Sunday, 29 March 2020

Cake or Death?

That poverty, stress and bad lifestyles cause death isn't in question, although the timeline is usually measured in decades rather than in weeks as is the case with COVID-19.

One reader commented on a story out of Italy where some people in the south are becoming restless after almost three weeks of "lock-down". 

As is the case here in California, and it looks like I may well be here for a while, grocery stores remain open, but the south of Italy has a big cash economy of unregistered workers and a higher level of deprivation and unemployment and money might be running out for some.

So while the virus hasn't reached the same crisis levels in southern Italy, hunger and hardship threaten to be problematic.

The comment was:

When the medicine becomes more toxic than the disease.
That logic doesn't hold up too well when the disease results in death, and it's hard to come up with a medicine any more toxic than that.

Trump hinted at this same argument last week suggesting that the country would be opened up in time for packed churches on Easter Sunday. Experts were horrified of course, and the unnecessary lives that would be lost were much discussed. 

Even most Republicans seem to understand that life is more important than money with polls showing 81% in favour of looking at the data and keeping restrictions in place until such time as that data says it is safe to ease up. "The virus sets the timeline". 

A joke doing the rounds here, not in the bars though, is:
What did Trump give up for Lent? Your grandparents.
It's been described as social Darwinism and is a non-starter with even Trump walking back the idea. 
Alabama’s disaster preparedness plan says that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”
This is the same Trump who announced in February that:
"When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
That would indeed have been quite a remarkable job, but a failure to react to the alarms in early January and ramp up testing have put the US in a bad position, made even worse by Trump's decision to disband the NSC's pandemic response team in May 2018. Despite those facts, he rates his performance as a 10 and takes no responsibility!

Anyway, I digress. After pointing out that we're talking about a deadly virus that can kill in three weeks, I got this response:
Charming. Not sure where 18 months suddenly came from but when you run out of rational, fact-based arguments and turn to abusive language, I guess the argument is won although given the situation we are in I'll put the reaction down to stress. 
While most of us are not expert epidemiologists, anyone who is interested in statistics has an abundance of data and models to look at, and as horrible as the topic is, it is statistically interesting. It was a while ago now, but I remember covering the Spanish Flu pandemic in my Pure Maths with Statistics 'A' level course and learning about CFR and R0.

It is this ever changing data that clearly shows the benefit of social distancing, lock-downs, travel bans and testing. 

With no action taken, viruses typically double the number of infections every six days, a rate of spread that would saturate the health care system in a matter of weeks. States and the UK are responding by building new field hospitals, but unless the rate of spread slows, these efforts will prove futile.

And once hospitals run out of ICU beds, equipment and staff the number of unnecessary deaths soars and it seems there are already serious shortages on both sides of the Atlantic for equipment right now, with staffing and beds to come in the next few weeks.

Stay safe and stay home and look at the data to see what's likely coming. It's not going to be pretty. 

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