An owl's eye view of forests and trees

An Owl’s Random COVID-19 Thoughts

What it says on the tin. Just a collection of thoughts that pop in my head over the course of a day as I watch people react to COVID-19.


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Trump proves his failings as a politician and a leader not just in the specifics or lack thereof in how to handle this pandemic. He proves it in his approach. He sees COVID-19 as a personal affront to him and his election campaign. A leader, a successful businessman, or a politician would view it as a challenge and opportunity to show what stuff they are made from. Trump’s view of COVID-19 informs his approach to it. He has issued his usual responses for when he feels personally insulted. The problem is that COVID-19, being a virus, does not care.  It has no political or other career to threaten. It has no feelings to be hurt. Trump’s usual approaches to insults have no leverage on a virus-driven pandemic. The virus will continue doing whatever it does because words and flailing around do not have any impact on viruses.


Honestly, if Trump were capable of getting his act together and treating this like a challenge to overcome, he would be doing much better in the polls  and would have better approval ratings, even if it brought about no change in the U.S. trends regarding the disease.  But as an extreme narcissist and bully who has been enabled his whole life and never been held accountable for his actions, he is incapable of changing course or making real leadership decisions during this crisis.


That said, in the past few days he has come out for wearing masks and maybe not flocking to bars so much. Several months have passed since scientists informed us that masks for everyone would seriously help the situation, but better late than never.  However, we have yet to see if this differs from his other flirtations on the subject and lasts more than a few days. It appears his campaign handlers managed, for a time at least, to convince him that he needed to do something different to improve his PR. Maybe all the compliments he received for the one time he allowed himself to be photographed in a mask have stroked his ego enough to change his tune. We will see. I will refrain from getting too excited at this early stage.  Trump has knelt as Lucy holding a football to a Charlie Brown American public far too frequently for me to assume that he will not snatch the football away and watch us all fall on our ass.


On mask wearing, no it is not a frigging culture war. The people wearing them as recommended do so because it is science informed best practices for themselves and everyone else. The people saying “No way. You can’t make me do that” have chosen to make this a tribalism issue. They are the only ones who have. I am not giving people who would recklessly risk their lives and the lives of others just so they can feel smug about belonging to a particular tribe the satisfaction of driving this narrative by calling it a culture-war. They are idiots and assholes who have chosen to make a point about something science says saves lives and would put us all back on track to re-opening and saving the economy.  This is entitlement and shitty behavior by a select few. Don’t give them legitimacy by falling for this “culture war”’ labeling.


I also tire of argument that we can send the children back for in-person schooling without taking any additional precautions, or open up bars without restrictions, or go to any party we want, because the disease kills such a small number of people, that it does not matter. Besides only the “high risk” need fear it.


There is so much wrong in that line of thinking I am sure I will miss addressing some of it.  The actual numbers, both of those who catch the disease, and those who die from it, are not known at this time. There is not enough testing for the former. For the latter, there are too many deaths that appear to be COVID-19 related but not counted in official tallies. A recent report found many countries have undercounted deaths. Even factoring for the estimated number of those who have contracted the disease but have not been tested, the report still assessed that the actual disease mortality rate is higher than what is currently reported.


Even if one assumes 1% mortality, given the likely overall spread of this disease due to our lack of immune defenses to it, that number is staggering. Right now, the U.S. has an estimated population of about 328,000,000 (rounding way down).  Let’s just assume only half of Americans get the disease. Even at 1% mortality rate ends up with 1,640,000 Americans dead during this pandemic. Except, according to John Hopkins, the U.S. mortality rate, even with the “too much testing” that Trump complains about driving up the number of those who contract the diseases, is about 3.7%. Okay, then let’s assume only a quarter of Americans contract the disease.  At a 3.7% mortality rate, that now becomes over 3 million dead over the course of this pandemic. In contrast, the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed approximately 675,000 Americans. When you are talking large populations, even 1% – 4% adds up very quickly.


That morality also needs to be viewed not just in terms of percentage, but speed.  In the 1960s, a flu strain caused a pandemic that lasted for 3 years, and in that time, it killed about 100,000 Americans. COVID-19 exceeded that number in a few months, not years.  Even the 1918-1919 epidemic took two years and a couple of waves to kill off the number of Americans it did. The U.S. has not even finished its first wave of COVID-19, and scientists predict there will be more than one.  In fact, right now COVID-19, having killed over 140,000 in the U.S., appears to be on pace with the 1918-1919 pandemic, as far as U.S. numbers go. The idea that, based on the information and situation right now, COVID-19 will kill only a small number of people is thoroughly debunked.


Also arguments about mortality rates and low risk completely ignore that the only reason those rates are that low is because drastic measures were taken. The mortality rate is not just 3.7%. It’s 3.7% with an asterisk. Had extreme measures not been taken, like shutting down schools and bars, the mortality and infection numbers would be much higher.


Also, the disease does far more than kill. It attacks the body’s systems in a number of ways, leaving many people seriously ill. I have seen numbers from the WHO and the CDC that 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 6 people infected will need hospitalization. Those are significant numbers – between 17%-20% . Assuming the one-quarter of Americans infected scenario from above, that’s still a range of about 14 million – 16 million people on top of the over 3 million dead. Further, many of those more seriously ill have experienced long recoveries and have developed serious long-term or permanent complications from the disease.  In Britain, they have apparently opened clinics just to handle the recovery and rehabilitation needed by former COVID-19 patients. So, the idea that the only thing we need worry about is a few people dying (as if that is ever something not to take seriously), is utterly debunked as well.


Then there is the idea that it is okay to endanger the “high risk” population like they are the insane or homosexuals of Hitler’s Third Reich. The morally reprehensible nature of such a thought process makes my stomach churn. And again, the number of people who are high risk in the U.S. is very large.  According to the CDC, diabetes, heart conditions, breathing conditions, such as asthma or COPD, cancer, kidney disease, high blood pressure, a history of smoking, being 65 or older, and pregnancy all put someone at higher risk. There is probably not a child in America that does not have at least one person close to them who falls into one of those categories.


Also, there is growing evidence that reasonably healthy, reasonably young people are dying or having serious complications from this disease as well. So, the ideas that the number of people that are high-risk is low or the disease poses a danger only to those with a high-risk factor are utterly preposterous.


This disease poses a serious risk to everyone, and it spreads very easily. We can take precautions as individuals and a nation to reduce spread, keep people safe, and get us on the road to functioning and interacting with each other more normally. Downplaying the risks hurts us. Making a culture war out of taking precautions hurts us. And by us, I mean all of us. Me, you, and those you love.


The leadership at the top echelon of this country may largely have been absent during the crisis, but do not absent yourself from reason. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep a safe distance from others when possible. Stay at home when possible.  It is not easy. But do what you can. We are all counting on each other.


  1. Ross Anderson

    Well Stated. Loved the mental imagery that the ‘Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown’ evoked.

    • Ann Anderson

      Thank you. I like that one too. I cannot take full credit. I think I have run into someone else using a similar analogy with Trump on something else recently.

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