What are the odds?

What are the odds?


In a recent letter (May 20) we were given the odds of being infected and dying from COVID-19. The odds were limited, first to our state and then our county. The conclusion drawn from these calculations was, “The odds don’t favor creating an economic depression.”

The author’s use of the numbers does not include at least one relevant variable. The author does not consider how the odds might have been different if steps had not been taken to slow the spread of the virus. We have an example of how the odds could have been much different.

The Spanish Flu spread to Philadelphia in mid-September, 1918. At first, only 600 were infected. On Sept. 28, Philadelphia held a parade attended by approximately 200,000 people. Just days later, on Oct. 1, there were just over 600 new cases of the flu. Within six weeks, there were 12,000 dead and 47,000 additional cases. Within six months, 16,000 had died and there were 500,000 cases.

If you lived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1918, you would have been one of 1.7 million people. Your odds of being infected would have been almost 1 in 3. The odds you would die if infected were about 3%. This was the outcome when steps were not taken to prevent the spread of a virus very much like COVID-19.

What the author of the recent letter does not consider, and what we cannot know for certain, is how many more cases of COVID-19 there would be if steps had not been taken to slow the spread. What we can say with a degree of certainty is the numbers would be higher.

Philadelphia serves as a relevant example because the contagious nature of the Spanish Flu is similar to COVID-19. It is likely then, if steps had not been taken, our numbers today would be much higher.

Who to blame for the economic disaster brought on by shutting down? The author blames the swampocrats. Assuming the author means democrats, is he right?

On Jan. 31, the President imposed a travel ban on China, which was probably a prudent thing to do. In late February, the first case was reported in California of a person infected that had not been to a “hot spot.” This case told us the virus was here and spreading.

On March 11, the President imposed a travel ban on Europe after Spain and Italy suffered increased cases of the virus; again, probably a prudent step but one that had a tremendously negative effect on the economy.

On March 17, the President held a briefing in which he suggested modifications to the way business is done including a request for people to stay home. During this period, the administration proposed financial “fixes” to support the already sagging economy.

By March 24, the President is asking for the economy to open by April 12 because the economy is obviously in distress. All this without the assistance of the swampocrats.

The shutdown has hurt us all, but the Democrats are not the villains in this story. The Republicans are not the villains. Even the President is not the villain.

Spending time assessing blame is not a productive endeavor. Choices have been few. Our only choices all present us with negative consequences. We are left to choose from the least damaging alternatives.

Do what is prudent to keep yourself and others safe. Let history determine who should have done things differently in the hope that the same mistakes will not be repeated if another pandemic hits.

Richard Cannon


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