©2020 Kari Carlisle
Deaths have spiked 28% in a day as of the writing of this article.
Most of the people reading this are “safe” from the coronavirus that is inflicting China and surrounding countries. Of nearly 1400 deaths since the outbreak began about a month ago, only 2 occurred outside of China so far. Drastic measures are in place to ensure the virus does not take hold in the U.S. Everything is going to be okay, right?
I’m not convinced. An Internet search will pop up doomsday scenarios up the yin yang (pun intended), but they are just that – scenarios. It’s certainly possible that this outbreak could go pandemic, or it might work its course and fizzle out. We just don’t know, and the World Health Organization has said as much.
Of the handful of coronavirus cases in the U.S., one was reported in Tempe, AZ, just a stone’s throw away from me. When the announcement was made, my brain immediately made the connections. One case at Arizona State University in Tempe… numbers infected prior to isolation… ASU students visit my workplace during a major public event… hundreds exposed, including myself and my staff… AZ outbreak.
And then there’s the accidental release of an infected patient just a few days ago. Oh, they “caught” him and put him back in isolation all right. My biggest question is what was that patient thinking? I’m no longer infectious? Yay, I’m free!? I just want to go home? And of course, the release doesn’t instill much confidence in the U.S.’s ability to contain an outbreak. Remember the movie, Outbreak? Yeah, that.
And what of our nation’s value of Liberty? Do we have a “right” to self-quarantine and therefore to not quarantine? If bio-scientists develop a vaccine, to we have a right to refuse it? What will happen if we do refuse? Finger wagging? Fines? Jail? Execution?
But it certainly won’t come to that, right? The virus will fizzle out before it really reaches us. It’s far, far away on the other side of the world and won’t affect us.
That’s what I tried to tell myself. But I have a friend in Beijing. Though we’ve never met in person, we’ve been corresponding regularly for over a year, exchanging pictures, learning about each other, becoming friends. The last couple of weeks he’s been in self-quarantine. He’s elderly and therefore less likely to survive than a younger person if he becomes infected. Two days ago, Beijing went under lockdown when dozens of cases of the virus were diagnosed in an adjacent city.
China’s efforts to control the spread of the virus have been extraordinary. Locking down whole cities, no travel in or out, sacrificing smaller populations to ensure the safety of larger ones, like Beijing. But China has also come under scrutiny for downplaying the disease. Today, China admitted its numbers of infected were based only on those who have tested positive. Now, they are including numbers of people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus by a health professional prior to testing positive, providing a more realistic assessment of the situation.
How long will the coronavirus continue to infect and kill? My friend in Beijing hopes it will have run its course in the next month or two. Is that based on his vast scientific knowledge of nature? Or is that propaganda he’s being fed? I don’t know, and I’m afraid to even ask. I have to assume our correspondence is monitored.
On the bright side, if we can call it that, the death rate of the current coronavirus is a mere 2.3% compared to that of the SARS coronavirus of several years ago that approached 10%. So most people recover, but I’m sure that’s small consolation to the family and friends who are losing their loved ones. The virus may be distant from us, but it’s very real and very scary to the people in its path.