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I confess that I am not much of a consumer of mainstream media news. My infrequent forays into it during the epidemic suggest that they are highlighting the more dire predictions of catastrophe. They do this for two reasons: It’s more exciting news, and it contributes to the erosion of the one thing, the economy, that made President Trump’s re-election a foregone conclusion.
But not every American is subject to influence by this narrative; supposedly 90% of people distrust the media. So why are people so fearful? Part of it is that not enough people are paying that level of attention to understand that “case counts” do not differentiate between those who have “flu-like” symptoms and are seeking assurance that they are not infected with COVID-19 virus (80% of the people tested get that assurance) and those that will suffer horribly or die from COVID-19. I have seen local news feature persons who did get ill and survive but had a harrowing experience. So the news is designed to make you identify with the featured sufferer and conclude that the odds you will be in their position is greater than it actually is.
So what are the odds that you will die? The most current CDC estimate (and this is part of the problem: the evolving estimates) is that it is extremely rare for anyone under 50 years of age to die of COVID-19 even if they do present with symptoms (and a lot of people don’t). It does happen, but the fact that it happens to a small number of people does not make it likely that it will happen to you. People die from base jumping accidents, but not everyone engages in base jumping. Similarly, even if you are under 50 years of age your own physiology and life experience are likely quite different from the person(s) under 50 who died of COVID-19. And people under 50 are about two-thirds of our total population, over 80% of our productive workforce, and likely 99% of our parental units with school-aged children.
Yes, the risk goes up over 50 years of age, and then again over 65. But even in the highest age groups the odds of dying are highest in group living situations where people are suffering from illnesses that are killing them more slowly until COVID-19 accelerates the process.
There are people who fit the highest probability for death if they get this disease. Their concerns and fears are justified. And dramatic targeted action to protect them is called for. But not for the vast majority of people. Is their fear based on ignorance of the facts as they are developing? Or something more sinister, manipulation of information to enhance their fears? Or something more general, years of public education on how our lives and behaviors must be restricted to keep us safe?
[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]Published in