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March 6, 2020

National COVID-19 Need to Know

Like most flu outbreaks, coronavirus will potentially cause millions of infections and thousands of deaths.

What follows are a couple of snapshots regarding the COVID-19 viral outbreak this week.

First, some reliable medical perspective…

I have several longtime and trusted friends whom I have consulted over the years on potential epidemic issues. They are career disease specialists and former military physicians who understand the government response context, and who have now been in private practice for decades. Collectively, they agree on the following assessment at this point.

The key issues are that COVID-19 is contagious prior to symptoms, the incubation period appears to be longer, and we don’t yet have effective antiviral therapy or a vaccine — hopefully coming soon. These are the obvious reasons why the non-medical impact will be significant, and why it is going to be more difficult to contain.

They note further that mortality rates with past flu epidemics have varied widely, especially with regard to age groups, so it’s difficult to compare overall mortality statistics. We don’t yet have a firm understanding of the mortality implications although it could be as high as 3.4%. For numerous reasons, COVID-19 is not as bad as the 1918 influenza epidemic or, more recently, the SARS outbreak. But it will likely be worse than H1N1 in older adults but not kids.

They note we don’t know the extent of the disease spread because, until the last 10 days, testing protocols have delayed our active surveillance of the spread. Like all virulent seasonal flu outbreaks, it will spread nationwide — and likely already has. The daily “dramatic spread” media reports are because we are only now testing for it. Whether this will cost more lives than the worst year on record in the last decade?

As I have noted previously, it is going to be another bad year for U.S. infectious disease deaths, and could far exceed the 2017-18 flu season, when the CDC estimated the U.S. flu death toll was 80,000. The virus causing COVID-19 has mutated into two strains, and one may be much more aggressive. The “S-type” appears to be milder and less infectious, but the “L-type” is more contagious and accounts for 70 percent of cases. Unfortunately, though human vaccine trials will begin in early April, if successful the vaccine will still take 8-12 months before it is available.

Second, President Donald Trump canceled his visit to the CDC today after signing the $8.3 billion congressional spending bill.

An unfortunate un-presidential “stream of consciousness” yesterday provided yet another opening for Democrats to politicize the outbreak and condemn Trump. In an interview, Trump stated, “I think the 3.4% [death rate] is a false number. Now, this is just my hunch… If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work, but they get better and then…”

NO! The hard and fast rule in our Patriot Post publishing house is — and should be in any business — if you are sick, STAY HOME.

Mike Pence is handling this well — the president needs to stop talking “hunches” and stop repeating that there are just a few deaths and serious illnesses. The fact is, like most flu outbreaks, there are potentially going to be thousands of deaths and millions of infections. As I noted last week in our “Coronavirus Reality Check,” the current U.S. flu season has already resulted in 29 MILLION diagnosed cases, 280 THOUSAND hospitalizations, and more than 16 THOUSAND deaths. COVID-19 is going to result in many more infections and deaths than it has so far.

For disgraceful Democrat Party leaders to use deaths and illnesses as political fodder should be met with condemnation from ALL quarters.

Third, in a very uninformed analysis in the otherwise-reliable Washington Examiner, Adam Smith Institute Fellow Tim Worstall chastised Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for his condemnation of Amazon for allowing “price gouging,” rapid price increases of products (10X and more) on the basis of the current pandemic fear. According to Worstall, “The high prices will make sure that those who really want and need the supplies are the ones who get them.”

It is truly mind-numbing, Beltway-detached logic to suggest that $399 for a couple bottles of Purell hand sanitizer ensures that an elderly person with limited income and at greatest risk of death will have access to it. And one of many examples of price gouging is the report about a couple of pandemic profiteers who rented trucks and went through rural sections of Tennessee and other southern states, buying up all the hand sanitizer on the shelves, and then attempting to take advantage of the shortage by reselling the sanitizer at huge markups.

For the record, 34 states have laws against price gouging in emergencies, and the Supreme Court has rightly upheld those laws once emergencies have been declared. Currently, Washington, California, Maryland, and Florida have declared states of emergency related to coronavirus.

What Worstall should have pointed out is the irony that Demos are complaining about price gouging at the same time they and their Leftmedia outlets are fomenting the panic.

(Visit our comprehensive China Virus Pandemic response and recovery page, and see our related pages.

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