Apparently, there’s a hubbub around whether the President suggested people should inject bleach and other household disinfectants to ward of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I did not watch the press conference live, so I didn’t hear the comments or the context at the time. I was, like millions of other Americans, getting ready for the NFL draft. In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I probably haven’t watched a full briefing in two weeks – I find most of it to be a tedious bore, with reporters springing “gotcha” questions in attempts to sow division and hatred, instead of asking real questions about policies or findings.
Anyway, President Trump seemed to suggest injecting household cleaners would be worth studying. Or he was, once again, thinking out loud – which is one of his more notable (and regrettable) traits. Regardless, he did say something that could be misconstrued along those lines.
So here’s where common sense comes in. I think most of us learned by age 4 or so that ingesting chemicals is a really bad, not good, horrible idea (except for those of you on YouTube eating laundry soap, y’all came to that knowledge later). But if you didn’t, here’s a protip: DO NOT INJECT YOURSELF WITH BLEACH OR LYSOL.
I can’t believe I’m taking time out of my day to write this, but here we are. By the way, if you’re one of the select who think every suggestion by the President carries the same weight as the Gospels, now might be a good time to do a little self-reflection. As with all politicians, their words should be measured against what they actually do. But never, ever lend credence to anything they say in a vacuum.
Now, if the President decides to inject himself with bleach, then you might consider it. Despite this president’s notable germophobia, I don’t think he will be anytime soon. And neither should you.
I’ve seen a lot of doubting Dr. Anthony Fauci on my social media feeds over the last few days. I mean, A LOT.
Look, I have my differences with Dr. Fauci. As anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook is well aware, I’ve (uselessly) advocated for the Swedish model for battling the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19. I’ve doubted the models, because I thought the models were going to be woefully incapable of predicting anything given the paltry and inaccurate data they were being fed. And guess who else thought the models were going to be terribly, horribly, awfully inaccurate?
Dr. Anthony Fauci. Yep, he’s been quoted more than once as saying that there wasn’t enough data to rely on the models for making policy decisions.
The difference between Dr. Fauci and me is our preferred approach to dealing with the insufficient data. I prefer some caution, but generally keeping life going as normal as possible to minimize the long-term risks to society from an economic collapse. Dr. Fauci prefers to prioritize short-term risk mitigation and letting the economists and sociologists deal with the long-term effects.
That’s it. That’s all it is – a difference of opinion as to which approach is better. History will be the judge as to which approach is better, eventually. After all, we’re still debating which approach was best in combating the original SAR virus a generation ago.
I do not attribute Dr. Fauci’s motivations to anything nefarious. He is not a secret Bilderberger looking to destroy society so that his wealthy buddies can take over everything. He is not a closet Bernie Bro looking to force the government to implement socialism on the down-low. He is not a member of the deep state hoping that the more the administration stumbles, the easier it will be for Joe Biden to sneak into the Oval Office.
He is a very cautious doctor. Nothing more, nothing less, and he’s acting as any very cautious doctor would. You can disagree with him. But assigning some weird conspiracy theory to him isn’t warranted.
Isn’t that a refreshing scene? There’s nothing quite so calming as a tropical island, with gentle surf caressing a sun swept beach while warm breezes sway the palm fronds in a relaxing rhythm. If you squint carefully, you can almost see the natives roasting a swordfish over a crackling fire and smell the heady aroma of fresh island vegetables.
The island also represents what the medical community wants for America. They want us all to hunker down in our homes in hopes of extinguishing the Wuhan Flu, much as we would be isolated and alone on a South Pacific isle. Numerous government leaders have taken them up on this advice. Sadly, they haven’t given each of us our own tropical paradise. While they aren’t actually calling it an enforced quarantine, the lack of the correct verbiage doesn’t make it any less so. If you think otherwise, try leaving your house after 8pm.
Of course, we’re just starting to deal with the fearmongering that resulted in mass panic, and nearly mass hysteria. The national economy is virtually shut down. The stock market almost collapsed,with losses not seen in nearly a half century. Nobody is certain of the damage done, but estimates range as high as perhaps a 40% reduction in GDP and 30% unemployment, numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Social structures have been irrevocably altered, in ways we cannot begin to understand. The very nature of work has been altered, with more white-collar employees working remotely than ever before. When we do get back to work, to school; when the centers of culture and learning do reopen, we have no idea how the changes that were suddenly thrust upon us will reverberate in the future.
The biggest problem with all of this is that the data about this disease is profoundly unreliable. It has been said there are lies, damned lies and statistics and no common experience drives home that truism more than the current situation. From the beginning, statisticians and epidemiologists were dealing with incomplete (and even falsified) data from China, India, Italy and South Korea. As a result, modeling – which government leaders relied on to predict how deadly the COVID-19 pandemic would be to the general population – has been terribly inaccurate. The noted epidemiologist John Ioannidis recently remarked that “the fatality rate could plausibly lie between one in 100 and one in 2,000 cases.” Mind you, he is merely referring to death rate for those who are infected. Nobody has yet put forward a reliable model for the infection rate, because the data simply doesn’t exist. This is a problem that was anticipated. On March 17, Ioannidis wrote, “we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.“
“But,” you say, “what about the rapid rise in cases in the United States I keep seeing on the evening news?” Ah, a fair question. Consider: since the United States started testing, it took us 17 days to administer the first 100,000 tests. It took another 11 days to administer the next 100,000. It has taken only 5 days to administer the last 320,000 tests. At current rates, the United States will be testing over 1 million people per week by mid-April. As the number of tests administered increases exponentially, the number of confirmed cases will also increase exponentially. The key evidence to look at is whether the number of positive cases is increasing at the same rate as the number of tests – and that answer is a resounding no. While tests have increased at a logarithmic rate, the increase in positive tests has followed a gentler curve, suggesting that the infection and lethality rates are lower than first anticipated.
One other note on testing: we have only been testing people showing symptoms. Yet the positive test rate is only about 15% of those tested for COVID-19. This is because what the media refers to as the “coronavirus” is actually a mutated form of the same virus that causes the common cold, multiple strains of influenza, SARS and MERS. Those are all corona viruses. As a result, the symptoms of COVID-19 fall into the same generalities as those other diseases: cough, fever, fatigue. That only feeds into the panic, especially as those are also symptoms of hay fever – and large swaths of the nation are entering spring allergy season.
For a doctor, the choice facing the nation is an easy one. They are worried about immediacy, and their immediate concern is to keep everyone alive and healthy. So recommending that everyone stay hunkered down in our houses and apartments is an easy choice. But for the rest of us, the choice is far from being simple. The president, and all 50 governors, have to weigh the importance of preserving lives now vs. the effects of leaving the economy in a downward spiral. How many people will end up dying from COVID-19 vs. how many people will die from starvation and other diseases of poverty if the economy slips into another massive depression? We can roughly extrapolate from available data that around 130,000 people will die from this disease. We cannot make even a haphazard guess about what the death toll from an economic depression that last months or even years might be, because while we know one is inevitable on our current course, we don’t know any of the particulars. We can’t. We’re not fortune tellers.
Without solid data, it is an impossible question to answer. Yet we’re all answering it, from the President to loudmouth Joey you normally meet at the corner tavern. The problem is, both of them – and everyone else – doesn’t really know, no matter what they tell you.
Will this virus be bad for the country? It already is. Will a deflated economy be bad for the country? It already is. But making everything worse is fear and panic. We can’t keep ourselves walled off forever, living in fear of everyone who sneezes. The federal government, between emergency fiscal expenditures and monetary expansion from the Federal Reserve, has already expanded national debt by nearly $8 trillion. That’s about 40% of last year’s GDP, and perhaps 65% of this year’s GDP. In short, that is an unsustainable degree of expenditure. We cannot afford to allow fear to panic us into cowardice, and we cannot afford to to allow fear to bankrupt the nation.
FDR once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s time for the panic to end, and for America to prove that FDR knew what he was talking about.