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Whereas the flu kills less than 1% of people who get it, COVID-19 kills more than 1% if you are over the age of 50. And the older you are, the higher the risk. (People in their 60’s have a 3.6 mortality rate, and people in their 70’s have an 8% mortality rate.)
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To my surprise, there were a lot of commenters who accused me of exaggerating, fearmongering, and spreading false information. As one person said, this is “just another panic fueled by media and politicians.”
Normally, preppers take potential disasters very seriously. But in this instance, many of them have decided that this isn’t something worth worrying about. Probably because President Trump said the coronavirus is “just the flu.” In fact, a good friend of mine said this to me the other day.
So, in this article, I’m going to explain why I believe COVID-19 is far more dangerous than the flu and why I think it will kill thousands of people. Possibly millions. We’ll start by taking a look at China.
What Happened In China?
The first thing that made me sit up and pay attention to coronavirus is what happened in China. The measures they took to contain this virus are extraordinary. To stop the spread, China quarantined hundreds of millions of people. They had to stay indoors at all times, and if they went outside without a pass, they were arrested.
Authorities went door to door testing people for symptoms, and anyone with symptoms was taken to quarantine. They even had workers in protective gear walking up and down the streets, spraying disinfectant on everything. According to the WHO, “China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”
But even with such extreme measures, they still had over 80,000 cases and thousands of deaths. All that effort and yet thousands of people died.
China had several whistleblowers who tried to warn the world about the danger of this virus. One of the first whistleblowers was Li Wenliang, a doctor who saw a sharp spike in the number of patients getting sick and dying.
Once he realized what was happening, he warned fellow medics to be careful and wear protective gear, but soon the government caught up with him and forced him to sign a letter stating he had made false comments, “severely disrupting the social order.”
Less than six weeks later, he died from the very virus he tried to warn us about.
Many other doctors, lawyers, and activists in China have been captured and detained. No one has heard from them since. Why is China clamping down on these whistleblowers? If this is just the flu, why are they so concerned with controlling the narrative?
How Deadly Is COVID-19?
No one knows. China initially said that about 2% of infected people died, but it really depends on the area. It was as high as 5.8% in Wuhan, but as low as 0.7% in other areas.
Some people have pointed out that we can’t trust China’s numbers because they have a history of lying about these sorts of things. True, but when they lie, it’s usually to make themselves look better. Which means the actual mortality rate could be even higher than 2%.
On the other hand, there could be countless unreported cases from people who had mild or no symptoms. If that’s true, the mortality rate could be much lower. Perhaps if we tested everyone in the world, we’d find the mortality rate isn’t much higher than that of the regular flu.
However, some experts say there’s no real evidence to back this theory. Take a look at this article from Science Mag. It explains how they attempted to find out how many unreported cases there might be by screening 320,000 cases from so-called fever clinics. They found that only 0.14% of them were positive for COVID-19.
Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “That piece of data suggests that [lots of unreported cases] is not happening, which would imply that the case fatality risk might be more or less as we currently have.”
So for now, a 2% mortality rate seems likely, but it could definitely be lower.
Why Millions Of People Could Die
According to this New York Times article on the topic, about 15% of cases in China were severe, meaning those people had to be on oxygen or a ventilator.
That number should frighten you. If 15% of people who get this have to be hospitalized, then our hospitals could be completely overwhelmed in a matter of months. Better hope you don’t have appendicitis during that time, because they might not be able to help you.
If hospitals aren’t able to help everyone who needs to be on a ventilator, the mortality rate is going to go up. Possibly quite a lot.
According to Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist familiar with biostatistics and infectious diseases, it’s too late to contain COVID-19. It’s already in half the countries across the world and there are likely thousands of unreported cases (most people spread it without showing symptoms for about five days).
He estimates that somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of the global population will get COVID-19. Let that sink in for a moment.
So let’s say half the world population gets this virus over the next year and 15% of those cases require hospitalization. That would mean that, in the United States alone, about 25 million people will be hospitalized. Given that there are usually 35 million hospital stays per year in the United States, another 25 million would be a pretty significant increase. A 71% increase.
Also, consider the fact that a normal hospital stay usually only lasts a few days. People with severe cases of COVID-19 take weeks to recover. So it might seem like more than a 71% increase.
Remember what I said about appendicitis? Well, what about people who have strokes and heart attacks? Or people who get into car accidents? Or women in labor? Can hospitals really help these people if they’re already at max capacity? That could mean countless more deaths that won’t be counted in the official COVID-19 statistics.
And it gets even worse.
What happens when doctors and nurses are infected at a higher rate than the rest of the population and succumb to the illness? With healthcare workers quarantining themselves and sometimes dying, will we really have enough people left to take care of everybody?
Despite all this, let’s be incredibly optimistic. Let’s assume the hospitals are able to help everyone, that only 1/4 of the world is infected, and the mortality rate is a mere 0.5%.
That would still mean 10 million deaths.
So even though your individual chance of dying from COVID-19 is slim, especially if you’re young and healthy, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a big deal. The death of 10 million people is like 9/11 times 3,000. And again, that is a very optimistic scenario.
Australian researchers believe the best-case scenario is 15 million deaths (the worst case is over 68 million deaths).
So What Happens Next?
For a preview of what could happen in your area in the coming weeks and months, just look at Italy. Recently, the Italian welfare minister said, “Every day we get 200 new people to the ER in critical conditions, which means every day we need to find 200 more hospital beds. […] the virus is spreading at an exceptional speed, faster than our predictions and than the data we got from China.”
Every day, the number of deaths in Italy jumps dramatically, and they have responded by taking extreme measures to slow the spread. Schools, theaters, libraries, and museums are closed, and the entire country is under quarantine until April 3rd. (Learn more about what’s happening in Italy here.)
In fact, the plan to lock down the country was leaked and thousands of people fled before it happened, possibly taking COVID-19 with them.
Just two weeks ago, Italy had only 9 cases. Now it’s in the thousands. The U.S. currently has over 600 official cases (although there could be thousands). What will it be in two weeks? If this thing keeps spreading exponentially, we’re in big trouble.
What Is Exponential Growth?
For those who don’t know what exponential growth is, here’s a popular “riddle” that explains it.
Let’s say you have a rich uncle who wants to give you his wealth before he dies so he can see you enjoy it. However, he gives you a choice: You can have a $1 million right now, or you can have a penny today, two pennies tomorrow, four pennies the day after that, and let it continue to double every day for 30 days. Which option would you choose?
$1 million would be great, but if you choose the pennies, then by day 30 you would have over $5 million dollars. And interestingly, you wouldn’t even top $1 million until day 28. Almost all the growth happens at the very end. (BTW, by day 38 you’d have over $1 billion.)
That’s what happens when things grow exponentially. It looks like a little bit at first, but then it explodes. To understand this better, watch the video below:
So the question is, how long will it grow exponentially before it slows down and stops spreading? We just don’t know.
There are scary Twitter threads like this one that suggest hospitals will be completely overwhelmed by May. However, if we all do our part, it’s possible to avoid this scenario.
What We Should Do
If people keep their hands and everything they touch clean, if they stay home as much as possible and avoid public events, and if they isolate themselves when they show symptoms of the virus, we can stop the exponential growth much sooner. In other words, we can “flatten the curve.”
On the other hand, if people aren’t worried about this and don’t bother to wash their hands or practice social distancing, it will spread much faster, potentially overwhelming our healthcare system.
As he says in the video, “If people are sufficiently worried, there’s not as much to worry about.” So in my view, the fact that many people aren’t worried about this is exactly why we should be worried.
The U.S. Is Dropping The Ball
Despite the severe threat from this pandemic, the U.S. government is doing very little to stop it. Whereas South Korea is testing 10,000 people per day, the U.S. has only tested 2,000 people so far.
In South Korea, they actually set up drive-thru testing. You pull up, get your cheek swabbed, and get your results via text in a matter of hours. If we were doing that in the U.S. and found out the actual number of cases, people would be taking this much more seriously and being careful to stay sanitary and keep their distance from each other.
Instead, everyone is out and about, shaking hands, eating at restaurants, and acting like there’s nothing to worry about. That is the opposite of what they should be doing.
(To be fair, some parts of the country are taking this very seriously. For example, look at what they’re doing in Seattle. But COVID-19 has been found in 36 states and most of them aren’t doing anything.)
No one really knows how this is going to play out. It’s possible that tens of millions of people will die. On the other hand, it could fizzle out by summer and we could all look back and laugh at how much we overreacted.
But the thing is, even if COVID-19 does fizzle out, worrying about it is not an overreaction. As preppers, we’re supposed to prepare for potential disasters, and if there was ever a potential disaster, this is it.
And I haven’t even mentioned how all this could affect the economy. We’ve been in an “everything bubble” for years and are overdue for a major correction. And with the stock market crashing and oil price wars, it looks like this could be the event that triggers it. (As I write this, the DOW is having its worst day since 2008.)
So if you’re one of the people who think coronavirus is being blown out of proportion by the media, I strongly encourage you to take a closer look at what’s happening.
There are going to be major shortages, especially once our leaders start getting infected. (Ted Cruz is under self-quarantine as coronavirus spreads to Washington D.C.). If a senator, congressman, or Trump himself contracts COVID-19, millions of people are going to panic and rush to the stores.
To be clear, I don’t think this is going to be the collapse of civilization or anything like that. Remember, the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed between 20 and 50 million people, but life went on.
However, it’s going to get scary for a while. For the next few weeks, the statistics are going to get worse every day. Don’t spend too much time focusing on them. Maybe limit yourself to a short period of time per day when you can get caught up.
Just keep your hands and everything you touch clean, and spend more time at home. You should also eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. If you’re in better health, you’re less likely to be one of the severe cases.
And lastly, spare yourself the hassle of standing in line with hundreds of other people in grocery store parking lots, waiting hours for toilet paper or a loaf of bread. If you haven’t already, start stocking up.
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