Trying to be positive in the light of Covid-19

By | Thursday, March 19, 2020 Leave a Comment

[Postscript: I appear to have been very wrong. Mea culpa.]

I was just in the shower pondering Covid-19 and mortality. What if some of the worst predictions came to pass? I was getting pretty depressed as I contemplated it. But then I got pragmatic and started to wonder about the effect on the total death rate in the USA this year. In 2018 there were 3.2 million deaths in America. What if Covid-19 doesn’t actually increase that number?

Covid-19 is most fatal among people who are immune compromised or otherwise infirm. This is terrible. But, how many of those people were likely to die this year of other causes? How many were going to succumb to the flu, pneumonia, the common cold, or their underlying health issues? Covid-19, will, sadly, accelerate the death rate of those individuals. I do not mean to make light of the sadness this will bring to their loved ones. This will be cold comfort to the families of those whose lives are cut short, but, perhaps these Covid-19 deaths won’t be additive to the total death count in 2020.

Furthermore, given the emphasis on hand-washing and social distancing, how many people won't get the flu this year, regardless of their overall health? Given the number of people not travelling for business or pleasure, and the number of people telecommuting, how many automobile accidents will be avoided?

Here's a weird one: given that schools are closed, how many mass shootings won’t occur this year? How many children won’t get measles? How many anti-vaxxers might decide to vaccinate their children after all, protecting them from various maladies?

The effects might not show up in just one year, but, given the decrease in car travel, air travel, cruises (very big polluters), and manufacturing output, air pollution is guaranteed to decrease. How many lives might be saved, or lengthened, by that effect (to say nothing of people breathing through masks.)

Certainly Covid-19 is a world-wide catastrophe that is touching virtually everyone’s lives. I don’t mean to diminish the physical, mental, and economic suffering it is inflicting and will continue to cause. However, while I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna about this, is it possible that mortality might decrease due to the response to Covid-19?
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