We all have our inclinations and tendencies, deriving ultimately, I suppose, from genetic predispositions.
We’ll get no BREAKING NEWS alerts for the regular flu deaths (so far this season, more than 23,000, compared to 533 from the coronavirus).
Only coronavirus deaths are considered newsworthy.
The opinion cut about the Coronavirus pandemic—red v. blue, gentry v. proles, cloud people v. dirt people, Tutsis v. Hutus—is as plain as it can be. The best evidence of this is a chart produced by the polling company Civiqs, reproduced in the March 21st New York Times.
Red vs. Blue on Coronavirus Concern: The Gap Is Still Big but Closing, by Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy, March 21, 2020
The chart shows the proportions of people, broken out separately by Democrat and Republican, who are “extremely concerned,” about a coronavirus outbreak. It shows the proportions for each state, from late February through to late March. So there are 100 lines on this graph: fifty for Democrats, fifty for Republicans, one line per state in each case.
All the lines trend upwards, with both Tutsis and Hutus getting more “extremely concerned” through the month.
What jumps out at you, though, is that the fifty red lines, for Republicans in the fifty states, are bunched down in the five-to-fifteen-percent zone; while the fifty blue lines, for Democrats, occupy a totally separate space up in the twenty-to-sixty-percent zone.
The most worried state for both Democrats and Republicans, was Washington State: 62 percent of Democrats, 20 percent of Republicans.
I’m amazed the pollsters could find any Republicans up there in the Tutsi heartlands of the Northwest.
The least worried Democrats were in Minnesota, 42 percent; the least worried Republicans in Arkansas, eight percent.
I’ll confess that my own temperamental leaning is towards skepticism. After all these years of observing and commenting on Western society, it’s hard not to see the news as just a succession of hysterias.
We live in a hysterical age, the more so since social media came up. When suddenly something new is filling the airwaves—MeToo, Russian Collusion, Black Lives Matter—my default response is: “Oh, here’s the latest hysteria. Who’s whipping up this one?”
However, I try at the same time to be a good empiricist, holding firmly to the belief that some things are true even though the enemy says they are true.
I live just thirty miles from Elmhurst Hospital in New York City, tagged on Wednesday this week by the city hospitals administration as “the center of the crisis.”
That was after thirteen people died there in a 24-hour period. We’re getting harrowing reports from medical staff in the city. [Coronavirus: ‘Hell’ at New York’s COVID-19 ground zero, By Alistair Bunkall, Sky News, March 26, 2020].
As of March 26, around half of all confirmed coronavirus cases were in the New York City area.
Use this link to determine the closest cases to you.
As best I can judge from the mess of data, and making due allowance for the level of hysteria that underlies all news reporting nowadays, we are looking at something unusually nasty here, and the extreme social distancing being urged on us is justified.
It’ll be a whole lot more justified if we can localize and refine it; but for that we need a better quality of data than we’ve had so far.
The people in charge seem to understand this; so after a couple more weeks of one-size-fits-all lockdown, we’ll move to something more targeted and loose.
The Southern Hemisphere bears keeping an eye on. There is a general expectation up here that as the weather warms through April, the virus will quiesce, perhaps bouncing back again in the Fall. That’s a Northern Hemisphere-supremacist point of view, though. As our hemisphere warms up, the folk down in Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa, etc. are cooling off into their fall and winter.
The next few weeks should give us a clearer idea about how much this new coronavirus minds the weather.
It looked for a while as though Brazil might offer us a test-bed for total government inaction. Jair Bolsonaro, the president of that country, is an extreme virus skeptic, out there with Lady Ann. On March 20, he called COVID-19 “a little flu.” [Brazil’s Bolsonaro again says coronavirus concern overblown, by David Biller, AP, March 24, 2020]
— Mauricio Savarese (@MSavarese) March 25, 2020
Brazil’s politicians and health officials, though, beg to differ. They seem to be going with the international consensus of quarantines, social distancing, and the rest. [Where Is the Coronavirus in Latin America?, Americas Society and Council of the Americas, March 27, 2020]
Reading that report on Brazil’s response, my attention got snagged on this sentence:
On March 24, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta announced the government would start to roll out a plan that will distribute 2.3 million testing kits to states across Brazil. The Ministry also plans to import over 1 million rapid tests from the United States in April.
So the U.S.A. is sufficiently over-supplied with testing kits we can export a million of them to Brazil next month!
Good to know.