Working Through or Worked Over by the Coronavirus?

 

My parents’ generation has some badly needed perspective. My father commented recently, after I told him I was recovering from whooping cough*, that he and his generation went through every disease my generation was inoculated against: mumps, measles, chicken pox, and German measles. Oh, and they had to dodge polio, against which we were inoculated. And there were bad flu seasons.

A writer in City Journal has now spoken that wisdom in “Say Your Prayers and Take Your Chances: Remembering the 1957 Asian flu pandemic:”

For those who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing unusual about finding yourself threatened by contagious disease. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, and German measles swept through entire schools and towns; I had all four. Polio took a heavy annual toll, leaving thousands of people (mostly children) paralyzed or dead. There were no vaccines. Growing up meant running an unavoidable gauntlet of infectious disease. For college students in 1957, the Asian flu was a familiar hurdle on the road to adulthood. For everyone older, the flu was a familiar foe. There was no possibility of working at home. You had to go out and face the danger.

Today, thanks to vaccines, fewer and fewer people remember what it was like to survive a succession of childhood diseases. Is the unfamiliar threat of serious sickness making us more afraid of COVID-19 than we need to be? Does a society that relies more on politics than faith now find itself in an uncomfortable bind, unable to lecture, browbeat, intimidate, or evade the incorrect behavior of a dangerous microbe?

People in the 1940s and 1950s knew germ theory and understood all too well the transmission of disease. Their young people had about the same resilience as 2020 youth. In that context, they chose not to shut down the national economy, nor to put all students into correspondence school mode, nor to suspend college and professional sports for bad influenza outbreaks, even H2N2. The same athletes who are to be protected from COVID-19 have never in their careers reacted to teammates who got the flu by refusing to play.

Let’s be clear: if the latest bug ran through the entire ranks of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and PGA, plus all of the NCAA, we would expect not a single fatality. We would expect more fatalities from transportation accidents involving very expensive vehicles. At most, some players and coaches would be laid up for two weeks, as they are with the flu occasionally. OK, let’s dial that back one notch: there are a few coaches and staff with known heart disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, or suppressed immune systems. The organizations can easily afford to fully compensate and care for each of them in splendid safe isolation until this disease ebbs.

We should be perfectly clear about what we are choosing to do: we believe our nation and the developed world to be so wealthy that we can deliberately crash our economy to reduce the serious risk of the latest respiratory bug to our elderly and our populations of younger people with preexisting conditions that render them susceptible to severe or lethal consequences from respiratory infection. We believe that we will bounce back from this self-inflicted economic harm, recovering enough to be ready to deal with whatever the next national crisis might be.

We are choosing this response over focusing our resources on our vulnerable populations, cordoning senior communities and nursing homes from potential carriers, safely delivering meals and supplies to independent living seniors, and getting serious about imposing basic public health on our cities with large homeless populations turning their streets into third-world communities. I recognize that my parents are now in the prime danger zone. At the same time, almost no college student or professional athlete was ever going to need hospitalization and respiratory support for this or any other respiratory ailment. We know this from the past and from the documented course of this current pandemic.

We chose this course at some point. I do not blame President Trump, who is doing an admirable job of riding the tiger, and might just keep it from eating all of us through his actions, making the best of a bad hand and crooked play by the DNC’s media wing. He certainly did not have legislative allies, let alone cultural elite support to calm panic and get the public behind alternate strategies such as I suggest. Then again, this is the clown car we fill at the ballot box every two years.


* Yes, whooping cough. Of course, I was immunized and stuck again every time the Army said I was due for a booster shot, but that all ended in 2016, and if the shot was near its renewal date then, I was 3.5 years further on when I started dry coughing so hard my ribs hurt. So, two courses of antibiotics later, I’m past the bug being present but can expect a few more months of minor upper respiratory irritation. Mind you, I had to walk into a large lab for a scheduled blood draw, and another lab with a full waiting room for a chest x-ray, so I’ll be thrilled if one or more of my fellow lab customers had COVID-19 or some strain of the flu outside the cocktail shot I took this past fall. Oh, and the cute as a bug’s ear, healthy appearing, and very skilled, young lab tech who drew my blood was not wearing a face mask in February, so whatcha gonna do?

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I grabbed an empty spot in our Group Writing Series under the March 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Working.” There are plenty of open days, so get busy and work it! Stop by and sign up now.
    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #1
  2. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The reaction in part is another iteration of the cancel movement, et al. — nobody wants a bad outcome to be blamed on them. That’s because everyone is a victim of someone else. When there is no G-d there are no “acts of G-d”. In the good old bad old days, stuff happened. People were sad. People adjusted and got on with their lives. “Sucks to be you” was a dispassionate observation, not the taunt that it is today. We don’t want to think in terms of randomness and unearned misfortune, but it is real.

    • #2
  3. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    I think you have this right. I just note there was no plan to instead surround, cordon off, vulnerable population facilities, not allowing in anyone who might expose them to the virus, with food and supply delivery and home care delivered in proper suits for the protection of the vulnerable people. 

    • #4
  5. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    I think you have this right. I just note there was no plan to instead surround, cordon off, vulnerable population facilities, not allowing in anyone who might expose them to the virus, with food and supply delivery and home care delivered in proper suits for the protection of the vulnerable people.

    I think I’ve heard that some of this is in play now. For example, no visiting allowed at nursing home for seniors.

    • #5
  6. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Cliff, I appreciate your commonsensical approach and revealing comparisons..  I think we have vastly overreacted to the Coronavirus.  

    As for me, I’m 81 years old and I go about my business.  This morning, Marie and I went for a walk, went grocery shopping at Safeway, and met a couple of friends on the way back.  We don’t give a second thought to the virus. 

    We don’t wear masks, we don’t wear gloves, we don’t hesitate to shake people’s hands, and we don’t buy a cart full of toilet paper. (What’s with the run on toilet paper, anyway?)

    Good post, Cliff. 

    • #6
  7. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    I had all of those including polio. I had the measles twice, once at five and again at 19. I had the flu almost every year in my twenties and thirties. As the say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    • #7
  8. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    I think you have this right. I just note there was no plan to instead surround, cordon off, vulnerable population facilities, not allowing in anyone who might expose them to the virus, with food and supply delivery and home care delivered in proper suits for the protection of the vulnerable people.

    I think I’ve heard that some of this is in play now. For example, no visiting allowed at nursing home for seniors.

    Yes, we haven’t been able to get in to see my mother-in-law for a week now. She has dementia, so it’s not like she misses us, but we miss her (in more ways than one).

    • #8
  9. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Some things never change,

    here’s a newspaper story from 1919

    The mild flu killed 50 million around the world far more then WW1.

    Heres the difference between ” lets keep everything open” and “lets stop all large gatherings

    Philadelphias public health system crashed and the result was a disaster.

    What you are proposing ” just protect the elderly’ will not work.

    If the infection is raging through the population the vulnerable will get infected, and many will die.

     

    • #9
  10. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    I find these conversations helpful. If nothing else, I get to hear some interesting perspectives from smarter people.

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Some things never change,

    here’s a newspaper story from 1919

    The mild flu killed 50 million around the world far more then WW1.

    Heres the difference between ” lets keep everything open” and “lets stop all large gatherings

    Philadelphias public health system crashed and the result was a disaster.

    What you are proposing ” just protect the elderly’ will not work.

    If the infection is raging through the population the vulnerable will get infected, and many will die.

     

    And I should think that one could examine the difference in economic damage done by the influenza epidemic in St. Louis vs. in Philadelphia?

    Woodrow Wilson got the Spanish ‘Flu and, at least according to one account, he survived but…not with his strength and energies intact. He proved incapable of pressing his plan forward with the victors of Versailles, and his relatively lenient plan for post WW1 Germany was supplanted by a more humiliating and vindictive French and British program. A postwar politics of resentment  found far more receptive audiences than it otherwise might have done.

    Thus, the Spanish Flu finds its way into the proposed constellation of chance, crucial events that led to Hitler and the Holocaust. 

     

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

     

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Some things never change,

    here’s a newspaper story from 1919

    The mild flu killed 50 million around the world far more then WW1.

    Heres the difference between ” lets keep everything open” and “lets stop all large gatherings

    Philadelphias public health system crashed and the result was a disaster.

    What you are proposing ” just protect the elderly’ will not work.

    If the infection is raging through the population the vulnerable will get infected, and many will die.

     

    As you know, this ain’t that. 1918-19 flu unusually killed healthy young adults in large numbers. Since much of our senior population,especially the most vulnerable, live in age segregated communities, buildings, it is certainly not impossible to quarantine against the rest of the population, likely at much less cost than our current approach of crashing the whole economy and then trying to rig up a temporary safety net for workers and their families on the fly.

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I’m 71 and in fairly good health, though I don’t take these things as casually as I did a few years ago. Mrs R is the same age and might be a little more vulnerable. We’re segregating ourselves somewhat for the sake of others, if not ourselves. I’d like to be treated if we came down with the disease, but I’m willing to take a greater risk if the alternative is to sell the next generations into slavery, as Congress and perhaps the President seem intent on doing.

    • #12
  13. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    As you know, this ain’t that. 1918-19 flu unusually killed healthy young adults in large numbers. Since much of our senior population,especially the most vulnerable, live in age segregated communities, buildings, it is certainly not impossible to quarantine against the rest of the population,

    “Elderly” in this case is 60+.  

    Even those 70+ many many live independently.   

    I live in Wilmington NC. It’s become a retirement community.  Elderly everywhere.  

    If the disease is raging around them, if large numbers are infected how will they be “protected”.

    Remember, people who are infected and asymptomatic are still infectious.

    What you are proposing is just not possible.

     

    Yeah, it sucks that we are now faced with the prospect of shutting down huge chunks of the economy for a long stretch.

    Again. It didn’t have to happen this way. And I’m laying a lot of the blame on the “it’s the flu wash your damn hands” crowd.

    It wasn’t.  We had time to get control thanks to Trumps initial action. 

    It bought us time to be aggressive and use the same containment methods that worked so well in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.

    And that time was pissed away, until containment is no longer possible only mitigation.

    By the way we are going to see an experiment with your method carried out in real time.

    Watch what happens in the UK.

    • #13
  14. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    @Kojak, I hope you are taking good care of yourself, resting and relaxing?

    I ask, because I’ve tried to get better, myself, at making good use of downtime so as to be prepared when time becomes relentlessly UP. 

    • #14
  15. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I got all those except polio in the forties. I was a freshman in college in 1957 and I remember the Asian flu. Nothing shut down that I remember. Two things today that change the circumstances to some degree. I think our expected life span is up a few years so we have more older people. And our population has doubled. I suspect we have larger percentages of people who have survived lifestyle related and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable today. I think the only real problem we might be facing is that if the spread produced too many of the vulnerable group with severe symptoms like not being able to breathe at the same time, medical capability might be overwhelmed. I suppose that’s why they are going to this social distancing to flatten that curve. I have to assume that the situation is such that some of these most vulnerable people are able to be saved through the use of available medical facilities like ventilators but would die if not available. I don’t know this to be the case.

    I think you have this right. I just note there was no plan to instead surround, cordon off, vulnerable population facilities, not allowing in anyone who might expose them to the virus, with food and supply delivery and home care delivered in proper suits for the protection of the vulnerable people.

    I remember being quarantined at home when I had scarlet fever in 1944.  My mother was allowed to stay but my father  and sister had to leave.  I think it was two weeks and after that my father carried me up and down stairs to the couch where I was kept non ambulatory for another month out of fear of rheumatic fever.  I did get a small dose of penicillin, which was very rare at the time.  I had all the childhood diseases.

    My wife had chickenpox at age 16 and was very ill.  That’s why mothers had chickenpox parties so kids would get it very young.

    • #15
  16. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    I grabbed an empty spot in our Group Writing Series under the March 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Working.” There are plenty of open days, so get busy and work it! Stop by and sign up now.
    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    Cliff,

    Sorry, I initially signed up for today, the Ides of March, which would have been a new twist on working oneself to death, but I saw that Front seat Cat grabbed it a few comments earlier. Mine is in the tank ready for tomorrow.

    III

    • #16
  17. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I’m 71 and in fairly good health, though I don’t take these things as casually as I did a few years ago. Mrs R is the same age and might be a little more vulnerable. We’re segregating ourselves somewhat for the sake of others, if not ourselves. I’d like to be treated if we came down with the disease, but I’m willing to take a greater risk if the alternative is to sell the next generations into slavery, as Congress and perhaps the President seem intent on doing.

    My wife and I are more vulnerable, perhaps.  I am 82 and have moderate pulmonary fibrosis. She is 75 and has high IgE immunodeficiency, for which she gets an infusion of Xolair every two weeks.  We are staying home pretty much and I am going to ask our PMDs tomorrow for prescriptions for Chloroquine.  It is a very common drug, used for malaria since 1945, and it seems to be curative and preventative for COVID 19.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTi-g18ftNZUMRAj2SwRPodtscFio7bJ7GdNgbJAGbdfF67WuRJB3ZsidgpidB2eocFHAVjIL-7deJ7/pub

    We will take it, assuming it is available, only if one of us becomes symptomatic. Both China and UK have banned export of it so it will be the next thing to disappear.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    My wife and I are more vulnerable, perhaps. I am 82 and have moderate pulmonary fibrosis. She is 75 and has high IgE immunodeficiency, for which she gets an infusion of Xolair every two weeks. We are staying home pretty much and I am going to ask our PMDs tomorrow for prescriptions for Chloroquine. It is a very common drug, used for malaria since 1945, and it seems to be curative and preventative for COVID 19.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTi-g18ftNZUMRAj2SwRPodtscFio7bJ7GdNgbJAGbdfF67WuRJB3ZsidgpidB2eocFHAVjIL-7deJ7/pub

    Very interesting.  It’s also interesting that the UK is now hoarding chloroquinine, I guess like we hoard toilet paper.

     

    • #18
  19. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    It turns out that my wife has a supply which she takes as “Plaquenil” for her arthritis.  I will request a prescription from my internist tomorrow.

    UPDATE: The pharmacy is back ordered, as expected.  My son did get his filled. He has three teens who are a risk factor plus he is a paramedic.

    • #19