Leaving BizarroWorld

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While I was taking a grief break, a handful of states – including my state of Tennessee – decided to leave BizarroWorld and begin opening back up for business. This sparked outrage among people who’ve spent three years screaming that Trump is a fascist dictator, but now want him to act like a fascist dictator instead of allowing governors to decide what’s best for their states. The term the perpetually-outraged crowd kept tossing around was putting the burden on the states.

Ohhhh, I see. Freedom to make your own decisions is a burden now. Well, no worries … there are plenty of politicians who will gladly lift that burden from you.

As soon as Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and a few other states announced they were phasing out the lockdowns, The Twitter universe exploded. The perpetually-outraged crowd tweeted their usual pearls of wisdom … you know, stuff like Well of course, these Republican governors don’t mind sacrificing people’s lives just so businesses can get back to making money! and This just proves southerners are stupid!

Nothing amuses me quite like stupid people calling intelligent people stupid. That’s why my all-time favorite Twitter exchange is this one:

Him: Your stupid.
Me: I believe you mean “you’re stupid.”
Him: No I’m not! YOUR STUPID.

The satirical news site The Babylon Bee captured the Twitter reaction quite nicely:

Satire, sure, but pretty close to what I saw online. For example, this tweet could certainly pass for satire, but it wasn’t – it was a real, honest-to-god tweet by one of the enlightened, blue-checkmark journalists on Twitter:

Boy, that held up well. The blue-check journalist made this bold prediction on April 20, nearly four weeks ago. The Georgia bloodbath failed to materialize. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because the apocalyptic predictions were based on assumptions we know aren’t true. Namely …

1. COVID-19 is an especially deadly virus
2. Only a small fraction of the population has been exposed, thanks to the lockdown

The second incorrect assumption prompted the first incorrect assumption. If you count the number of deaths and then assume the only people who’ve been exposed are those who show up in hospitals needing treatment, the death rate will appear high. But the enlightened, blue-check journalists seem to have missed the news about the actual exposure rate. This article, for example:

A team at the University of Bonn has tested a randomized sample of 1,000 residents of the town of Gangelt in the north-west of the country, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in Germany. The study found that two percent of the population currently had the virus and that 14 percent were carrying antibodies suggesting that they had already been infected — whether or not they experienced any symptoms. Eliminating an overlap between the two groups, the team concluded that 15 percent of the town have been infected with the virus.

Other studies have found even higher exposure rates:

Nearly one third of 200 Chelsea residents who gave a drop of blood to researchers on the street this week tested positive for antibodies linked to COVID-19, a startling indication of how widespread infections have been in the densely populated city.

The Mass. General researchers ― who excluded anyone who had tested positive for the virus in the standard nasal swab test ― found that 32 percent of participants have had COVID-19, and many didn’t know it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re tanking the economy, bankrupting businesses, and putting people out of work to protect ourselves from a virus that’s sooooo deadly, people can have the antibodies in their systems and be totally unaware they were ever exposed.

Dr. John Ioannidis – one of the voices of sanity from the beginning – also conducted a study to see how many people in a California county had already been exposed. Based on those results, he calculated the death rate. Are you ready?

Wait for it … the death rate among people exposed to coronavirus appears to around 0.1% — which is pretty close to the death rate for seasonal flu. And yet the bed-wetters want to stay locked down as if the Super Flu from Stephen King’s novel The Stand is out there waiting to pounce on anyone who goes outdoors.

To be clear, I’m not saying going into lockdown in March was a mistake. We didn’t know how deadly or widespread the virus was at the time, and the fear of overwhelming the medical system was legitimate. We’re past that now, and yet many people – including politicians — seem to have forgotten why we went into lockdown mode in the first place. A professor from Stanford recently summed up the situation nicely:

Policymakers and the public have not received several key messages that are critical to alleviate fear and guide a safe reopening of society. That has led to a gross failure in policy at the state level:

There has been a failure to remind everyone that the stated goal of the policy – total lockdown and whole-population isolation – has been accomplished in most of the United States, including the epicenter of New York. Specifically, two curves, hospitalizations per day and deaths per day, have flattened. The goal was to prevent hospital overcrowding and, aside from a few in the New York area, hospitals were not overcrowded. Today, most hospitals stand under-filled, necessitating layoffs of personnel. More importantly, it was never a policy goal to eliminate all cases of COVID-19. That is impossible, unnecessary and illogical, when 99 percent of infected people have no significant illness from it.

There has been a failure to reassure everyone that we fully anticipate more cases will occur, whether we test or not, with continuing relaxation of today’s isolation. Since millions of people have the highly contagious infection, and half are entirely asymptomatic, that spread is fully expected. Even though we will see headlines sensationalizing the next projection, the models are already set to adjust upward for less strict isolation.

There has been a failure to educate the public that the overall fatality rate is not only far lower than previously thought but is extremely low in almost everyone other than the elderly… While somehow escaping attention, updated infection fatality rates (IFR) are less than or equal to seasonal flu for those under 60 in France, Spain and the Netherlands. Less than 1 percent of deaths occur in the absence of underlying conditions. Of the exceptionally rare deaths in children in New York City, only one tragic case out of 15,756 COVID-19 deaths – 0.006 percent – was a child without a known underlying condition.

The medical system was successfully saved from being overwhelmed, but in the meantime, the bed-wetters moved the goalposts. They no longer talk about flattening the curve. Now they want us to stay locked down UNTIL IT’S SAFE!

Say what? Until it’s safe?! They apparently believe if we just stay inside long enough, the virus will disappear, and then we can all come out to play again. They haven’t the grasped the fact – and it is a fact – that the virus is here, it’s not going away, and it will spread. I’ll say that again for the slow-witted: the virus is going to spread. And one more time: THE VIRUS IS GOING TO SPREAD. Most of us will be exposed at some point, just as most of us are exposed to cold and flu viruses every year. And just like every year, the vast majority of us will be fine.

When I’ve bothered to debate the issue online, I’ve noticed a curious psychology at work: despite the increasingly good news, some people are very, very wedded to the idea that everything is awful and we’re in the middle of an unprecedented disaster. You simply cannot get these people to accept any good news.

For example, I posted a picture The Older Brother snapped of the ER waiting room at the hospital in Illinois where they took my mom. Here’s your “overwhelmed” hospital:

No line whatsoever at the emergency room. That’s good news, right? But a guy on Facebook jumped through mental hoops so he could continue believing the hospital was, in fact, overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

They don’t take Covid cases into ER. Most hospitals take Covid cases into different area to avoid spreading the infection. At my local hospital there are huge signs outside saying “Don’t enter if you suspect you have Covid”. Arrow direct you to a different area of the hospital.

Good grief. I’d finally had enough of his doomsday attitude, so I got a bit nasty in my reply:

Ahh, I see! The hospital where my mom was taken is, in fact, overwhelmed with COVID cases, but we’re just not seeing it in the picture because those people entered by a different door. Whew! Thanks for figuring that out. For a moment there, I was afraid we actually had a hospital in the U.S. that isn’t swamped with COVID cases. That would blow our entire world-view, and we can’t have that.

Nice try. My brother has been following the situation in Springfield. The hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID cases, period. People are not dying for lack of treatment. The entire county of nearly 200,000 people has had 53 cases total, and four deaths — two women in their 70s and two men in their 90s.

Sorry, I can see you really, really, really don’t want to accept that there are many areas in no danger of being overwhelmed, but I’m afraid the good news is what it is. Sometimes we just have to take our lumps and accept the good news, no matter how emotionally attached we are to believing it’s all disastrous everywhere. Keep your chin up … maybe some really, truly, horrible disaster will come along eventually to confirm your world-view and brighten your day.

I’m especially amused by the brave souls who’ve been telling us since 2017 that they’re members of something called #TheResistance – equating themselves with people who risked their lives to sabotage fascist military operations. Now we have politicians actually behaving like fascists … issuing orders to arrest and fine people for daring to be outside without a mask, encouraging citizens to snitch on each other, etc. The mayor of Los Angeles even announced the city will cut off water and electricity to any “non-essential” businesses operating without the city’s blessing.

As far as I can tell, members of #TheResistance don’t see a problem with all this authoritarian overreach. In fact, they’re outraged that people are actually resisting the authoritarian overreach. Those danged protestors want to kill people, doncha know.

All of this was, of course, entirely predictable. As I’ve written in several posts and explained in my Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds speech, The Anointed always follow the same pattern:

To solve a problem, they come up with a Grand Plan, which nearly always involves spending more of other people’s money and restricting more of other people’s freedoms. Check.

Because they are so supremely confident in their own intelligence, The Anointed don’t feel the need to provide evidence the theory behind the plan is correct, and will happily dismiss any evidence the theory is wrong. Check.

Once The Anointed come up with a Grand Plan, the plan is now The Good, so people who oppose the plan aren’t just opposing a plan … no, they’re opposing The Good itself, and they would only do that for one of two reasons: 1) they’re stupid, or 2) they’re evil. Check.

This just proves southerners are stupid … these Republican governors don’t mind sacrificing people’s lives just so businesses can get back to making money.

I began using the term The Anointed after reading Thomas Sowell’s terrific book The Vision of The Anointed. Although I don’t talk about it as often, he also spelled out the alternative vision in the book. He calls it The Tragic Vision. That may sound like an oh, life is awful philosophy, but it’s not. In fact, I’ve found that people who share The Tragic Vision are generally happier than those who share the attitudes of The Anointed.

That’s because while The Anointed are forever dissatisfied and constantly trying to force their version of The Good on us (often making things worse in the process), The Tragic Vision accepts that life on earth will always be imperfect. Those with The Tragic Vision understand that our choices in life are rarely between The Good vs. The Bad; our choices are usually between alternatives that are neither all good nor all bad. That’s just how life is. If you accept and embrace that, you’ll be happier. You may even find yourself engaging in what author/philosopher Joseph Campbell called joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

The coronavirus is here, it will spread, and it will kill people. That’s bad. However, that doesn’t mean staying in lockdown is The Good. Life has to go on. We’ve faced worse pandemics without panicking and trashing our economy. A nasty flu killed perhaps 80,000 Americans in 2017-2018, but we didn’t shut down the world. In 1969, a flu came along that killed somewhere between a million and four million people worldwide, including more than 100,000 Americans – and that was when our population was only 205 million. The same death rate today would translate to 160,000 dead Americans. But life went on.

Much as The Anointed and the bed-wetters would like to believe the lockdown is about The Good (savings lives!) vs. The Bad (opening up society again just so some greedy business owners can make money), the issue isn’t so childishly simple. Yes, when we start mingling with each other again, more people will become infected and a small fraction of those people will die – and that will happen whether we end the lockdown today or two years from now. It sucks.

But if you really want to see a spike in deaths, just wait until we social-distance ourselves into a worldwide economic meltdown. And unlike COVID-19, which is mostly killing people who are already old or frail, an economic meltdown will end up killing people of all ages.

If you’re afraid the coronavirus will pounce on you and kill you the moment you step outside, here’s the solution: stay home. Lock yourself in your mom’s basement UNTIL IT’S SAFE! (But don’t forget to tweet about how you’re a brave member of #TheResistance. )

Meanwhile, don’t expect the rest of us to stay locked down, and don’t whine about how stupid and evil we are for calling for life to return to normal. It’s time to leave BizarroWorld. Some of us have already left … and despite the predictions of those genius blue-check journalists, we lived to tell the tale.

I’ll close with a quote from the Stanford professor:

The total lockdown may have been justified at the start of this pandemic, but it must now end — smartly, without irrational, unnecessary requirements contrary to medical science, common sense and logic. The goal of the strict isolation was accomplished in the overwhelming majority of places … It’s time to stop the cycle of becoming frantic as we see what are totally expected changes in hypothetical projections. Instead, let’s use empirical evidence and established medical science.

The time of failed leadership must end, or we are committing national suicide.

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Grief Break Over The Marvelous Teacher

Sorry to say, I need another grief break. My mom, Shirley J. Naughton, passed away on Sunday at the age of 83. It wasn’t a total shock because she’d been having brain-shrinkage issues and was obviously declining mentally. The Older Brother, who’d been taking her to a neurologist in St. Louis, told me a year ago if I wanted to visit Mom while she was still all there, I’d best not wait. We made a trip to Illinois soon after, and were planning another trip this spring. Social distancing canceled that trip. We figured we’d make a trip to see her this summer once the lockdown is over.

Just over a week ago, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. There was nothing doctors could do except recommend comfort care. The Older Brother and Younger Sister took her home. When I woke on Sunday, Chareva told me my nephew Grant had called to say Mom had passed.

Like a lot of women in her generation, Mom married young. She was 19 when she and my dad tied the knot. She was only 21 when The Older Brother was born, and 23 when I was born. For many years, she was just Mom to us, a housewife and mother. But she always had a lively mind, so in her late thirties, she enrolled in college classes. She ended up earning a master’s degree in English literature and went on to teach composition and literature in local high schools.  I met some of her former students when I was college. They couldn’t say enough about what a marvelous teacher she was and how much they enjoyed her classes.

Even after she officially retired, she was always busy. As her obituary explains, she was involved with the local symphony, the local arts council, the Abraham Lincoln Museum, a gourmet cooking club, activities with her grandkids, etc., etc. I used to tell her she needed to retire from being retired. She didn’t slow down until the brain issues forced it on her.

I called her a few days before the stroke to check in. She was mostly coherent and told me she’d found a box of letters I’d written to her over the years. She told me she loved re-reading those letters they were well-written and funny. She told me the one about “mom school” in particular made her laugh out loud while bringing a tear to her eye. I wasn’t sure which letter she meant.

I didn’t know it was the last conversation we’d ever have, but in retrospect, it was a fitting goodbye. I dug through my files (I’ve long been a fanatic about backing up my work) and found that “mom school” letter from nearly 20 years ago. I’ve posted it below because I think it says as much about Mom as anything I could write now.

I’ll thank you in advance for your condolences, then I’m taking some time off.

Dear Mom,

You’ve said more than once that you hope to discover your purpose in life someday. Since you’ve read rather a lot on spiritual topics, you probably know that people who have near-death experiences are often told to return to their lives, and to remember that the purpose of living is to love, to learn, and to teach.  If that’s true, and I like to think it is, then you’ve already been living your purpose, even if you’re unaware of it.

When I was attending Illinois State, I met some of your former students, and they all thought you were a marvelous teacher. I could’ve told them that. I’ve been attending the Shirley Naughton School of Moms for four decades. Here’s just some of what I’ve learned:

Preschool: Moms are warm and they kiss you and they love you a lot. They don’t like it if you draw on the bricks. They still love you, though.  When you grow up, you’ll probably marry Mom.

Kindergarten: Moms know how to make buttered toast with cinnamon and sugar and hot milk poured on top. This is quite possibly the best breakfast ever invented.

First Grade: If you don’t wear your scarf and hat, you’ll get an earache. Moms warn you about these things because they love you.

Second Grade: If you get an earache, it’s okay to wake up Mom in the middle of the night and tell her about it. She’ll hug you and kiss you so you’ll feel better. The next day, she’ll take you to the doctor. He’ll put oily stuff in your ears. And you should’ve worn your hat and scarf.

Third Grade: Moms know how to take an ordinary can of Spaghetti-Os and turn them into the best lunch ever invented. They do this by mixing in pieces of hot dogs. It’s a lot of work, but they do it anyway because they love you.

Fourth Grade: Really good Moms become den mothers for a bunch of Cub Scouts. They teach you techniques for creating modern art, such as gluing split peas to a jelly glass and spray-painting the whole thing gold. You can give these masterpieces to your grandparents.

Fifth Grade: Moms don’t like slugs. If you find a slug on the sidewalk, you definitely should not put it on the kitchen counter shortly before Mom walks in to cook. Hearing your mother scream isn’t as much fun as you might think. If you do put a slug on the kitchen counter, Mom will still love you.

Sixth Grade: If you learn a new song at school, Mom would like to hear you sing it. If you sing really well, your Mom will say so. If you don’t sing really well, she’ll say you do anyway. You probably shouldn’t judge your talents based on what Mom says.

Seventh Grade: If they are surprised, Moms can forget what their own kids look like. If you forget your homework, you definitely should not let yourself into the house through the garage door and surprise Mom coming out of the bathroom. In this situation, Moms often mistake their kids for axe murderers. If you do grow up and become an axe murderer, your Mom will still love you and tell people you’re just confused.

Eighth Grade: Moms love dogs. They also love hamsters and guinea pigs. If you want any of these animals, you should go straight to Mom.

Ninth Grade: If you make a Mom angry enough, she’ll spank you. This isn’t a great concern, however, because it doesn’t hurt and you’ll both end up laughing. Also, it will probably only happen two or three times in your entire life.

Tenth Grade: Good Moms love your friends and feed them better meals than they get at home. They also talk to your friends as if they have brains, which is true almost all the time. This means your friends will want to spend a lot of time at your house.

Eleventh Grade: Moms are smart. They can go to college and learn about English literature and philosophy and start correcting your Dad’s grammar. This is really cool because it gives you someone to talk to if you’ve also been reading philosophy and literature and enjoying it. The bad news is that sometimes you’ll end up talking until 2:00 in the morning and spend the next day feeling tired and not all that philosophical.

Twelfth Grade: If you’re studying literature in school, you should raid Mom’s library and see if she’s already read whatever book you’re supposed to read next. If she has, you could almost write a term paper on what you glean from the notes scribbled in the margins. At the very least, you’ll have some interesting points to raise in class and impress the teacher.

College, First Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Second Year: Moms don’t mind if your band practices in the basement. They like hearing the same song fifty or sixty times in one week.

College, Third Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Fourth Year: When you come home for weekends and holidays, Moms celebrate by making Beef Bourguignonne. This is the best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together.

College, Fifth Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

Early Twenties: If your best friend gets married, Moms make moussaka for the rehearsal party. This is the second-best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together. The next morning, it’s also the best breakfast ever invented.

Later Twenties: If you write a play, Moms will be reasonably sure you’ve established yourself as a literary genius.

Thirty: Moms don’t care if you don’t do anything for a living as long as you’re not completely miserable. Moms will assure you that if you follow your dreams, something good will happen.

Early Thirties: Moms are good to your girlfriends and can even miss them when you decide you didn’t actually mean to get engaged. Some girlfriends will tell you they wish they’d had your Mom instead of theirs.

Mid Thirties: Moms make excellent comedic material. If you can’t make people laugh by talking about your Mom, you’d better find another career to pursue.

Later Thirties: Great Moms make great Grandmas, too. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t necessarily live in little houses that smell bad, and it can make you feel warm and fuzzy to see how much your nephews like going to grandma’s house.

Forties: Little boys don’t actually grow up and marry their Moms. But the lucky ones grow up and get married and are almost ridiculously happy – because they learned how to love and be loved from their Moms.

Thanks, Mom. You really are a marvelous teacher.

I love you,
Tom

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We Need To Leave BizarroWorld

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Here’s how bizarre BizarroWorld has become: in some California counties, you can be fined $1,000 for being out in public without wearing a mask. In Michigan, the governor decided seeds and hardware supplies are non-essential and people can’t go out to buy them … but alcohol and lottery tickets are essential, so it’s okay to go buy those. Meanwhile, people all over the nation are calling the police to rat out fellow citizens who fail to observe mandated social distancing. Sig Heil.

This is nuts. People are acting as if the coronavirus is airborne HIV or the Super Flu from the Stephen King novel The Stand. By gosh, if someone doesn’t properly social distance himself, he’ll spread the disease to all of us and we’ll all die. Honey, that man is playing basketball in a public park with his friends! Call the police before he kills us all!

The insanity is continuing even though the death toll is a mere fraction of what various governments and experts predicted. Dr. Fauci, the head of the coronavirus task force, initially suggested COVID-19 could kill as many as 240,000 Americans. Now he’s downgraded that prediction to 60,000. As I write this post, the reported number of deaths in the U.S. is around 33,000. Yes, that’s a lot of deaths. But keep in mind, the CDC estimates at least 60,000 and perhaps 80,000 Americans died from influenza during the 2017-2018 flu season.

And there’s a good chance the number of COVID-19 deaths has been exaggerated. Here’s a quote from a Fox News article:

The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the federal government is continuing to count the suspected COVID-19 deaths, despite other nations doing the opposite.

“There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU [intensive care unit] and then have a heart or kidney problem,” she said during a Tuesday news briefing at the White House. “Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.

“The intent is … if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that,” she added.

A Minnesota senator who also happens to be a doctor reported that he received a seven-page document from the MN Department of Health advising him to fill out death certificates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 whether the person actually died from COVID-19 or not. It’s almost as if governments are so heavily invested in convincing us the coronavirus is especially deadly, they’ll fudge the numbers if necessary.

It’s not just the death toll that’s been far lower than originally predicted. The number of hospital beds, ventilators, etc., we were told we’d need was way off as well. New York, which originally said it was desperately short of the ventilators it would need, is now apparently shipping excess ventilators to other states.

Well, that just proves social distancing worked!

Uh … no. Here’s a quote from an article in National Review:

There is no shortage of government spin, regurgitated by media commentators, assuring us that the drastic reductions in the projections over just a few days powerfully illustrate how well social distancing and the substantial shuttering of the economy is working. Nonsense. As Alex Berenson points out on Twitter, with an accompanying screenshot data updated by IHME on April 1, the original April 2 model explicitly “assum[ed] full social distancing through May 2020.”

The model on which the government is relying is simply unreliable. It is not that social distancing has changed the equation; it is that the equation’s fundamental assumptions are so dead wrong, they cannot remain reasonably stable for just 72 hours.

It simply doesn’t make sense that the drastically reduced death toll is all because of social distancing. Let’s not forget what flattening the curve means. Better yet, let’s start by explaining what the theory behind social distancing doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean “we avoid contact with each other, and therefore most people are never exposed to the virus, and far fewer people die.”

The virus is going to spread through population eventually. Social distancing was mandated to slow down the rate at which it would spread. The fear was that if too many people became sick within a short span, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds and ventilators to save people who could be saved with medical intervention. Flatten the curve means we slow down the rate of exposure so the medical system isn’t overwhelmed. That’s all it means. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick made that point in a recent post.

It may well seem that all this suffering was…well, for what, exactly? To simply prevent a surge of cases. This government, all governments, must be honest about this and admit that in the longer term we cannot prevent almost everybody getting infected and acknowledge that a proportion of those infected will die.

When lockdown restrictions are lifted this does not mean that the virus has gone. It does not mean that people cannot infect each other. It does not mean we can simply carry on as before. It means that we have kept the first surge under control.

The big social-distancing lockdown was never about stopping the spread the of virus. That’s not possible. So unless you believe more than 100,000 Americans were saved from death because medical intervention was available thanks to social distancing, the logical conclusion is that the lethality of the virus was wildly overestimated.

So how deadly is the virus? We still don’t know exactly, because we don’t know how many people have been exposed to it. We won’t know until antibody tests are available and given to large, random samples of the population in different areas. But there’s growing evidence that the virus has already spread more than government officials first believed. Here’s a quote from Chicago City Wire:

A phlebotomist working at Roseland Community Hospital said Thursday that 30% to 50% of patients tested for the coronavirus have antibodies while only around 10% to 20% of those tested have the active virus.

Sumaya Owaynat, a phlebotomy technician, said she tests between 400 and 600 patients on an average day in the parking lot at Roseland Community Hospital. Owaynat said the number of patients coming through the testing center who appear to have already had coronavirus and gotten over it is far greater than those who currently have the disease.

Here are some quotes from an article in The Los Angeles Times:

A man found dead in his house in early March. A woman who fell sick in mid-February and later died.

These early COVID-19 deaths in the San Francisco Bay Area suggest that the novel coronavirus had established itself in the community long before health officials started looking for it. The lag time has had dire consequences, allowing the virus to spread unchecked before social distancing rules went into effect.

I disagree with that last sentence. The virus is going to spread. Social distancing only slows down the spread. So if San Francisco’s hospitals weren’t overwhelmed, it’s good news that the virus has already spread more than officials estimated. More on that later. Back to the article:

“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, a physician who is the chief executive of Santa Clara County government, told county leaders in a recent briefing.

How long? A study out of Stanford suggests a dramatic viral surge in February.

But Smith on Friday said data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and others suggest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most likely since “back in December.”

“This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season,” Smith said in an interview. “Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice. You didn’t even go to the doctor. The doctor maybe didn’t even do it because they presumed it was the flu.”

The virus that has people ratting out fellow citizens for playing basketball in a park is sooo freakin’ deadly, by gosh, millions of people may have already been exposed and failed to notice.

Even the CDC’s own data suggests coronavirus was here far earlier than we thought:

CDC Data supports theory of much earlier COVID infection than has been reported. Data shows a dramatic spike in “Influenza Like Illness” in certain states as early as November of 2019. A number of states appear to have already experienced an ILI and made it through to a more stable ILI footing for this time of year.

The US Military participated in the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China between October 18 and October 27 of 2019. Their chartered flights arrive and depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Washington is one of the earliest states to show a spike in ILI, corresponding with the incubation period should the virus have been introduced as the military traveled through Washington to other destinations.

If the virus has been around longer than officials originally believed, and if tests eventually show far more of us have been exposed than originally believed, that’s very, very good news. Two infectious disease researchers I saw interviewed in YouTube videos both made the same point: a virus like this spreads until it runs out of new, vulnerable hosts. If millions of us have already been exposed, the virus is running out of those hosts. One of the researchers, in fact, said that social distancing may just ensure a second wave of deaths, because new hosts are being held in reserve.

An article in The Economist quotes researchers who believe the virus is about as deadly as the flu:

Despite initially being warned about deaths in the “millions” if Americans didn’t subject themselves to business killing closures and “social distancing,” the coronavirus, while it has spread faster than normal viruses do has actually been less deadly, according to the Economist, citing a new study.

Last Saturday, the Economist said that it is actually somewhat of a blessing that the coronavirus’ spread across the United States as it did, in fact calling it “good news.”

“If millions of people were infected weeks ago without dying, the virus must be less deadly than official data suggest,” the magazine reported, while utilizing graphs that suggest the faster the disease spreads and hits its peak, in fact the fewer people that will die from it.

Citing a new study by Justin Silverman and Alex Washburne, the Economist says that data shows the coronavirus is currently widespread in America, which is quite obvious.

In a somewhat surprising conclusion, the two researchers found that the mortality rate of coronavirus could be as low as 0.1 percent, or similar to the mortality rate of the flu.

Okay, any mortality figure is a best-guess until we really and truly know how many people have already been exposed. But considering how many people have tested positive and never felt sick (ABC’s George Stephanopoulos being a recent example), I find it difficult to believe that this virus is soooo deadly, we all have to avoid each other and kill the economy in the process.

Yes, the virus is deadly for a small subset of vulnerable people. The vast majority of us aren’t in that subset.  As this study put it:

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

Most of the people who’ve died from COVID-19 died were elderly and had existing health problems. I suspect many of them would have died from ordinary influenza if COVID-19 hadn’t gotten them first. After all, influenza kills more than 30,000 Americans in a typical year, and (at the risk of repeating myself) killed perhaps 80,000 Americans in 2017-2018.  If the death toll from that flu had been the lead story every night on the news, people would have been just as scared.

I think it’s time we start operating on what Lierre Keith called adult knowledge in her wonderful book The Vegetarian Myth. She was referring to vegans who want to believe nothing dies to put food on their plates. Adult knowledge of how food is grown and harvested says otherwise. As adults, we simply have to accept that things aren’t always as nice and pretty as we’d like.

Adult knowledge says the coronavirus will spread … and the most social distancing can do is slow the spread. Adult knowledge says the virus will kill people – just like the flu kills people — whether we shut down the economy or not. Adult knowledge says we’re not going to save millions of lives by sheltering at home for months on end – but we will bankrupt thousands of businesses and put millions of people in debt.

I agree with Dr. Malcolm Kendrick:

So, what is the exit strategy? The answer is that we don’t have one. We have a strategy of delay and mitigation which will continue until… when? Until everyone has been infected? Until we have an effective treatment? Until we have an effective vaccine? Until enough people have been infected that we have achieved herd immunity?

The Government must tell us the truth and be clear about what end point they are seeking to achieve. Only then can we have an exit strategy. One thing for sure is that this lockdown is not a way to defeat the virus.

BizarroWorld has been kind to me. I’m still employed, my expenses have gone down, I get to spend more time with my daughters because they’re not in school, and I get to work from home every day, which I prefer. But we need to leave BizarroWorld behind.

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The (BizarroWorld) Farm Report: Easter-Weekend Work

I hope you all had a good Easter/Passover/Whatever week. It was, of course, an unusual Easter weekend because of this:

Chareva usually puts together an Easter-egg hunt on the property and invites friends and relatives. She didn’t bother this year, of course. There are rules about gatherings, you know. Some healthy kid might breathe in a coronavirus out there in the fresh air and die within minutes. Or something like that. Turned out the weather wouldn’t have allowed for an Easter-egg anyway, but we’ll come back to that.

On Saturday, we got several steps closer to having one of the old chicken yards secured. The yard is surrounded by good fencing too thick for a raccoon to chew through, but thanks to our hilly, uneven terrain, there are places where the fence doesn’t quite meet the ground. I don’t know if you can see the gap in the picture below, but trust me, a raccoon wouldn’t miss it.

Even where the fence does meet the ground, we need to keep Rocky Raccoon from burrowing under. We learned from experience that a double-layer of pavers does the trick. If there’s a raccoon strong enough move those, I should probably just get out of his way and let him have the chickens … or least use a higher-caliber rifle to kill him.

I sleep later than Chareva, so by the time I woke up on Saturday, the pavers had already been delivered. There are 168 of them in that stack.

I’m all in favor of getting some exercise doing farm work, but carrying those things one at a time to where we needed them seemed a bit ridiculous. I elected to move a stack at a time with the hand truck, then we placed them along the outer fence.

The yard we’re securing shares an inner fence with the other old chicken yard. There’s nothing at this point to keep Rocky Raccoon from waltzing right into that other yard, which means he could scurry under the shared fence and help himself to a chicken dinner. So we put down a layer of pavers along the shared fence as well.

I certainly got in some exercise pulling a hand truck loaded with pavers across the hill and down to the entryway to that yard.

In some spots along the shard fence, the ground dips enough that it took three pavers to cover the gap.

The pavers aren’t fancy or pretty, but they do the job. If we ever redesign or move the chicken yards, the pavers are at least portable.

We ended up using all 168 of them. In fact, we’re probably going to order two more stacks of 168 soon. Chareva wants to secure the chicken run as well so the chickens can have access to it after dark without risking becoming a main course for a raccoon.

We have one more task to accomplish before moving the existing flock into that yard: we need to get out some twine and fix a few holes in the net. I don’t know if a hawk would try to swoop down through the holes, and I don’t know if a raccoon would try climbing through them, but we’re not taking any chances.

I’m sure the chickens will be happy after the move. Their soon-to-be new home has plenty of vegetation and will certainly have plenty of bugs to peck.

Their current yard, by contrast, has been pecked down to the dirt.

As I mentioned, Sunday wouldn’t have been a good day for an Easter-egg hunt even without social-distancing orders. It rained sheets for a good part of the day. When we get heavy rains, all that water eventually runs down the hills that surround our property.

Our creek usually looks like this — I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, in fact:

After the rains finally stopped on Sunday around 5:00 PM, it looked this:

Here are some shots from different angles.

That’s why my bridge over the creek is chained to a big ol’ tree. As you may recall, when I built the bridge, I figured it was too heavy to be washed away by rain. That theory lasted until the next heavy rain, when I had to go retrieve the thing from rather far away.  I’m all for outdoor exercise, but I can do without having to lift and drag that beast again.

Stay healthy, my friends.

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The Bizarro-World Farm Report

      32 Comments on The Bizarro-World Farm Report

I almost felt guilty saying it the first time, but I’ll say it again: my life hasn’t changed much since we entered BizarroWorld. The main difference is that I don’t commute to work two days per week.

If we lived in a townhouse with no yard – which was the case in our California days – I’m sure I’d be suffering a bit of cabin fever by now. But on a six-acre mini-farm? Nope, no cabin fever. Spring has sprung, and the farm doesn’t know or care about social distancing, so the work goes on as usual.

Last November I was just starting to cut up a huuuge tree that fell down in the front yard.

I also had plans to cut down and cut up a tree near the creek that was dying and dropping widow-maker branches now and then.

I’d like to tell you how I took my manly tools and did a manly job of hacking through those trees, but I’d be lying. They’re gone now, but the manliest role I played was writing a check. The crew that cuts our pastures suggested coming out before the first cut of the year and doing the cleanup for us. We agreed.

They cut up the huuuge tree (most of it, anyway) and hauled away the wood.

They cut down the tree that was dropping widow-makers.

They also cut down two more dead or dying trees near the creek and burned the burn-pile of dead twigs and branches we’d been building up.

With all that work done by other people, I lodged a half-hearted complaint with Chareva about not getting enough exercise, especially now that the gym is closed. She’s a loving and sympathetic wife, so she solved my dilemma by assigning me the task of tilling the ground for one of her gardens.

It may not look like a physically demanding task, but keep in mind this is Tennessee. The state’s theme song is Rocky Top for good reason. The tiller is billed as a walk-behind model, but when you’re tilling soil on a hill that’s full of rocks and clay, it’s more of a bucking-jumping-wild-animal model. By the time I finished tilling the little plot of land shown below, I was winded and exhausted. Gym? Who needs a gym?

When Chareva doesn’t have chores for me, I’ve been getting outside for some fresh air and physical activity by working on my golf game.  I’m not playing actual golf, you understand. My nephew Eric (the Older Brother’s Oldest Son) is an avid golfer, and he recently sent me an email describing what it’s like to play actual golf in BizarroWorld, at least where he lives:

  • No concessions, bathrooms, or even clubhouse checkin/pay. Call with credit card or pay online and then show up. They open door, you tell them your name, and then they let you know which person/group you were behind.
  • No golf cart
  • No driving range
  • No removing pins. They turned the cup over so the ball would only go down about an inch in the hole to make it easier (and you wouldn’t remove the pin out of habit) to get the ball out.
  • They even removed the ball washers and bunker rakes

My (ahem) “golf course” looks like this.

I hit balls into the net. I have a contraption called a Swing Caddie SC2000 that reads the speed of the clubhead and the ball and tells me (in a kindly female voice) the carry distance and the total distance. I’m not sure why the manufacturers chose a female voice. Perhaps they tried a male voice originally and found it was making comments like, Seriously, pal, 125 yards with a seven-iron? Does your husband play too?

During non-Bizzaro times, Chareva spends a chunk of her day running the girls to school, to after-school activities, to her aerial silks classes, etc. That’s all gone for now, so she’s been spending extra time in the garden. She’s been using the wood chips she had delivered last year for garden paths.

This is asparagus she planted three years ago. It will be ready to eat this year. (Some of you carnivores out there may want to avert your eyes.)

The BizarroWorld experience reminded us that we bought the farm partly to be less dependent on the industrial food chain. When we had 40-plus chickens laying so many eggs we had to sell most of them, I felt we could get by for a long time if need be.

Well, Rocky Raccoons One through Nine eventually reduced the flock to seven. During the winter months, we even had to (egads!) occasionally buy eggs at Kroger.

We began re-netting and re-securing one of the old chicken yards last spring, then kind of lost our enthusiasm when our dog Coco was killed. But we’re probably one or two weekends’ worth of work from being done. So last week, Chareva bought nine new chicks. They’re called Golden Comets.

They’re currently living in a trough in the basement. Our cat Rascal is a nice, affectionate pet … but he’s a cat. His brain is hard-wired to issue a kill! command when he sees birds. Chareva engineered this high-tech security system to keep him out of the trough.

When they’re bigger and the old chicken yard is fully secure, we’ll move the existing flock to that yard, then put these chicks in the yard where the existing flock lives. At some point, we’ll need to re-secure the other old chicken yard so we can rotate the two flocks among the three yards.

I hope y’all are keeping your sanity out there.  Stay well, my friends.

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From The News (a.k.a. Dispatches From BizarroWorld)

So how are you getting along in BizzaroWorld? Truth is, my lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much. I get up on weekdays, do my programming work from home (which I do half the time anyway), then work on a music or software project for a few hours, then watch an episode of whatever Amazon or Netflix series currently has my interest. Same old, same old.

I do miss going to the gym. My daughter Sara and I usually work out twice per week. She’s 16 and can get by on youth, but I’m an old man whose body is less forgiving. I’m starting to feel a little soft. Chareva has assured me she has some manual-labor projects for me to tackle this weekend, so that will help.

The girls have concluded that their summer vacation began a month ago. At this point, I’m sure they’re right. I’d glad Sara elected to take the ACT in the fall instead of the spring. She scored rather well, and she’s been receiving recruiting letters from colleges we’ve never heard of, as well as many we have. We got a good chuckle from one college that thought it would entice her by bragging about its gender studies department. Suuuure, there’s a degree worth investing in.

Anyway, the news I’m focusing on in this post is all about the coronavirus, of course.

America leads the world in coronavirus cases and journalistic stupidity

I won’t link to any particular article, because heck, just pick one. You’ve seen the headlines: AMERICA NOW HAS MORE CASES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY, INCLUDING CHINA!

You are supposed to read those headlines and assume the virus has begun spreading like wildfire in the U.S. (and then, depending on which news source you’re consuming, blame Trump). If you have at least half a brain and are willing to use it, however, you’ll immediately grasp that the big jump in cases simply means widespread testing is finally underway. The more people we test, the higher the number of cases will go. That doesn’t mean more people are becoming infected.  It means more infections are being identified.

Do we really have more covid-19 cases now than China? Well, that would assume two things: 1) We can trust any data coming from the Chinese government, and 2) China is testing at the same per-capita rate as the U.S.  I wouldn’t bet on either.

Why testing wasn’t available earlier

BECAUSE OF TRUMP!!

Sorry, just had to do my impression of some lefties I know. Actually, John Stossel uploaded a video explaining how regulatory tangles prevented test kits and treatments from becoming available sooner. Let’s hope when this whole coronavirus panic is over, most of the regulatory streamlining he mentions becomes permanent.

Why I’m still not convinced this virus is particularly lethal

South Korea has been praised for its quick response to the virus and the extent of its testing efforts. Let’s do a little math using the figures from South Korea available in this report:

More than 376,000 people have been tested. So far 9,332 people have tested positive, and 139 have died. So … in South Korea, 2.4 percent of those tested are infected. I don’t know if they’re focusing their testing on those considered at greater risk. If so, the infection rate in the general population would likely be lower. Among those identified as infected, the death rate is 1.4 percent. Among the 376,000 people tested, the death rate is 0.037 percent, or one in every 2,705 people.

But that’s among those tested. The population of the entire country is more than 51 million, the vast majority of whom haven’t been tested. Within the entire population, coronavirus has killed one in every 369,784 people. For reference, run-of-the-mill influenza kills around 2,900 people per year in South Korea, according to this study.

So I’m still where I was a couple of weeks ago. I understand we don’t want the virus to spread, and I understand that it’s killing people. But lots of things kill people. Auto accidents kill roughly 100 people per day, but we don’t order everyone to stop driving. Around 3,500 Americans drown while swimming or boating each year, but we don’t order them to stay away from pools, rivers and lakes. Hell, according to this article, 4,866 people in Japan drowned in their bathtubs in 2014. Should we outlaw baths?

The point is, I’m concerned we may be social-distancing ourselves into a deep and destructive recession over a virus that’s getting a helluva lot of press coverage, but may not be much worse than ordinary influenza, and may be far less deadly than many day-to-day activities we wouldn’t dream of giving up.

And it turns out Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s leading the federal effort to contain the virus, isn’t exactly convinced we’re looking at a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu either. Here’s a quote from an article he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine:

On the basis of a case definition requiring a diagnosis of pneumonia, the currently reported case fatality rate is approximately 2%. In another article in the Journal, Guan et al. report mortality of 1.4% among 1099 patients with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19; these patients had a wide spectrum of disease severity. If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.

At least that’s what he wrote a month ago. If he’s changed his mind on the expected fatality rate, I’m not aware of him saying so.

No social-distancing in Sweden?

We should all pay close attention to the infection and death rates in Sweden for the simple reason that unlike most of the world, they’re not hunkering down at home.

While most of Europe is firmly locked down in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, Sweden is taking a softer line, keeping primary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go outside for a nip of air.

This stands in stark contrast to the urgent tone elsewhere and has sparked heated debate whether Sweden is really doing the right thing.

The country has reported more than 2,299 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 41 deaths.

Let’s do some quick math. Sweden has a population of 10.12 million. I don’t care about the confirmed cases, because unless everyone is tested, we don’t know how many people currently have or previously had the virus. With 41 dead, that’s one death for every 246,829 Swedes. In the U.S. so far, there are currently 1,470 covid-19 deaths, which translates to about one death for every 222,448 people.

So the Swedes, who are not on lockdown, have a slightly lower per-capita death rate than the U.S., which is on full lockdown. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Apparently the Swedish government has issued warnings, but people are ignoring them.

On Tuesday, the Swedish government announced that restaurants and bars would only be allowed to provide table service to avoid crowding, but stopped short of actually closing them. Health authorities also urged people to reconsider trips to visit relatives over Easter.

But for many, life is carrying on close to normal. Bars and restaurants were full at the weekend, and Stockholm’s city buses have been jam-packed at rush hour despite the social distancing recommendations.

Like I said, let’s keep an eye on Sweden. If their death rate doesn’t begin to climb beyond ours, we need to seriously wonder if all the stay-at-home orders are making a difference.

What if we’re trying to stop the spread of a virus that’s already been spread?

The link doesn’t work anymore, so I won’t bother with it, but I clipped this text from an article in the Financial Times:

The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimated — perhaps as much as half the population — according to modelling by researchers at the University of Oxford.

If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment, said Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, who led the study. The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.

Bingo. Rand Paul tested positive, but had no symptoms. Prince Charles had mild symptoms that could have easily been written off as an ordinary cold. We keep hearing about people who’ve tested positive but didn’t know they were infected. Keep that in mind.

The research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London, which has strongly influenced government policy. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” said Prof Gupta.

The Oxford study is based on a what is known as a “susceptibility-infected-recovered model” of Covid-19, built up from case and death reports from the UK and Italy. The researchers made what they regard as the most plausible assumptions about the behaviour of the virus.

The modelling brings back into focus “herd immunity”, the idea that the virus will stop spreading when enough people have become resistant to it because they have already been infected. The government abandoned its unofficial herd immunity strategy — allowing controlled spread of infection — after its scientific advisers said this would swamp the National Health Service with critically ill patients.

But the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated.

Okay, it’s a model. Models can be wrong. But it got me thinking about this article, which I read a few days ago:

A “strange pneumonia” was circulating in northern Italy as long ago as November, weeks before doctors were made aware of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, one of the European country’s leading medical experts said this week.

“They [general practitioners] remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November,” Giuseppe Remuzzi, the director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, said in an interview with the National Public Radio of the United States.

“This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of] Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.”

The current thinking among the scientific community is that the first infection in Lombardy was the result of an Italian coming into contact with a Chinese person in late January. However, if it can be shown that the novel coronavirus – officially known as SARS-CoV-2 – was in circulation in Italy in November, then that theory would be turned on its head.

One of Chareva’s relatives who works in an emergency room in Illinois told her the same thing: there was a sudden increase of patients with respiratory issues in November, but tests showed it wasn’t any of the ordinary flu strains. (The patients he saw all recovered, by the way.)

I’ve heard over and over that we weren’t prepared because nobody knew we’d end up with so many sick people.  And yet I found several articles written in November or earlier warning that a nasty flu season was coming.  Here’s one from Forbes:

The flu season is off to a particularly early start this year with seemingly more influenza activity last month than any other November since 2009, the year of the H1N1 flu pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 17-23, flu activity had appeared in all 50 states. Looks like the flu has already gone “viral,” so to speak.

A December article in Infection Control Today offered this warning:

The 2019/2020 influenza season is expected to be a rough one. Flu activity in Australia, often used as a litmus test for the United States, left many alarmed at what we might see this winter … Based upon the surveillance data in both Australia and America, the early indicators point to a severe influenza season for 2019/2020.

Could some of those cases have been Covid-19?  I looked online to see if people who were infected and recovered can still test positive. Nope, not after two to three weeks. Which got me wondering … since most people have either no symptoms or mild symptoms, and since coronavirus wasn’t on anybody’s radar back in November, is it possible the virus was circulating earlier than we currently believe? Is it possible millions of us were infected, but most of us barely noticed? Are we shutting down the world economy to prevent the spread of a virus that’s already been spread?

I don’t know. And since we can’t go back and retroactively test people who may have been exposed in November or December and recovered, we’ll probably never know.

But coronavirus has to be way worse than ordinary flu because hospitals are being overwhelmed and that hasn’t happened before!

I hear you.  In fact, I did some research online and found articles about hospitals being overwhelmed, governors declaring a state of emergency, doctors having to treat patients in temporary tents because all the hospital beds were occupied, etc.  But the articles were from 2018.  Yup, 2018.

We’ll start with a United Press International article:

Hospitals across the United States are scrambling to treat a mass influx of flu patients.

They have asked staff to work overtime and some have set up triage tents and canceled elective surgeries to handle the flood of patients.

“We are pretty much at capacity, and the volume is certainly different from previous flu seasons,” Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, N.J., told Time. “I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and it’s been a good 15 or 20 years since I’ve seen a flu-related illness scenario like we’ve had this year.”

Alabama, which declared a state of emergency in response to the flu epidemic last week, is facing a similar situation. Virginia’s hospitals are also overwhelmed by an increasing number of flu cases coming into the emergency room.

In New Jersey, emergency rooms are at full capacity and hospitals are restricting visitors, especially those with children, to help control the flu’s spread.

I’ll say it again: that article is from 2018. Here’s another from CBS:

Health officials in Southern California are warning the public that the current flu season is so intense that some hospitals are rerouting patients due to their increasingly limited capacity. From Laguna Beach to Long Beach, emergency rooms were struggling to cope with the overwhelming cases of influenza and had gone into “diversion mode,” during which ambulances are sent to other hospitals, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Here’s another from Modern Health Care:

In the middle of one of the heaviest flu seasons in years, hospitals must contend with both financial and clinical challenges.

The surge has left many hospitals overwhelmed, forcing some to set up triage tents outside of emergency departments. Others have resorted to emergency protocols such as postponing elective surgeries and limiting the number of visitors. Such activity is likely to hurt the bottom line, even though volume is increasing.

And yet another 2018 article from The Los Angeles Times:

The huge numbers of sick people are also straining hospital staff who are confronting what could become California’s worst flu season in a decade.

Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they’ll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients.

From Time Magazine in 2018:

In Fenton, Missouri, SSM Health St. Clare Hospital has opened its emergency overflow wing, as well as all outpatient centers and surgical holding centers, to make more beds available to patients who need them. Nurses are being “pulled from all floors to care for them,” says registered nurse Jennifer Braciszewski, and are being offered an increased hourly rate to work above and beyond their normal schedules. Many nurses have also become sick, however, so the staff is also short-handed.

From the Texas Tribune in 2018:

Big-city hospitals in Texas have been overwhelmed this week by an influx of flu patients, and state health officials say influenza activity is widespread across the state.

At Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, waiting rooms turned into exam areas as a medical tent was built in order to deal with the surge of patients. A Houston doctor said local hospital beds were at capacity, telling flu sufferers they might be better off staying at home. Austin’s emergency rooms have also seen an influx of flu patients.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Hospitals overwhelmed, more patients than hospital beds, hospitals having to treat people in temporary tents, medical centers postponing elective procedures to free up staff to care for the influx of sick people, etc., etc. Once again, that was in 2018.

What, you don’t remember that?  Probably not, because it didn’t become the every-hour-of-the-day news story, and we didn’t shut down the country to avoid infecting each other.

As I pointed out in my last post, if government officials held news conferences and reported all the deaths from influenza every time it comes around, we’d probably feel the same sense of panic all the nonstop news about the coronavirus is spreading.

It was a nasty flu that went around in 2017-2018.  When all the data comes in, we may find out the coronavirus wasn’t much worse.

Stay well, my friends.

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