Four more stories today indicate once again that the worldwide panic over the corona/COVID-19/Wuhan virus is strongly unwarranted:
- Coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in South Korea
- Lower death rate estimates for coronavirus, especially for non-elderly, provides hope
- 86% of people with coronavirus are walking around undetected, study says
- A review of the disease on the confined Diamond Princess
The first report, from the science journal Science, provides an update on the situation in South Korea, where testing for the virus has been the most thorough of any nation in the world and where, because of that extensive testing, has shown the death rate has turned out to be far lower than the preliminary statistics have suggested. Out of a population of 50 million, slightly more than 8,000 have been infected, with only 81 dying. This is a death rate of 0.9%, higher than the flu’s 0.1% but not horribly so. And like the flu, most of those deaths have been among the elderly.
The numbers there are now dropping, indicating that the disease might have run its course without causing a catastrophic disaster. There is still a chance it could break out again, but the data suggests otherwise.
Moreover, South Korea controlled the situation without any strong-arm authoritarian tactics, as seen in China and as becoming popular here in the formerly free U.S.
“South Korea is a democratic republic, we feel a lockdown is not a reasonable choice,” says Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University.
It sadly appears that South Koreans might value freedom more than too many of today’s Americans.
The second article describes research from Wuhan in Hubei province in China, reconfirming the South Korean data. There it appears the death rate was 1.4%, only slightly higher than in South Korea. And once again, the death rate is mostly confined to the older population with already existing health issues, like the flu:
The chance of someone with symptomatic Covid-19 dying varied by age, confirming other studies. For those aged 15 to 44, the fatality rate was 0.5%, though it might have been as low as 0.1% or as high as 1.3%. For people 45 to 64, the fatality rate was also 0.5%, with a possible low of 0.2% and a possible high of 1.1%. For those over 64, it was 2.7%, with a low and high estimate of 1.5% and 4.7%.
The chance of serious illness from coronavirus infection in younger people was so low, the scientists estimate a fatality rate of zero.
The third report also confirms what the first two studies suggest, that a large percentage of those who get the virus show no symptoms at all, indicating that the death rate is even lower.
The final link is to me the most significant, as it describes in detail the situation that unfolded on the cruise ship Diamond Princess when coronavirus was discovered there and the entire ship was placed under strict quarantine. In a sense the ship was a perfect controlled experiment for determining the infection and death rate of this virus.
One would have thought, if this virus is so virulent and deadly as the press and politicians and too many panicky Americans are claiming, that everyone on the ship would have gotten badly sick, and many many would have died. Instead, 83% of the passengers and crew never got the disease at all, despite being closely confined with infected people for weeks. This despite the fact that the ship’s population was heavily skewed towards older people. In fact, older people were just as likely to not get infected as younger people.
The total number of deaths was 7, all over seventy years of age, producing a death rate of 1.2%, once again in the same range as South Korea and China.
I repeat: Any disease like this requires a rational aggressive and focused response. We can’t ignore it. People need to voluntarily self-quarantine if they feel sick, or if they have older and sick relatives living with them. We should also wash our hands regularly, and avoid unnecessary physical contact with many other individuals.
At the same time, we mustn’t waste our energies doing things that are unnecessary, foolish, or downright counter-productive, such as releasing entire prison populations into the general population.
We also should be outraged by politicians who are using this situation not to deal with it but to impose their pet totalitarian rule over the population, such as passing entirely irrelevant gun bans and shutting down businesses willy-nilly and imprisoning everyone in their homes.
These actions will do little to ease the epidemic. Instead, they might worsen the situation by causing panic (as they have apparently done). Panic is not what this situation warrants. Instead it needs a calm rational response, something that only civilized rational people can give it.
Are we that? Watching what is happening I must sadly say I have my doubts.
Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652