Dancing with the Odds

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So I’m not going to go off on another rant today, but there were three things that caught my attention regarding the coverage of the virus and stoking of fears.

Before that, Johns Hopkins has a great site tracking the number of cases. Based on their numbers, the number of new cases (worldwide) has been, on average 4000 per day for the last week. Higher than it was in late February/early March but not steadily increasing anymore. Again, that could easily change.

Saw a totally misleading headline on a newspaper website stating that the CDC has issued a “stay at home” advisory. This would seem to justify all of the hoarding of silly things like toilet paper. Except it is only partially true. The CDC did suggest that people at higher risk stock up on supplies and avoid crowds. And to stay home if there’s an outbreak in your community.

Secondly, they had a TV turned to CNN in the gym and I noticed they were calling it a “pandemic”. This seemed like new information to me so I checked and the WHO is not yet there and neither is the CDC. But CNN has decided that “many epidemiologists and public health experts” believe it is a pandemic. So their unnamed experts trump the WHO and CDC. And then they claim they didn’t do this lightly which is total BS. Pandemic just sounds scary and now they can use it in their chyron 24/7. It is totally designed to stokes fears and get people to tune in to hear their lineup of experts talk about how bad things are going to get.

Lastly, I was listening to a baseball talk show on the radio today. They brought up the legitimate concern about opening day which comes up in a couple of weeks. But one of the announcers repeated some expert opinion that half a million people in the US could die. OK. that may still be true but China has been the most impacted and has had somewhere around 3500 deaths and the number of new cases is leveling off. Yes, China took some very drastic measures and could be under reporting but, based on those numbers, it seems highly unlikely that the US is going to have a 140X number of deaths. But I’ve seen this figure as well and I know it is going around because it is worst case and scary.

Here I said I wasn’t going to go on a rant but I’m certainly doing that now. Right now, there was a cluster in China where it first broke out and then other serious clusters in Iran and Italy. But the death rate in South Korea is still low and it hasn’t swept across Europe even though Italy just recently imposed mandatory quarantines. So what makes the experience in France and Germany different than Italy. Would like to know.

Also, I know the media is focused on the raw numbers. We have over 1000 cases in the US now and 1000 is a nice round number so it gets prominently reported. Again, as awareness and testing increase, it was inevitable that the number of cases would go up. The real issue is how serious the outbreaks are. Because that’s what overwhelms the system.

So I don’t go completely off the rails, I think the next month is going to make all the difference. There is a college basketball tournament coming up here in the US and there is no talk of cancelling or limiting crowds. I mean colleges are cancelling classes but not keeping their teams from participating. So you’ll have fans, students and alumni flying all over the country to follow their schools and arenas that will be relatively full. Certainly, the final will be sold out. If you wanted large public gatherings in indoor spaces, you couldn’t ask for a better time. If the numbers don’t spike up after that, then maybe we can tone down the panic and get on with our lives.

We as people probably like to think of ourselves as educated and smarter than the rest of the creatures on this planet. Sometimes, I doubt that. We have the ability to act just like other herd animals. Everyone following one or two lead animals and we can easily turn into a frightened stampede.

I did go to my dance lesson yesterday. The studio was still crowded and with some new students so the dancers haven’t joined the panic yet. (Well not entirely true, I know they cancelled a competition elsewhere in the state) JoNY had lost her voice due to a sinus issue. She was there but not contagious so they moved me to Mini. We went back over the International Waltz and even worked in a bit of Quickstep.

I think I’ll just try to start avoiding the news. Again, I’m cynical but I can’t help but think this is all about ratings and ad dollars for them. They claim they don’t want panic but they sure do seem like they want it.

So about an hour after I posted this, the WHO did declare this a pandemic. (My weather app gave me the alert). That paragraph is no longer relevant.

(Second update) It now looks like the NCAA tournament will be played without fans in the stands. We’ll see if baseball makes a similar move in the next couple of days. Don’t know if this will calm or inflame the panic. It makes some sense as long as people know this is being done out of extreme caution – not because the virus is running out of control.

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