empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

March 15 2020: Checking Back In on 2019 Novel Coronavirus — My Opinions, If Anyone Cares

“According to The Atlantic, as of March 6 they could only verify 1,895 caronavirus tests having been performed in the U.S. We really do not know the extent of this problem. While it may be useful as Brian suggests to take a hard look at our risk assessment, it’s my suspicion that Brian may be taking a different perspective on this problem as soon as a week from now. Good to check back in 7-10 days…..say around March 15.”

March 15 2020: Checking Back In on 2019 Novel Coronavirus — My Opinions, If Anyone Cares

The paragraph you just read was from this comment which was written by Paul Bee — who is a reader of The Gate — in response to this article comparing the illness and death rates of 2019 Novel Coronavirus to other diseases, which I wrote on Friday, March 6, 2020.

First, Paul Bee is correct that no one knows the extent of this problem. We do not know how long this strain of coronavirus has been around. We do not know how much worse this 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV — pandemic will get before it gets better. We do not know if our bodies will naturally develop an immunity to it. We do not know how effective a vaccine will be against it when it is developed…

…but there are countless other problems and issues that we face of which we do not know the extent. Some of them can be deadly; while others can be benign.

“The virus is already here in the US and spreading undetected in our communities. While you (and many readers here) may think that this virus is a big nothing burger, wait until you or someone you love needs hospitalization unrelated to the virus (car accident, cardiac issue) and all the hospital beds in your community are filled with covid-19 patients. Would you then still believe that the entire world is over-reacting?”

Second, I have never treated this issue as “a big nothing burger”, as alleged in this comment by JJ — who is a reader of The Gate — in response to this article about how we should just shut down the planet to solve the problem of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, which I wrote on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Furthermore, JJ believes that I “have no idea what” I am “talking about.”

On the contrary: in virtually every article which I have written pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, I have used facts and statistics from reputable sources — such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in an attempt to present an objective and rational point of view. Additionally, I wrote the following at least twice in past articles:

Should you panic about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?


Should you worry about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?


Should you be concerned about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

YES. Simply take the proper — and logical — precautions to help both prevent the further spread of this disease and to reduce your chances of contracting it. Stay informed on the latest developments pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Follow advice given by your health care provider, your national and local public health authority, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Never once have I treated this situation lightly in any article which I have written. Contrary to the belief of some readers, I have never written anything which would endanger anyone. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is a serious issue — but I believe that mistakes have been committed and overreaction has ensued in attempting to effectively resolve this issue…

…especially as the majority of people who do contract it suffer mild symptoms at worst.

Statistics From Reliable Sources

liquid hand sanitizer
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

At the time this article was written, at least 5,746 people have died of the minimum of 153,648 confirmed cases in 146 countries and territories worldwide, according to this situation dashboard from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

I can understand this reaction if a deadly disease — such as pancreatic cancer, for example — was infectious. Even though great strides have occurred in recent years, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is basically a death sentence. According to this article from the American Cancer Society pertaining to pancreatic cancer, of the 57,600 people who are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the year 2020, approximately 47,050 will die of the disease, which comprises of roughly seven percent of all deaths related to cancer in general.

This means that greater than 81.68 percent of anyone who is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020 will die. That is a frightening statistic worthy of shutting down the planet if pancreatic cancer were contagious and spread like wildfire, in my opinion.

“But Brian,” I can hear someone say. “That is like comparing crunchy apples to unflushed toilets filled with diarrhea. Pancreatic cancer is not caused by a virus.”

Okay. Let us look at the statistics of tuberculosis. According to this Executive Summary 2019 from the World Health Organization, “Tuberculosis (TB) is a communicable disease that is a major cause of ill health, one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (ranking above HIV/AIDS). It is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is spread when people who are sick with TB expel bacteria into the air; for example, by coughing. It typically affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites (extrapulmonary TB). About a quarter of the world’s population is infected with M. tuberculosis and thus at risk of developing TB disease.”

On average, 3,014 deaths are caused by tuberculosis worldwide every day; and since I wrote this article three days ago on Thursday, March 12, 2020, the average number of deaths caused worldwide by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus increased from 62 per day to 70 per day, which means that 16 other communicable diseases still rank higher in deaths — meaning that more people have died from tuberculosis in two days than the total number of people who have died from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus as of the time this article was written.

One of those 16 communicable diseases includes seasonal influenza, from which an average of 1,027 deaths occur worldwide every day.

“But Brian,” I can hear someone say. “That is like comparing white carpet to chunky green and orange vomit. Unlike the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, influenza is less contagious, has a lower mortality rate, and vaccines exist for it.”

Well, if that is the case, then why do significantly more people still die from influenza every day than the 2019 Novel Coronavirus? As many as 46,000 people may have died in the United States alone during a period of time between Tuesday, October 1, 2019 and Saturday, February 22, 2020 from influenza out of as many as 45 million influenza illnesses, according to preliminary burden estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Violence is the reason why 1.5 million people have lost their lives each year, according to data from the World Health Organization — and greater than 3,700 people die every day on roads around the world.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for greater than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone — including greater than 41,000 deaths resulting from exposure to second hand smoke, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which is approximately one in five deaths annually, or the death of 1,300 people every day

…and yet, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus has people around the world in a widespread panic, which continues to significantly grow every day.

Of all of the people who suffered from being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in China, 80.9 percent experienced mild symptoms at worst. Repeat: of all of the people who suffered from being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in China, 80.9 percent experienced mild symptoms at worst.

Furthermore, your chance of dying from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is 2.3 percent if you do not have an existing condition and you are between the ages of 0 and 59 years old.

Life is Full of Risks. Deal With Them.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Face it: we live in a world of germs, viruses, and bacteria. From the moment our eyes open as we wake up from sleep every morning, we face myriad risks of all kinds and varieties — every second, every hour, every day.

Many of us live in domiciles which are equipped with a substance that could result in an explosive fireball if improperly installed or handled. It is called natural gas.

After the attacks which occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, an overreaction of measures were implemented — including armed military personnel stationed at airports and the limitations of transporting liquids, which is still in effect to this day…

…and all of those people who said that they were okay with having our lives disrupted and the civil liberties — which our forefathers fought so hard to earn — that we enjoy trampled as long as we remained safe. My skin would crawl virtually every time I heard someone say that.

So now we live in a world in which entire countries are closed to visitors; shelves are cleared of essential products in stores; students must learn via technology instead of going to schools and universities; courts are closed and cannot resolve cases; hospitals and medical facilities are overwhelmed with panicked patients; events are canceled; and people must worship at home. In numerous cases, people will be missing out on important milestones in their lives which have been canceled instead of postponed.

Are we really going to look back on what has become a dystopian period of our history and say that this was all worth the sacrifices we are currently enduring — or are we going to collectively shake our heads and realize just how ridiculous we acted?

People are reacting to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus as if it were the most dangerous risk on the planet. The aforementioned statistics suggest otherwise — but because not everything is known about 2019 Novel Coronavirus, people are understandably nervous. Being concerned and aware is understandable. Although one cannot spell the word pandemic without all of the letters in the word panic, panicking is not understandable.

What I Think Should Have Been Done — and What We Should Do

Wash hands
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The following information in this section is mostly my opinion. Please feel free to debate it in the Comments section below.

Some critics allege that officials in China were complicit with not releasing information pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus sooner. If that is true, that was the first mistake in preventing this pandemic from occurring.

Much of the media — which includes some of my colleagues here at BoardingArea — is responsible for purposely spreading misinformation which was designed to be sensationalism rather than informative information which would have been more helpful. For some, getting more clicks and views is of higher importance than disseminating factual information and reasoned opinion. The media should be held partly accountable for the panic which has ensued worldwide.

In fact — according to the aforementioned statistics — the 2019 Novel Coronavirus has been mentioned in the media approximately ten times more than SARS, HIV, MERS, Ebola, pneumonia, malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and 14 other diseases combined. Does anyone remember the widespread panic of the swine flu in 2009 and the Ebola virus in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016?

Many political leaders share the other part of the blame for the panic by also spreading misinformation — possibly to selfishly protect their careers and legacies with the illusion of political correctness.

As the most endangered people are men and women who are at least 60 years of age and people whose immune systems have been compromised or have pre-existing conditions — such as diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease — a concerted effort should have been undertaken to spare no resources to protect them rather than to simply shut down the remainder of society.

People should be washing their hands thoroughly and properly to significantly reduce their chance of contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. In fact, they should have been doing this all along to significantly reduce the chance of contracting any virus. I share my unproven secret to not having contracted a virus in years in this article, as I believe that I am living proof of the virtues of proper washing of hands.

The vast majority of people who do contract the disease will not die, according to the aforementioned data. Rather, they will suffer the effects of a mild illness at best. This means isolating yourself at home and letting the virus run its course if you have contracted the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Additional details and information are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To not have overwhelmed the medical system in general, people who believed that they contracted the 2019 Novel Coronavirus should have called their doctors and not arrived at a hospital or medical facility — again, according to this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

empty shelves
No eggs are available on the shelves in this supermarket. Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Selfish people should stop panicking by emptying the shelves of toilet paper, eggs, rice, flour, bread, milk, liquid hand sanitizer, and other items of which other people might be more in need. This hoarding behavior alone could be more harmful to more people than any virus itself.

Finally, cooler heads need to prevail. We need to strike a sensible balance between saving lives from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus versus shutting down society and causing catastrophic damage to the economy and general quality of life. Protect those who need it the most. Stop depleting necessary supplies. Report on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in a responsible manner by both leaders and the media…

…and put the entire situation in its proper perspective. That is what I am calling for — and what is currently happening is not the sensible solution, in my opinion. I am not looking for anyone to agree with me. Rather, I want civil discourse to result in cogent discussion in a collective effort to conquer and vanquish this microscopic enemy from causing us to inflict further unnecessary damage on ourselves.

Frankly, I believe that this entire situation was avoidable from occurring in the first place for the aforementioned reasons.

Summary: Did My Mind Change?

The answer is no. My mind has not changed. If anything, I believe more than ever that the response of overreaction and panic which has enveloped much of the planet is so far beyond logic and reason that to literally shut down much of society worldwide is simply ludicrous.

“What value do you place on human life?” asked Andrew Cuomo — who is the current governor of New York — on the Sunday, March 15, 2020 episode of 60 Minutes. I only wonder how many lives will be lost because of the resulting panic and virtual shutdown of society and not because of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus itself. I would not be surprised if the number is actually higher — especially with the potential possibility of civil unrest.

Readership of The Gate has increased since the 2019 Novel Coronavirus reared its ugly head in the news…

…but I would gladly trade that success with never having to deal with this situation in the first place — especially to restore some modicum of sanity in this world and recover those lives which have been lost, if nothing else.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

Only one bag of rice remains on the shelves of this supermarket during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. All photographs ©2016 and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. This illustrates my continued concern with this hysteria… “I only wonder how many lives will be lost because of the resulting panic and virtual shutdown of society and not because of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus itself. I would not be surprised if the number is actually higher — especially with the potential possibility of civil unrest.”

    Massive anxiety is ripping through our country – caused by a grossly overblown reaction. Thousands are now abruptly out of work, stressed at the prospect of caring for their families amid chaos and constant knee-jerk reaction to limited information. Hoarding is rampant. Weapon/ammunition sales are up. Distrust of and verbal attack toward neighbors is well-documented on social media. People have become sheep following whatever they think may keep them safe after repeatedly being told they are in extreme danger. The National Guard is on tap and we are in a terrifying a position to be subjected to martial law. We are now living out any number of dystopian novels that we should have read and learned from years ago!

    The histrionics have done their bit. The country is in a complete frenzy. We can only pray that people will not become completely unhinged before this dies downs a bit. Keep Calm and Carry On – as our greatest generation learned to do while surviving during an actual worldwide terror.

    1. You would have likely been labeled a nut case and conspiracy theorist only weeks ago with that statement, NB_ga.

      These days, what you portend may very well become real if we as a society are not careful with this fear of the pandemic…

  2. No rational person would argue that panicking is helpful. Your main beef seems to be that global shut-downs are an over-reaction.

    I’m curious as to which of the countries, states and municipalities that have ordered shut-downs are wrong in your opinion. All of them? Should Wuhan, South Korea or Italy have just let the virus run its course? Where do YOU draw the line?

    1. I believe that my positions on this issue are clear in multiple articles which I have written, JJ

      …but because the 2019 Novel Coronavirus affects the elderly and those with compromised immune systems most, I would ensure that they are well protected from contracting it — not put the whole world on lockdown.

      Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization cite that many other healthy people who are aged 59 years old and younger experience mild symptoms at worst if they contract the 2019 Novel Coroavirus.

      This pandemic could have been easily prevented for a number of reasons. The shut downs are basically doing something after the train already left the station…

  3. Thanks for talking about the inconvenient truth (the toilet paper). Always love to read your insights.

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