I wrote this article two or three days ago. I originally had a chart as the illustration to accompany it but it kept getting outdated so I thought the grim reaper was appropriate. If you want an updated version of the spread of this virus you can go here or here.
On last Wednesday China reported that for the first time that there were no new cases of Covid-19 in the country since the epidemic began. The reports from Italy are increasingly depressing especially since it has 60 million people compared to China’s 1.3 billion. Well over 4,000 people have died there compared to the less than 3,500 people in China. China is now sending doctors and medical equipment to Italy.
China’s death rate is 3.98% while Italy’s is 7.94%. The approach taken by China and Italy differed greatly when the virus first arrived. China, although somewhat slowly at first, began a major no questions asked crackdown confining people to their homes, taking those testing positive to separation centers, massively testing and shutting down all the operations of over fifty million people. It is now starting to return to normal with its fingers crossed.
Until February 23 Italy had done little. Suddenly on that date it noted a sudden rise in cases to a little over 150. It would not go into a nationwide lock down until March 9 dilly-dallying in its approach. The two historic examples present a compelling picture to anyone in charge of the fight against the virus that the best way to do it is to follow the example of China and not that of Italy. China showed its harshness to save lives; Italy didn’t want to be too harsh and army trucks are being used to cart the dead out of town.
Here in the United States we are following Italy’s path. Our highest officials are seeking voluntary compliance with guidelines they have put out. Unable to find effective leadership in Washington, the states are now implementing their own strict measures which will do little good if not all states participate.
A writer for an Italian newspaper told us expecting voluntary compliance is unwise. He wrote: “We . . . could have mitigated the situation we are now in, in which people who could have been saved are dying. I, and too many others, could have taken a simple yet morally loaded action: We could have stayed home.
What has happened in Italy shows that less-than-urgent appeals to the public by the government to slightly change habits regarding social interactions aren’t enough when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent are not yet apparent; when they become evident, it’s generally too late to act. I and many other Italians just didn’t see the need to change our routines for a threat we could not see.
Italy has now been in lockdown since March 9; it took weeks after the virus first appeared here to realize that severe measures were absolutely necessary.”
As of last Wednesday seven states including Texas had imposed no restrictions on its citizens. Schools remain open as do bars, restaurants and other gathering spots. In other states restrictions are imposed to a greater or lesser degree. The beaches in Florida were filled with college kids on spring break and the Florida governor refused to do anything about it until a video came out of college kids partying and disclaiming the dangerousness of the virus.
A telling tale in the Boston Globe is about a 30-year-old doctor who went to Miami in early March with five friends for five days to be part of the Winter Party Festival. They all got sick, four testing positive for the virus. He tells about how closely they interacted with others there and on their return. You can only imagine Pandora’s Box being opened with the hundreds of infected festival goers spreading their infections throughout the country. One person infects two, those two four, etc. We’ve seen how that works.
When the doctor and his friends arrived in Florida on March 5 only 3 people in Florida had tested positive for the virus. Last Thursday I wrote that “Florida reported on Wednesday last a jump of almost 100 cases to 314 overnight due to increased testing. Thursday the number rose by 62 with the death toll at 8.” Saturday it had 563 with 11 deaths.
You’d like to think the Administration would recognize severe, mandatory measures are needed. Strangely we seem to be facing a head-in-the-sand approach asking people to modify their behavior and leaving it up to them to decide whether to do it.
Only the dumbest battlefield commander would ask his troops to volunteer to attack an enemy held position. A competent commander will order them to do it. Asking for voluntary action is plainly dumb. During the Vietnam War, and remember we are at war against this virus, the young men weren’t asked to volunteer. They were compelled to join.
Before setting up a situation where our death toll far surpasses that of Italy we needed mandatory nationwide testing, confinement to our homes, and lock downs. Better we take this foul taking medicine in one swallow than have it slowly fed to us month after month. The pusillanimity and prevarications and pretense in Washington has put the nation in peril.