Day 90. June 15th. When I planned this piece, the biggest story in the country was COVID-19. Then Memorial Day weekend happened, and that’s not the case. I won’t opine here about the death of George Floyd, and the events that flowed from his death. This is a COVID article. I add this preface simply to be certain that anyone who winds up reading this doesn’t think me unaware of what’s happening in the nation as I reflect on something wholly unrelated.
June 15th It’s been 90 days since I was told to pack up and work from home. We are mid-way through the sixth month of a year that doesn’t seem to know when to ease up. From impeachment to the death of Kobe Bryant, to COVID-19, and on, 2020 has been…bad. However, the easing restrictions we are beginning to see as we head into June are a positive sign. We have a long way to go, especially here in Illinois. But, perhaps, there is hope.
Despite all that the government has tried to do.
COVID-19 has exposed so very many flaws in the systems we never thought about. Not that we never thought about flaws, I mean systems that we never thought about. It is like some twisted Rube Goldberg machine – virus leads to stay home orders, leads to less driving, leads to less ethanol production, leads to less food-grade CO2 production? Which caused some worry about municipal water purification? Who could have predicted that one?
Further, as we have moved into the ‘over it’ phase of the game, people are demonstrating that they are just over it all. They are fed up, and lonely, and depressed, and increasingly unwilling to put up with the demands of the political authority. As some gatherings are lauded whilst others are condemned, there is an increasing realization that the politicians are, at best, clueless and pandering, and at worst exercising power for the sake of power. This is something that I hope results in a popular movement to reduce the amount of central authority, but I am not holding my breath.
Why is there so much division over COVID-19? I see people on both extremes – refusing to lift their personal lock downs for any reason, going so far as to bleach the mail & groceries; and then others claiming it is all but a hoax, and not even as bad as the seasonal flu. And they are both wrong.
Let’s look at the second group first. In Illinois, the Department of Public Health does not publish useful flu stats. The only death count they provide publicly is 3500, as an average over the last decade. As of today, Illinois has had 6,308 deaths from COVID. The flu season is about 9 months – the CDC lists it as running from October to May. 8 months. That’s about 388 deaths per month, average. Illinois lists COVID-19 cases back to March 10th. So, from March 10th to today is about 3 months. That results in an average of 2,102 deaths per month. I am not going to extrapolate how many dead over 9 months, because the case fatality rate is always in flux. But you can see the difference – 388/month from flu, 2102/month from COVID.
Indiana is far worse – their DPH lists 131 deaths this season from flu (14.5/month). And 2,251 from COVID-19. That is over 17 times more dead from COVID. That should end the nonsense about COVID-19 being ‘less severe than the flu’.
The other side of the coin is that this is the most deadly thing ever, and we need to remain in hiding. That’s also nonsense. COVID is a respiratory illness, the chances of getting it from your mail or grocery packaging is minimal at most. Limited personal contact seems to be fine (see lack of spikes from mass protests), and it’s possible that the transmission has been overstated. That happens. This is a novel illness, and that means that the scientists applied the best information possible to predict the actions of this virus. And they got it wrong, then revised their models, and repeated the process. That is how science works. They are still getting it wrong, but less wrong as time goes on, and they have more data to work with. Sadly, Americans don’t understand that. And I think I have a decent handle on why.
Anthropomorphic Global Warming
No, not blaming global warming for the virus. That’s silly. I am, however, blaming the global warming/climate change industry for the response to COVID.
Since the late 90s, and especially in the 2000s, the mantra of the climate change crowd has been ‘the science is settled’. And that’s bullshit. It has not been settled in the least. Oh, the idea that this is happening, yes, that seems to be commonly accepted. But the mechanism, the severity, the rest of everything? No. Not settled. Let’s start this out simply – clouds. Everyone knows how much a cloud can cool you off on a summer day, right? In fact, cloud prediction models still are not accurate, and were not often factored into climate models at all until the last 10 or so years. Too unpredictable.
But the science is settled, right?
By making that the mantra of climate change, the media and the left in general started a sort of mental virus. Any oft-repeated statement can become fact for the one repeating it. And this did – the science was settled. Which seems to have led, in my opinion, to the rise of the Cult of Science. Represented by the likes of IFL Science on social medial, these cultists worship the idea of science, without any actual understanding of what it is. Much like the cargo cults of the South Pacific, the Cult of Science worships science without any real comprehension of how it works. The vitriol directed at various scientists working on COVID shows this.
With any new thing, there is a lack of information. Obviously, right? Except to the cultist, the high priests of the religion are required to explain the new thing. Of course, these are not priest, but scientists. And so they look at the virus, and extrapolate behavior based on the best information available. Which, in this case, was the type of virus (corona), related viruses (SARS), and public health information from the first people to encounter it (China). They enter into that process knowing that using the SARS virus to figure out COVID is not perfect, only the best available way. But it is very much the art of looking at your first cousin, and extrapolating you from that.
The main problem I think they hit was the outright lies from China. And that was a failure of imagination. For very good reasons, no one imagined that China would flat out lie about the pathogen. But they did. And continue to do so. Those lies cost us time, and made the information first released useless. So, the Science Cult members seized on those numbers, and refused to let go. Their priests had spoken. As the numbers changed, they kept clinging to the newest information, and, as is their wont, attacked those pointing out the difference in estimates.
It is important to be clear here – those using the inconsistencies in data, and the changes in predictive modeling over time, to attack the scientists working on the problem are just as bad, and just as ignorant. Science is a process, not a god. And as a process, there will always be changes. Remember, the finest minds in science were convinced that traveling 30MPH would kill you – that you would be unable to breathe at that speed.
Science should never be settled.
So What Now?
We need, for many reasons, to proceed with caution, but also with focus on ending the restrictions on life. It sounds cold and uncaring, I know, but the reality is that the majority of the vulnerable population that would be fatally infected has been. That is, after all, how disease works. The old and weak die first, then death rates taper off – which is what we have seen. Yes, we should do all we can to minimize that, and protect our family members who are in the higher risk categories. Anyone acting counter to that is evil. We also should understand that humans are social animals, and we need interaction to be sane.
Anyone seeking to prevent that when it isn’t absolutely needed is also evil.
Last weekend I was at a small get together. And it was such a relief – even with people I didn’t really know. Because there were people, talking, without masks. It was a touch of normalcy in a time of insanity. That is what we are needing now.
The best information I have access to suggests that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. It will be around forever, and something we have to live with. As we move forward with that, we can either try to keep the current restrictions – and watch as people eventually revolt; or find a new normal. I hope we find the new normal soon and move on. Sadly, so many people have invested so much into this filling their political need, that I doubt we will ever find normal.
But I can hope.