neutral spawn Covid.

  3. Mike

    Larry, you are wrong on so many points, it is difficult to know where to comment. Since this appeared on Monday, you totals are significantly off-555000 cases and 22000 deaths. And the point you really seem to miss, this is with much social distancing and shelter in place. It would have been catastrophic without that. NYC hospitals have literally been overwhelmed because they were just a few days late to the game with shelter in place-here in California, where we have more foresight it has been much better. You only need look at Italy and Spain to see what might have been, and that is still with shelter in place issued, but too late. Your writing is dangerous and disgusting, if you you want to question something, question why we didn’t start testing and tracking patients when they first appeared. Because we didn’t do that, we had no choice but to resort to shelter in place.

    • MC

      Wow Mike. Take it down a notch, chief. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, including you. Don’t go attacking people for their opinons though. Especially when yours appears to be rooted significantly more in fiction than in reality. Read the piece and, if you feel you must, state that you disagree in the comments. That’s it. You don’t need to lambast someone because their opinion differs from yours. Look at the state of the internet right now. It’s hostile, and that is predomiantly because of people like you. Folks with lots to say about articles and research, yet without doing any research of their own. On that note, I think your apparent inability to spell and use punctuation is appalling and disgusting… See? Stupid.

    • Larry Horist

      Of course the numbers are higher now.because they keep going up every day. Actually, your numbers are now off. You seem to believe in the fairytale that society much do everything possible to save lives. If we did that, we would have no society. I like to point out that we would save tens of thousands of lives by reducing the national speed limit to 20 miles per hour. I bet even you would not do that. I do not argue against REASONABLE actions — wash hands, maskes. gloves, isolating the sick. But destroying the lives of millions as a preventative is not reasonable. Covid-19 is a nasty disease that will kill a lot of people. That is unavoidable.That is sad in a lot of cases. It particularly hits hardest among those at advanced ages with chronic diseases at critical stages. I have had a number of loved ones die at that stage of life. As one of those in the high risk category, I know I could get struck down at any time. Still, I do not want to wreck my kids lives and futures so I can cling to life a bit longer. I have often joked that all politics is divided by those who are in constant fear of death and those who enjoy life to the fullest … accepting the inevitable. It is all about what individual think of as “reasonable.”

  4. Eli

    We can’t blame the President for the lunacy of those in America, who behaved irresponsibly and Pelosi’s team , who has defied whatever action he takes. The press is still sensationalizing numbers, causing increased health issues from stress as families lose their jobs, home and family. Reports say the virus came from a Communist China lab. In 2013, Hillary spoke at a WHO Convention praising China for it ‘s Health program. The director of WHO is Communist, and about 50 Congress members are Communist. The weakening of America’s economy, and taking American’s civil rights, is a Socialist strategy, that the Democrats have played upon. They accuse the President of putting lives at risk, yet they delay a small business, stimulus package, to put in abortion funding, that kills thousands of lives. We see governors overreaching by keeping family members apart. Police, without masks, arrest a pastor, who was speaking to a congregation parked in their cars protected. Officers blocked cars from parking in another church parking lot to listen to an outdoor service. Their amendment rights are violated and the risk the people had was whether their cars would be damaged, or if they would be arrested by unprotected officers. Governors have reached a new level of Hitler power, that the president needs to work through. This virus can’t be tested away, and delays will destroy America. If we’re at war, we have to go to battle protected and do the best we can as we always have.

  5. Rick M

    I put these stats together this morning to prompt us to think about what is happening to our country and who is peddling it.

    Latest numbers on the Coronavirus:

    US total cases 69,000 with total deaths of 1046 deaths. A 1.6% death rate. Oklahoma has 167 cases with 6 deaths as of this morning. A 3.5% death rate. 36 states with less than 500 total cases. 22 states with less than 200 total cases, which is where Oklahoma fits.

    Compared to the reality we have always lived with:

    Estimated 40,000 deaths in 2019 from auto accidents.

    Estimated 606,880 deaths in US in 2019 from Cancer.

    Estimated 900,000 abortions in the US in 2019

    3997 homicides in US in 2019

    23,000 to 59,000 flu deaths in the US in 2019

    The Coronavirus has killed 1046 in the US to date.

    Almost 1.6 million people were murdered, died of cancer, died of the regular flu, killed in an auto or some other type of vehicle and yet no shut down of our freedoms.

    We better wake up before we loose our constitutional rights on a media pushed disaster that’s not real. We have managed to live through all of the above disasters our entire life without a trumped up shut down of our financial system, a health care emergency nationwide, a shutdown of our freedoms of movement in our own country and a threat to our futures. Think about it!
    We are not saying it’s not bad. It always is when people die. However, there is absolutely no proof yet that this virus is bad enough to close down this country and ruin many more people’s lives than this virus will kill. No guarantees in this life.

  6. Rick M

    Sorry, the numbers were put together a little over a week ago.