I ain’t no doctor, but in my other life as a medical editor, I’ve had to read and learn a lot about COVID-19 ovr the last few week. I’ve even interviewed a couple of epidemiologists about it, so … for what all that is worth, this is I THINK where we stand today, march 11, 2020:

  • Fingers crossed: it’s not as bad as it could have been
  • People are crazy-scared
  • We don’t know nearly enough, and neither do the experts, to either dismiss it OR to start heading for the bunkers.

So hang with me here, and let’s go over a few things. I hope you’ll feel a bit better by the end of it …

First, please, try and get everybody to talk about COVID-19, not about “the coronavirus.” Coronavirus is a whole class of diseases; it’s like talking about “The flu” instead of, say, H1N1, which is WAY different than, say, the Spanish Flu or the Swine Flu or the Whatever Flu (and hey — time to end the “geographical origin of the disease” in naming the thing, okay? It’s often inaccurate, rarely relevant,

 and usually racist.)

ANYway … the real, live epidemiologists are more than happy to tell you they still know very little about COVID-19; the data are really garbled and inconsistent, and in countries with the ability and willingness to gather and share reliable data … there aren’t much data to share yet. (1,000 cases in the U.S. is WAY too small for a valid epidemiological analysis.)

Still: more than 80% of the people who get it get better (how long? Maybe a week? Maybe more. Don’t know yet.) without hospitalization. The remainder who have been hospitalized almost all get better. More than half the people diagnosed with COVID-19 here in the U.S. have already recovered. So referring to COVID-19 as “deadly” is technically accurate, but it’s unnecessarily alarming..

More good news: It seems actually pretty hard to get. It’s NOT airborne (that’s fairly certain), and most folks need a pretty good thump of its from droplets or physical contact with the virus (or an inanimate object) to actually get it. That’s good.
There is SOME indication that it can be spread by people who are not yet or may never show symptoms, but that’s far from sure. It’s also possible — but not sure — that the virus “sheds” early, meaning people who have it are most contagious early in the disease, so by the time their symptoms diminish — even if they still test positive — they’re no longer contagious. POSSIBLE. We’ll learn more in the next few weeks.

So who’s most at risk? Not kids, for some reason (nobody knows why yet). They’re talking about “the elderly” and other “at risk” populations, but that, too, is based

on volatile, incomplete, inconsistent data. Currently, for instance, the average age of the people who have died from COVID-19 is 80.. The average age of people who have been hospitalized is 60. So they’re talking about “the elderly” — i.e., 60+ — as being at greater risk. Because so far they have been. (That’s all from the CDC, so I buy it.) They’re also talking about how people with diabetes and/or high blood pressure and/or heart disease are at greater risk, but I haven’t been able to find out if that means people with UNCONTROLLED diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., and whether or not it actually just describes a generally unhealthy sub-population. Personally I think you’re going to see the obvious and logical: people who are already living an unhealthy life (poor nutrition, overweight, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension etc.) get worse cases that take longer to recover from

and are more likely to become seriously ill. Duh.

Finally, stuff you already know, I’m sure: masks don’t work to stop the spread of the disease. The worst is over after the fever breaks, and it’s often not a high fever to begin with. Soap and water and washing your hands correctly is the best way to minimize risk. Hand sanitizers and such are fine, but not “better” than soap, and no better at all if you don’t use them probably. So don’t get crazy. And not everything that’s sold as a hand sanitizer really is. Don’t go out if you’re sick with ANYthing, but especially anything with flu- or cold-like symptoms. It’s going to be 18 months or more until there’s a vaccine, at best (and hopefully the Feds will subsidize it so it’s affordable to everyone, the way they do flu vaccines now), and since it’s a virus, not a bacteria, there aren’t a whole lot of treatments for those who have it, beyond your basic fluids-rest-fever-meds stuff. And though telling somebody to “calm down” NEVER works, that’s what we should all do: Calm the hell down. We’re just living in a world so infected (and I use that term intentionally) with fear and dread and mistrust these days that we’re seeing a bump in the road as a bridge collapse. And it ain’t.

Sorry. Got carried away. Love y’all.