As people know, the coronavirus (i.e. SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19) is running rampant in China. It’s an epidemic in China, but the question is whether it’ll become a pandemic that will hit our shores too.
- At the most basic level the term “pandemic” refers to how widespread a disease is (e.g. sustained transmission). For example, the common cold and the flu are technically pandemics each cold or flu season. However, we don’t typically worry about them. So a pandemic alone doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be horrible news for humanity, though of course it’s not as if a pandemic is a good thing.
- We’d have to consider additional factors in order to figure out how bad it’ll be for us. For starters, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, we’d have to consider a disease’s infection (i.e. R0) rate and its fatality rate. If these are high enough, and if the disease is also a pandemic, then that’s potentially quite disconcerting. These rates are based on the empirical data; more on the data in a moment.
- Still, there are limitations. I don’t think the coronavirus is going to wipe out humanity. Christians in particular should trust God’s sovereignty here.
Also, at least based on the data so far, I doubt even in a worst case scenario the coronavirus will be as bad as the Spanish flu in 1918 which on most estimates infected about 500 million people (~25% of the world’s population at the time) and killed between 50 million to 100 million people (including ~650,000 Americans), making the Spanish influenza one of the deadliest diseases in history.
For one thing, infectious disease experts have been expecting and warning about an eventual coronavirus to emerge, which it did. Likewise medical care has advanced by leaps and bounds since 1918 (e.g. vastly improved sterilization techniques, hygiene education). And we’re not coming out of a world war.
- That said, most Western medical experts are highly skeptical of the data coming out of China. We don’t know how reliable the numbers are. Sure, China has been more trustworthy than in the past, but that’s not saying much, I don’t think. To be fair, the data from developed nations is likely more reliable (e.g. Japan, S. Korea, perhaps Italy).
In addition, though it seems we’re prepared, there may be some cracks beneath the surface. A recent concern is what UC Davis reported. This is a big deal.
Also, it wouldn’t necessarily take much for our medical facilities to be overwhelmed. We may be well-prepared, but even the most well-prepared place could easily become overwhelmed if enough people in an area need their services. Some places are better than others.
And in general I don’t trust mainstream media, nor international organizations like the WHO (e.g. see here). At best, there are a lot of people out there who don’t know what they don’t know.
- In short, on the one hand, I don’t think we should panic about the coronavirus. I don’t think it’s generally helpful to panic even when something might be worth panicking about.
On the other hand, I don’t think we should have little or no concern about the coronavirus. It’s not implausible that the coronavirus becomes overwhelming even for developed nations.
- Instead I think we should be realistically prepared.
One thing I’d think is a good idea is if people buy basic supplies now rather than later. That’s because if the coronavirus situation does worsen considerably, then it’s possible there will be a supply shortage (e.g. Senator Josh Hawley’s remarks).
I’m referring to items like food and water. If someone has dependents, then make sure their needs are provided for (e.g. diapers for babies, drug prescriptions refilled for the elderly). That sort of thing.
Likewise basic medical supplies (e.g. adult and infant medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, cough syrups, hand sanitizers, band-aids, gauze, gloves, injection needles, surgical masks).
Anyway, no need to panic, but prepare.
- I think it’d be best to follow physicians and other relevant experts for news about the coronavirus. For example, consider following Roger Seheult who is a pulmonary and critical care physician (as well as a 7th day Adventist in Loma Linda, California). Another person to consider is the virologist Ian Mackay.