It turns out even COVID-19, the new coronavirus, cannot get Americans to stop fighting with each other. While half the country is taking note of what the scientists say and are heeding their warnings, the other half seems to resort to wacky memes and jokes and belittling the entire outbreak as “fake news”, a “hoax” or “hysteria.”

A recent survey indicated concerns falling along political lines, with more than 60% of Democrats concerned and more than 60% of Republicans unconcerned. You can decide for yourself where that’s coming from.

We all hope those who believe the virus will one day “magically” go away are right. We hope what many are calling an overreaction in closing schools and canceling large public gatherings help to limit the spread. No one hopes for a doomsday scenario which would only cripple the economy and hurt us all.

But allow me to explain to those who like to use words like snowflake and hoax the very simple math behind the concern.

This is new.

COVID-19 is uncharted territory so science has limited history to go on. We know the vast majority of those who fall ill with it will recover with only mild symptoms. Happily we also know no child under 9 has died from it. But while we know older people and anyone with underlying health conditions are at much more risk, we don’t seem to know why James Cai, the 32 year old first patient in New Jersey continues to get worse. He’s hospitalized and the fact he is young and healthy with no known underlying conditions belies what we thought we knew.

We don’t know how much this will spread. That’s the bottom line. We just had Merkel in Germany say authorities there believe 60% to 70% of their population will get it. That would be devastating if the mortality rate holds at 3.4%.

Here comes that simple math.

According to the most recent CDC report on flu, the United States as of February 29 in the current flu season had 34 million people contract flu. Of those there have been 20,000 flu deaths.

The unconcerned point this out as a reason COVID-19 is no big deal; duh, more people die from flu! Here’s where they could be wrong.

Those 20,000 deaths represent less than one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of all flu cases. Should this coronavirus continue to spread out of control to the same level as flu, with 34 million getting it in the United States, and the current 3.4% mortality rate should hold, the number of dead in the United States would be 1,156,000.

Granted that mortality rate could come down if we had every unknown, undiagnosed case of coronavirus confirmed, but science always has to go with the data they have available. Anyone, politics notwithstanding, should agree 1,156,000 dead compared to 20,000 dead is a big, big deal. Thus the concern. Let’s say that mortality rate is overblown by threefold. Let’s say the real mortality rate turns out to be 1.13%. If coronavirus spread to the same level as flu spread with 34 million catching it, you’d have 384,200 dead compared to 20,000 dead from flu.

We all should hope this is not a big deal. But if you can do simple math you’ll see why the entire nation of Italy is under lockdown and why colleges are closing and gatherings are being canceled. Those snowflakes want it to stop spreading so that the rest can smugly proclaim, “I told you so, see? No big deal!”

Except it will be no thanks to you.

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