My initial reaction to the news about this virus was that it was an overblown story. I was quite annoyed with the mainstream media reporting every new case and every death. The result seemed to be nothing other than mass hysteria. After all, imagine if they reported every case of the flu every year, and every one of the estimated yearly 20,000 to 60,000 deaths. Or, if they reported every injury from every auto accident, along with the 30,000 to 40,000 deaths per year. I still think it's too much reporting. As of this post, the number of US cases is over 3000, and the number of deaths is 61. The CDC estimates 9.3 million to 45 million cases of the flu per year.

Notwithstanding my personal reaction, it appears that China was able to significantly reduce the number of cases by restricting movement. Shortly thereafter, but apparently not soon enough, Italian leaders essentially shut down the country. Since then, Spain, France and Israel have shuttered much of their countries. No restaurants, cafes, bars, gyms, theaters, museums. In the US, major sporting events have been cancelled – the NBA and NHL suspending play, MLB delaying the start of the baseball season, and the NCAA cancelling March Madness. Large events are being cancelled. Some states and communities are limiting gatherings to 250 or 500 people. In Israel, the limit is 10 people, the minimum number required for a "minyan" (quorum), the number of people required to engage in certain prayers. Many school districts have closed, as have a large number of colleges and universities.

I do not recall anything like this in my lifetime. As someone in the high-risk group, I certainly do not want to catch this virus, nor would I want to spread it to others. They tell us that this virus is far more easily transmitted to others than the flu. Hence, the need for "social distancing." Since Friday, and notwithstanding my initial refusal to go along with the conventional wisdom, we have been practicing social distancing. We have not left the house over the weekend, with the exception of doing some grocery shopping.

Many of the experts also tell us that, aside from being spread more easily than the flu, the mortality rate is higher. I have seen numbers saying 3.4% higher to 10% higher. I am not buying that. Not yet anyway. After all, we are told that for most people who get the coronavirus, they are likely to get a mild to moderate case. If that is correct, then thousands (millions?) will never see a doctor or ER, and will simply self-medicate until they feel better. Those people will never enter the system as part of the reported or known cases. Therefore, if we do not know the total number of cases, we cannot possibly calculate the percentage of fatalities. What we can say is that the elderly, and those with underlying health problems or immune problems, are most at risk.

The economic consequences of society's reaction to this virus have the potential to be devastating. It is estimated that the NCAA alone is losing one billion dollars from the cancellation of the college basketball playoffs (March Madness). The NBA anticipates similar losses. Then we have the vendors who operate at these sports arenas and stadiums, and their suppliers, and all the restaurants and bars in the vicinity of where the now canceled sporting events would have taken place. Then, you have the businesses shutting down completely for the time being, with others telling their employees to work remotely from home where feasible. Major stores (Walmart and Ralph's, for example) have reduced the number of hours they are open to the public.

Frankly, I am somewhat reluctant to get into the politics surrounding this virus. Not because Trump was not at his best in his initial speech to the country. That was clear. He has done better since. Some of the attacks on the President by the Democrats and the mainstream media are completely unwarranted. As with natural disasters, there will be a need for financial aid to states and businesses. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said this: "If you're providing liquidity to good businesses that just need liquidity for 3 to 6 months, that's not a bailout." That may be semantics. However, contrary to what one might expect from my conservative outlook, I see this as a time when we need to join together. That has been one of my concerns with this virus. After 9/11, the country was united. After the Northridge earthquake, Southern Californians helped one another.

This crisis seems different. People seemed to be more selfish, what with the hoarding of toilet paper and water. Then there was the young guy who purchased 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, thinking he would cash in by selling them at a huge mark-up. I understand that Amazon and others prevented him from doing so. As a firm believer in capitalism, I admire his entrepreneurial spirit. I do not admire his timing, nor his desire to take advantage of a crisis situation. The same for people who are hoarding face masks, which affects the ability of doctors, nurses and hospital staff (those who need them the most) to get those masks. This morning, as I was thinking about what might be done to help people, rather than take advantage of people, I emailed one of my Rabbis at Chabad. I suggested that it would be nice for younger, healthy people to volunteer to do the grocery shopping for the elderly, sick and disabled, given the long lines at many markets and Costco and other places. He replied that he was in the process of sending out an email to the Chabad community announcing just that. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that our son and his new bride, and our daughter, had announced on Facebook that they were ready to help pick up food and medications for those who could not or should not leave their homes. That is the spirit that I hope we will see more of – Americans reaching out to help their fellow Americans.


Reposted with permission from 


1 Comment

  1. Kevin R James says:

    I think for many of us our initial reactions over the reporting of the virus was skepticism (mine was, but with caution), partially because in the beginning the Chinese government was not truthful about what they were fighting with. It was out of control by the time they said it was a problem. We also have made a mistake in understanding the difference between the common flu and a NOVEL coronavirus for which this country's leadership touted for far, far too long, warping the nature of the issue.

    I emphasize NOVEL for a reason. It is a virus that is new and that means we know very little about, and we have experience with new coronaviruses that have been extremely lethal in recent years (SERS with a 10% kill rate and MERS a 35% kill rate). Thus, the alarm which this country's leadership was reluctant to share, even dismissive of, when the house was on fire in the world.

    Cutting the CDC budget and the pandemic council under the administration also contributed to this current mess we are in in this country. It's time that we realize that this isn't a hoax and it has been absolutely mindless to have called it thus, and get to the work of being wiser and more trusting of experts in issues like this. Italy's situation is a perfect example of how debilitating this virus is in overwhelming hospital capacity to the point that deaths have multiplied at a higher rate.

    The virus is NOVEL for a very serious reason. We missed that to our current lagging far behind situation where in battling it in this country. It appears that finally the administration is really listening to the experts and carrying a consistent message. Let's hope we can catch up and that we are not too late in fighting this particle of RNA and proteins, microscopic in size, but macroscopic in effect.

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