May 27. Mourning the 100,000 Deaths, and Looking at the Future

Mourning the 100,000 Deaths, and Looking to the Future

Yes, we could have done much better to save lives, but our government is a strange mix, not up to swift action with great uncertainties.  Knowing what we know now, we will still stumble into the future very ineffectively.

We have noted many crossings of deaths in round numbers, in past flu epidemics, in past auto and gun losses, and in past wars.  We will still cross some more, and the disappointing thing is that we are still amazed as we cross more, and much larger than we expected.

I remember when the perfect confinement of the IHME model would only give us 62,000 deaths total, with almost none left.  Now, that model has lowered its recent prediction to 132,000.  A U. Penn-Wharton model today predicted 142,000.  A TV source said that this virus would continue forever, just like the common cold, although much more hazardous.  The IHME model cites the effectiveness of social distancing and masks, but it is now a political issue as to whether to wear one.  I was going to write another article pointing out that we are now the Planet of the Apes:  the rule of science deniers.

With 1.7 million known cases, and a factor of 5 to get to total cases, since 80% are not serious enough to warrant tests, there may be 8.5 million infected.  This is 2.7%, or about 1 in 40 Americans.  Even the 1.7 million is about 1 in 200 Americans.  Sociologists have established that we have an average in family, friends, and acquaintances of 150 to 200 people.  We have now reached the stage where we could all know somebody who has the Coronavirus, especially if we were not so socially isolated, as we soon won’t be.  Let’s hope that this changes people’s attitudes that the infected people are not some abstract “them” but actually “us”.  It also means that going out in crowds of 40 or more people carries a serious risk.

It is quite clear now that Trump is only concerned with being reelected and campaigning.  He will put up with whatever casualties occur just to restore some of the economy.  He also is campaigning from the far right, not the central Republicans.  While backing his demonstrators claiming that the first amendment gives them rights not to follow any reasonable orders (it doesn’t), Trump is now going to crack down on the entire social media because Twitter finally had the nerve to call his falsehoods on mail voting fraud, (which clarification is allowed by the First Amendment).

One poll of who would not take a vaccine is a third.  Another said a half would not take it.  Even with a vaccine, it will take years to produce and distribute it world-wide.  There are no price controls on Remdesivir, despite it being developed with government funds.  The current anti-bodies test in use can generate up to 50% of false negatives, according to the CDC, and cannot be used to screen people to return to work, or to protect the President, for that matter.

Something like a quarter of the deaths come from nursing homes, yet we have no national program, aid, or financing coming to improve the situation.  Meat packing plants are overcrowded, and easily pass the virus to all workers.  Yet Trump forces them to work.  Why not call out the military to double or triple the size of the work space to reduce their susceptibility, and supply them with PPE, since they are an essential industry. 

Trump’s contradicting all of his government’s safety guidelines, and supporting those who bypass them, is going to continue the infectiveness of the Coronavirus, prolong the battle, and lead to yet more deaths than necessary.  All against his reelection goals.  He also has not yet aided states and local governments to save their jobs, and aid first responders and their hospitals.  Yet he has time to play golf and appear to claim credit for a space launch that was started in 2004, long before his term in office.

It is still up to states and local governments, churches, the press, and individual social pressure to carry out standards of due caution, social distancing, wearing masks, and self quarantining of the vulnerable and already infected, in order to slow the deadly effects of the Coronavirus.   

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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