Coronavirus and the missing faces - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Coronavirus and the missing faces

If the goal of any public health agency is to control or contain the spread of a virus, then public education is key. Such information can reduce panic, where many Asians are being targeted in the U.S., and can help the population prepare for the inevitable. It is important not to panic, and the numbers are currently in flux, but the World Health Organization’s daily reports can be found here.

COVID-19 will likely be a common yearly disease

Now that we are seeing cases climb outside of China, particularly in Italy and South Korea (that has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world), it’s likely that COVID-19 will be showing up at our doors either this year or next. It may not happen, and much can happen between now and then. We can get an anti-viral or vaccination, or the virus decides to become kinder and gentler, as did the “Swine flu.” However, before we all panic, the preliminary death rate of COVID-19 is just under 3%. Of the 76,769 people infected, as of February 21, 2,239 have died.

Yes, this number is in flux. More may die; less may die, but what we know is that the majority, and that means the vast majority of people that get the virus, survive.

As you all have heard by now, influenza is far more deadly. According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been between 21-41 million cases of flu this season is looking at the virus’s “load burden.” There have been between 280,000, to 500,000 hospitalizations, and there have been 16,000 to 41,000 deaths. These are surveillance numbers and have ranges as data comes in. 54 of these deaths have been children. 2019-2020 has been one of the worst flu years in decades. People hardly care or notice.

Why not the panic? I know many people that don’t get flu shots even when looking at these numbers.

People are emotion and fear-driven, not science or fact-driven. That is why our politicians focus on emotion and not science.

The Public Needs More Information

In terms of the current outbreak, the public is being kept in the dark, however. China is a sophisticated, modern country, and it has data that we all need that either it’s not giving us, or someone else is not giving us. For example, of those that died, how old were they? How many children have contracted the disease? How many children have died? It appears, when I scan the data from WHO and the CDC, that what kills people is not COVID-19, but pneumonia or complications from the disease.

If this is true, and it is a big if, then would pneumonia vaccinations significantly reduce deaths? Is this virus not similar to influenza? How many of those that died had a pneumonia vaccination, which covers about 20 or so different strains? Is one population more vulnerable than others? Kids cannot get this pneumonia vaccination, so are more kids dying? Why the silence? Someone has these numbers, but, for now, the disease seems to target no one in particular. That is hard to believe, and that causes panic.

I understand that everything is fluid right now, that numbers are coming in daily, but according to the WHO graphs, COVID-19 is beginning to descend in China, but it’s now climbing in South Korea and Italy. Now that it is in Europe and the source not known, restraining the virus may be a foregone conclusion.  The next step should be information, not sensation.

We Need Information, Not Sensation

Most news media provide death numbers and write, “climbing,” “epidemic,” and “deaths.” The virus is often called “deadly.” Though it does kill people, a conservative 80 to 90 plus survival rate, is not exactly deadly to most. While scanning these, few articles contain good, useful information. A few noted that influenza is much worse, and others promote what WHO recommends: wash hands, cover coughs, and don’t eat raw meat (the same for just about every viral or bacterial infection). Though WHO claims it has no additional guidelines for travelers, some concern has been raised if the virus can survive on food. Again, such information is seldom shared with the public. The media and many agencies and governments are not providing answers to the critical questions noted above. Such keeps people in the dark, and such causes panic, mistrust, and more and more conspiracy theories. Such is also a common theme with most governments. They are residual: wait until we have a problem, then worry about it or spin it in a different direction.

How Smart Are These Quarantines?

We all understand the need to control a virus when it just starts, but I struggle to see the logic in forcing a whole shipload of people, most of which do not have the virus, to stay on a ship, in close quarters, so that everyone can get infected. No, I am not a medical doctor or a more specialized immunologist or virologist, but basic common sense tells me that the infected people should be removed and isolated, and those on the ship not yet showing signs should be monitored and isolated separately. The message we all get: whatever you do, if you are at risk, don’t tell anyone. The current practice seems more like this: let’s create incubators full of humans and allow all of them to get infected while in isolation. This is exactly how many superbugs thrived, in hospitals or concentrated places.

A Sensible Approach

Few of us have any control over this new virus, so don’t sweat it. The vast majority of people will survive. For some, it’s a mild cold, for others a more serious cold or flu. For a few, COVID-19 will be very serious and potentially deadly. Get medical help when you feel sick. Don’t wait if at all possible. The public needs more information about who is dying, what ages seem most at risk, and we should follow basic hygiene guidelines: wash hands, cover mouth when sneezing, and limit the sharing of food. Let’s not target a group. All human beings are susceptible.

People are social creatures. That is how we survived any epidemic or harsh reality. Not touching one’s face with their hands can reduce getting infected with any virus or even some bacteria.

There will always be new viruses and bacteria because they are doing the same thing we are, trying to survive. We need to focus on cures, science, and the general public needs useful information, not just entertainment. At present, we all are more likely to die in a car crash, the flu, a heart attack, a stroke, or many forms of cancer. Many are also likely to die vaping or with a drug overdose. If you are a young black man in many urban cities, you are more likely to die by gun violence.

Let’s keep things in perspective.


About the author

Earl Yarington

Earl Yarington is an associate professor of English at Prince George’s Community College and a graduate student in clinical social work at Louisiana State University. He is also obtaining sex therapy certification through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. He interned in corrections statewide for a sex offender treatment program. Earl also authored a book under pen name Lolita in the Lion's Den (https://www.amazon.com/Lolita-Lions-Den-Pre-Tween-Juxtaposition/dp/1499717407) that addresses the complexity of sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse for people coming to terms with conflicting thoughts and ultimately their own identities. Contact the author.
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