Basing public health decisions on hunches can be a dangerous business


Today, I  read some startling statistics in our local Winnipeg Free Press.  Trump has admitted that the United States will likely suffer between 100,000 and 2000, deaths. Assuming the lower of those two amounts, Gwynne Dyer said the following:

“One hundred American deaths is a toll 30 times higher than the 3,331 reported Chinese deaths, but that still leaves one important number out. The population of China is four times larger than that of the United States. So in proportion to its population COVID-19 will kill Americans at  120 times the rate its is reported to have killed Chines people.”

There are a number of countries that have about the same proportion of deaths. And they seem surprising—Italy, Spain, U.K. and of course the U.S. What is happening? It is usually the rich countries that avoid pandemics while the poor countries suffer.

But there is a common denominator. As Dyer said,

“All theses countries moved very late to act against the virus, so late their only remaining option was lockdown. Whereas all the East Asian countries reacted at once.

China, where the coronavirus originated, was blind-sided by the wave of deaths in Wuhan, but as soon as the virus had been identified, Beijing locked the city down, and soon after the whole country. A week or two were lost to the Chinese regimes denial and its reluctance to damage the economy. But the reaction was still fast enough. The lockdown worked, and most Chinese citizens are now back to work.”

In the U.S. when CVOD-19 arrived, Trump did not act right away because he was getting “expert” advice from the television pundits on Fox News who were scorning the disease as a hoax or a second attempt at impeachment. As a result Trump  delayed taking it seriously and the U.S. lost valuable time.

As Dyer said,

“Western countries did no use the ample time they had to put a similar system in place. They didn’t even stock up on masks, ventilators and protective clothing. They let the infection spread so widely that only a long, full lockdown could contain it. Why? Arrogance, wishful thinking, and a determination not to harm economic growth.”

Now that is also just one man’s opinion but is sure makes more sense than the wild conspiracy theories going around.

Of course, that will likely lead to a more prolonged affect on the economy. Exactly what some western leaders wanted to avoid. Of course, much more important than the effect on the economy is the effect on the health of people in those countries. Making public health decisions on the basis of hunches, rather than science can be a dangerous business.


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