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“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.” — C.S. Lewis
While Lewis wrote this in regard to the then-new threat of atomic warfare, it seems remarkably appropriate to today’s Chinese coronavirus scare. While we may be reacting to the threat in novel ways, the threat itself is as old as mankind. Yet death is inevitable once birth has occurred. Through our panic (as others have noted on Ricochet) some may be hastening their own deaths or the deaths of others.
The solution seems to be to face the crisis without exaggerating its threat or novelty. Is Chinese coronavirus serious? Yes. Is it more serious than influenza? Very likely so. Is it something on the order of the bubonic plague? Get real.
It should be noted that of those that died of Chinese coronavirus in Italy, almost 50 percent had three or more serious underlying medical conditions and, of the remainder, around one-quarter had one serious preexisting condition and another quarter had two. Less than 1 percent of those who died were otherwise healthy. (Note this does not mean 1 percent of otherwise healthy people will die of the disease, it means less one percent of those that die of the disease will be otherwise healthy. And apparently less than three percent of those that contract it die of it.)
The median age of those who died in Italy (here, full report here) was 80.5 with a standard distribution of about 10 years. That means over two-thirds of those who die of it are between 70 and 90. I am 64 and, other than hypertension in good health. I should worry about it, but not excessively. My 89-year-old mother is at serious risk, but has isolated herself. My sons, in their 30s, are at some risk. Those healthy college kids, intent on partying through spring break are behaving rationally.
This is not to minimize the threat Chinese coronavirus poses. It is to suggest that we not implement cures worse than the threat the disease poses.Published in