I Hope You’ve Gotten the Message About the Corona Virus Threat

Don’t treat the SARS-COV-2 virus lightly.

It’s surprising to me to see how many people in the US are not concerned about the still mysterious disease, COVID-2019, which is causing so much havoc in China and now some other nations. While the numbers coming from China have been the source of some confusion and controversy, it is clear that the authorities there see something in Wuhan that is terrifying and requires draconian measures there in an attempt to contain the problem and draconian measures all over the country to prevent other communities from falling into Wuhan’s tragic state. I am so grateful for the many resources the Church has sent to China and hope there will be more. But in my opinion, local communities in many parts of the world should prepare now. When the disease sweeps through a community, it rapidly overwhelms local health care systems, as may be happening now or soon in Korea, Italy, Iran, and other places. Face masks, food, and other supplies can suddenly be hard to get. Don’t wait until there’s an overwhelming crisis. Prepare now to get through this.

No, COVID-2019 is not just like a typical flu (which can be very deadly when millions are infected) nor is it even like SARS or MERS, which were very deadly, but did not spread rapidly. Failure to understand the profound differences could leave you and your family unnecessarily vulnerable. The disease has a long incubation period, making it hard to detect who is infected. Some infected, contagious people may not show serious symptoms or any symptoms at all. One of the things that kept MERS and SARS from spreading quickly was their deadly nature: people who got sick tended to become very ill and a high percentage died. But COVID-2019 does not take down its victims so dramatically, allowing it to spread much faster.

A sobering article was just published in the generally reputable Atlantic Monthly: “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus” by James Hamblin.  Credible epidemiologists see this virus as a serious threat that could infect 40 to 70% of the planet and kill millions. It may be hard to escape. For most, it may be an inconvenience and they will recover. But even then, there could be lasting impact from the measures taken to contain the virus. Preparation now is will. And perhaps at least understanding the threat may help us prepare to reduce risk.

The people I know back in China are affected in many ways by this outbreak. For those with loved ones in Wuhan or who may have been trapped there, it’s a nightmare. For those in more distant, less affected cities like Shanghai, where I have been living for the 8+ years, the measures taken to control the disease have made life very difficult. Though there are not many scores of people dying in that beautiful city, the impact has been harsh for businesses, schools, and families. Many people feel like prisoners in their apartment complex. I wince just thinking of the many restaurant owners I know who probably can’t operate at all or certainly won’t get enough customers to survive for long. So many businesses are suffering and that means people will lose jobs, lose income, not have enough for rent, and have to forego many hopes and dreams, even if they all remain healthy. The impact this may have on students and their college plans (especially if they were preparing for study in a foreign university) may be devastating. So many lives are being affected in so many ways. But I worry most for my friends who are in the lower strata of that very stratified nation. My dearest friends include a family in a tiny farmer village of 180 people in Jiangxi Province who were already devastated with the swine flu that took out all the pigs that were an economic mainstay for many in that community. Now comes COVID-2019, on top of some other painful challenges they were already facing. How will they cope?

I have three friends currently in prison in China. One young Chinese man’s mother, once a part-time maid for us, grieves, not even being able to find out what the status of her son is, apart from knowing that he was detained for allegedly transporting tainted food or fraudulent food. Lawyers we contacted recently to try to help her did not respond, and now the virus makes it much more difficult to find help. Two other expat friends are also in jail, awaiting trial, for whom we can do little and for whom I worry daily.

In any nation afflicted with an epidemic, I fear that the grave concerns over the virus might slow relief for all those seeking help in difficult circumstances. Those who are poor, who are in prison, who are ill and can’t get medical care now, those in orphanages, those in refugee camps, etc. may be most grievously afflicted, but there is cause to mourn even for people in wealthy families where students may have hopes and dreams dashed, where fortunes may suddenly have reversed, or where businesses that employed hundreds may suddenly fail. I feel so helpless. We all do before such problems. But we can keep China and other afflicted nations in our prayers — yes, Iran also, no matter how much political tension we have with that nation — and do what we can to prepare for possible trouble in our own future, seeking to be able to help more in our communities should grave trials arise.

More research is needed to understand the virus and how it may be treated. Understanding why some nations and some communities have higher morality rates from this virus or from pneumonia in general may be valuable. I’ve seen some amazing quack medicine reports passed on by gullible friends such as claims that drinking garlic water eliminate the infection. But I’ve also seen some seemingly reasonable arguments for some unexpected but plausible connections between pneumonia mortality and other factors that I hope will be reviewed and explored by competent researchers. Funding for such R&D efforts may be a smart thing, along with efforts to create vaccines and other tools to help cope with a global pandemic (though I recognize that the sensitive and cautious folks at the WHO have not yet dared to call it a pandemic yet, though I suspect that will change shortly). Thanks to one of my readers who shared some fascinating information that could offer a valuable lead. This is a disease for which sharing and careful vetting of good information will be vital. Perhaps there are some breakthroughs just waiting for some open-minded scientific exploration.

Update, 2/28/2020: The missteps taken by the US in coping with the emerging Corona virus crisis are troubling. Why does China have functional test kits for the virus but the US does not? See the story, Caroline Chen et al., “Key Missteps at the CDC Have Set Back Its Ability to Detect the Potential Spread of Coronavirus,” ProRepublica, Feb. 28, 2020. I hope we can get this problem solved quickly, even if we have to reach out to China for help.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “I Hope You’ve Gotten the Message About the Corona Virus Threat

  1. Meanwhile, the President of the United States is downplaying the threat, claiming that it’s being blown out of proportion by the “liberal media” in order to undermine him. Fake news! “Caronavirus” (as Trump misspelled it) is no worse than the seasonal flu!

    — OK

  2. I'm definitely concerned and appreciate your insights. One thought I've had though is that if does become global, and is like the flu where anyone has a chance of getting it or dying from it, we should really just relax and let it take its course without quarantines and such. Millions die of the flu every year, but it doesn't impact travel, stock market, etc in the same way because we don't panic about it. We just accept that it's a risk of mortality, take precautions, try and stay healthy, treat it when sick, get vaccines when possible. Perhaps this will become more like that too.

  3. We in the US should have a national health system that would ensure anyone with any question about their health or contacts could get a reliable diagnosis and appropriate treatment so that they didn't continue to be a vector of the virus.

    As it is, our spotty services that are unavailable to many coupled with the long asymptomatic incubation period of the corona virus will mean far more disease and death when the virus enters our shores as it necessarily will over time in a global world. Meanwhile, Trump is dismantling the protections that have been available to the poor and those who haven't been able to get insurance through their employers.

    I'm so glad his opposition is talking about providing universal care but there's no way any such system could be put in place in time to deal with this health emergency. I hope, however, that Americans will recognize how our lack of public health systems puts us all at risk, the insured and the uninsured alike.

  4. Anon 10:59 writes, I hope … that Americans will recognize how our lack of public health systems puts us all at risk, the insured and the uninsured alike.

    Well said! Unfortunately, too many Americans see health insurance as a purely private and individual good, and not as a public and collective good. (The same is also true of higher education, alas.) I blame that stupid conservative ideology of “rugged individualism.”

    — OK

  5. Thanks for your insights. I keep harking back to President Hinckley's October 1997 General Conference talk in which he said, "The Almighty, if necessary, may have to shake the nations to humble them and cause them to listen to the servants of the living God. Whatever is needed will come to pass." Current events in countries not now open to the gospel seems to point to a great shaking up, so to speak. Perhaps good will come out of this. After all, we now have a Prophet who speaks Chinese! Don't we think he was raised up for such a time as this?

  6. Rozy, what a ridiculous comment. The Almighty shaking things up by introducing a deadly virus is your idea of a good plan? I wonder if you would have proffered that same opinion if you or your family resided in China, Iran or Italy and some of your family members became ill? Your vision of the all loving and compassionate Almighty does not align with my belief. Hopefully I'm right.

  7. To Russ Jensen: How is the virus any different from war, famine, pestilence, or any other disaster? I don't presume to know the mind of God, but I have read and seen how He works. He allows things to happen and He causes things to happen; which this is, I don't know. But I do have faith and confidence that HE is in charge and HE knows what HE'S doing.

  8. Good for you Rozy. Because missionaries are going to start returning to Mormon enclaves around the US coming from Italy and Asia and other areas of contagion.

  9. Rozy, you've fallen for the "I'm just asking the questions" fallacy. You need to stop. It doesn't help. While you sit back and wait for HE to do something, hard working medical professionals are solving problems and doing their best to fight the panic that people like you and Jeff are only encouraging. Keep your non-expert voice out of the conversation, people's lives are on the line here.

  10. Here's a message from your church's European area presidency. Notice how calm and collected they are about all of this. Take a tip from them and chill out:

    We have had some questions about the Corona virus and whether we should restrict gatherings. We do not feel that is necessary at this time but will of course comply if local government officials require it at some future date. It would, however, seem short sighted unless they restrict gathering for the normal flu season as it appears to be very similar. Please see the observations below.

    According to the NHC in china.

    o The national mortality rate in china to date is 2.1% of confirmed cases which has declined from 2.3% since Feb 4. Because there are many mild cases not reported this percentage is estimated to be far lower in reality.

    o More than 80% of the deaths are over 60 years old, and more than 75% had underlying diseases.

    According to John Hopkins the death rate is just 0.2% for people ages 10 to 39. Which is similar to the flu which has already caused 26 million illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths this season but has not caused such an irrational panic because it is more understood.

    Here is an article from Lancet, a highly respected medical journal provided by Elder Done who is one of our senior missionaries and also a medical doctor.

    “As of Feb 10, 37, 558 cases were confirmed, and 812 deaths had been reported to the WHO. Outside of China, 307 cases had been detected in 24 countries. Therefore, although several hundreds of patients remain in intensive care, the overall hospital fatality rate remains at 2%. Therefore, it is time to reduce the hype and hysteria surrounding the 2019-nCoV epidemic and reduce sensationalisation of new information, especially on social media, where many outlets aim to grab attention from followers. Additionally, the disparity between the strength of language as presented to the media by some researchers and politicians and the inference shared on social media requires more research to determine how content is being relayed on different platforms.

    An effective way of putting this outbreak into perspective is to compare it with other respiratory tract infections with epidemic potential. 2019-nCoV appears to fit the same pattern as influenza, with most people recovering and with a low death rate; the people at risk of increased mortality are older in age (>65 years), immunosuppressed, or have comorbid illnesses. There is currently no evidence that 2019-nCoV spreads more rapidly than influenza or has a higher mortality rate.”

    We will watch this carefully and be prepared to act should things change. We are not minimizing the risks, but please be calm and help those who may be overly stressed, whether it be missionary parents (healthy young missionaries are five times more likely to die from an auto accident than from this virus) or members. We should always practice good hygiene but we should never panic as far more people are trampled to death when someone yells fire than from the fire itself.

  11. Obama did nothing about the H1N1 until over one thousand people died from it.

    When the threat of Ebola came (an Ebola stricken person was allowed into the USA…. during Obama, and nothing was put in place then to stop Ebola from coming to the USA) the CDC was given billions of dollars to help the medical community in the entire country.

    The CDC did nothing. The money was not dispersed, training did not happen, supplies never showed up… to hospitals across the country.

    My cousin is a RN and is in a high position at a major hospital in a very large city. She is involved in emergency preparedness at the hospital, works with all healthcare in the entire city during emergencies. She said that the CDC refused to do what they were supposed to regarding Ebola virus. The CDC gave the run around, made excuses, did not keep appointments, etc

    She and her co-workers realized that the country was screwed if Ebola virus rapidly spread.

    I spoke to her about the Corona Virus. She said the CDC is not doing its job…. again. No different than what happened during the Ebola virus. Too many corrupt people entrenched in the CDC and entire federal government. Supported by the corrupt politicians of both parties.

    I have spoken to many in the medical community (I work at a hospital in a lab) and the medical community knows the CDC no longer does what it originally was designed to do.

    The CDC is corrupt as Hades… no surprise because every federal government agency is corrupt. The CDC is inept. On purpose.

    Trump is trying to keep people calm. The media is trying to cause panic.

    Too many in the federal government are working hard to undermine the Trump Administration.

    The corrupt Marx/Lennin/Alinsky Democrats and their boot lickers are doing everything they can to use the Corona Virus to help them hurt Trump.

    I was a Democrat. Not anymore. But I have always been supportive and defender of the Constitution.
    I don't like Trump. But I am adult enough and use my brain to think for myself to see the truth about how Democrats are destroying the country and the Constitution. Look at Democrat run cities and states. San Francisco streets filled with raw sewage from humans, used drug needles, homeless people living on the lawns of homes and homeowners will be arrested if the homeless are not allowed to stay. Democrat supporting thugs not arrested for destruction. People threaten lives of Republican politicians and not arrested. Unborn babies aborted at any stage of pregnancy, and removing G-d from the platform was what made me realize how evil and vile Democrats are. Satan is rejoicing.

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