Are Daily Headlines Driving the Fear?

by Larry Hincker

Last year, Virginia suffered 1,800 flu deaths. So far, the COVID-19 virus has taken about 425. The 2017-18 flu season was the worst in four decades. More than 80,000 Americans died that year.

What if newspapers posted a chart of flu deaths on their front page every day, like they now do with COVID? Wouldn’t that scare the bejesus out of people? Imagine the headlines on Jan. 8, 2018 – “80 Virginians died this week from the flu.” Or this whopper at the end of February: “120 dead just this week alone from flu or flu-like illnesses.” Or this – “Flu is expected to take more than 2,000 Virginians before the season is over.”

And the drumbeat goes on week, after week, after week. I wonder if I’d ever leave the house.

I was in organizational communications for more than four decades. I have observed that when something happens every day in the background, people tend to take it for granted. Like flu deaths. But when it enters the consciousness of the general public, it can be totally misunderstood.

Consider this – I worked for Rockwell Hanford in Washington State in the 1980s. My company was the Bombs Are Us for the Department of Energy (DOE). We made plutonium for nukes. (Interesting place to cut one’s PR teeth.)

It was a business where workers were almost routinely exposed to low levels of radiation. (It was not a good thing, but neither is cutting one’s hand on an automotive assembly line. It happens.) If possibly exposed and/or at the end of each shift, workers went to a counter to ensure they were clean. If not, they washed with soap and water and measured again. (Sound familiar in the current environment?) Not a big deal from the standpoint of worker protection.

But– a new DOE director arrived from Washington, D.C., with a full-disclosure attitude (which we PR types later dubbed “The Open Kimono Policy”).  Lo, when we started publishing the weekly exposure stats, the media had a field day. “Radiation exposures rampant at Washington DOE site,” they said.

Sadly, our safety stats were actually the best we’d had in years. It took months of statistics and education to get that genie back in the box. And yes, we stopped the weekly releases of exposure data.

The norms are there in the background. Once it lands on the front-page, it creates an entirely new perspective… an entirely new level of awareness. Uh, kind of like President Trump when he said, “Gee, I didn’t know people died from the flu.” New information can be shocking to the uninitiated.

I do not dare pin this current problem all on the media. Epidemiologists, health care providers, and policy makers didn’t really know what this thing looked like. When facing the unknown, they elected to SHUT IT DOWN. That was the right decision. It was and remains big news.

And I realize that COVID 19 is not the flu. It was unknown, spreading fast, and therefore pretty frightening. It strikes the elderly more severely than others. But like the flu, it’s more lethal for those with underlying health problems. While it is “novel” (derived from the Latin word Novus for new… why can’t we just say new?), data are mounting concerning it transmissibility, severity, and deadliness. Some say it acts quite like the flu. Is it possible that, other than some severe hotspots like New York City and other major cities, we are fixated just a bit too much?

We react to the news. Studies have shown that consumers of negative news are more pessimistic or exhibit misperceptions of risk. Faced with the drumbeat of negative news, consumers have difficulty discerning relative risk. Car crashes kill about one million people annually. Commercial air crashes almost nil. Yet, fear of flying far outranks fear of driving in most any culture. Automotive deaths are, sadly, background noise compared to an airliner crash.

I recently heard an immunologist say, “Normally, we quarantine the sick. For the first time in history, we’ve quarantined the healthy.” We may be in the midst of self-induced hysteria. We obsess over the statistics. We’ve slammed our economy with record levels of unemployment. And we keep reading those damn COVID charts. Maybe it’s time to put it all in perspective.

Larry Hincker is a retired corporate communications and public relations executive and lives in Blacksburg.

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29 responses to “Are Daily Headlines Driving the Fear?

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Back in the 1950s Americans became obsessed with horror and sci/fi movies. Historians claim this was a byproduct of the Cold War fears. I wonder what is the root of the fear driving the society towards a cliff?

  2. Most public opinion polling is really only measuring the impact of media messages on pliable minds. That’s true of campaign messaging, social media or the drive by media – when they are pounding home some POV, the polling reflects whether it is taking hold or not. It sure is taking hold in this situation.

  3. The panic is largely intentional. “If it bleeds it leads” has long been a snarky reality in journalism and COVID-19 bleeds. However, there is a sub-current from the left around “never wasting a crisis”. The more sensational the coverage the longer the calls for lockdown. The longer the calls for lockdown the more economic damage. The more economic damage the more apparent need for government intervention. The more the need for government intervention the larger the government must become. The larger government becomes the closer to socialism we get. And that’s the real point.

    There are, of course, sub-plots. Nancy Pelosi has tipped her hand by declaring that any new relief will require aid to states. This is code whispering. The aid to the states will be used to bail out the failed states of the left like Illinois. States that mismanaged their finances for decades will be rescued by those of us who live in states that properly managed their finances. And all in the name of COVID-19.

    Of course comparisons to the flu result in shrieks from the left. The useful idiots of the left have been well trained in how to escalate issues into crises in order to demand more and larger government. When the larger, more invasive government fails with the next crisis the useful idiots will simply scream the we just didn’t make government big enough back in the COVID-19 days.

    • I was impressed that McConnell was recommending that States file for bankruptcy.

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      • States like Illinois that dug themselves a huge hole with irresponsible pension benefits for government employees, who, by the way make big campaign contributions to those very same elected officials who create the unsustainable plans should file for bankruptcy.

        It’s wrong to make Virginia help pay for these pensions as the Commonwealth went to a hybrid defined-contribution/benefit plan a number of years ago.

        • I agree with TMT – BUT… to use that as a reason to deny aid to all states is not the answer either.

          THe aid should be given – but targeted to direct impacts associated with COVID 19 and nothing more – no bailouts.

          If we do not provide aid to State …AND LOCAL govts – they’re going to have to lay off essential personnel.. police, fire, EMS… as well as teachers if we expect to open schools up again.

          It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.

          It’s just plain dumb… it will almost surely lengthen the damage if not dealt with.

          • TooManyTaxes

            Aid should not be given to bail out public sector pension plans. Those and other post-retirement benefits are a tremendous part of many states’ financial problems. It’s a quid pro quo for campaign contributions. Fairfax County, for example, gives teachers who retire early the value of Social Security benefits until they reach 62 but then continue the Social Security benefit equivalent until the retiree dies. Tell me why taxpayers should bail out this ridiculous payment for campaign contribution bribes.

            State and local government do an awful lot of things that really aren’t the core of their responsibility. Fairfax County did a line of business review of some 460 plus functions and the staff found them all essential. We could cut a lot of stuff without firing cops or teachers.

            What is the instructor-non-instructor ratio in our public schools? What was it 20 years ago? Bring the ratio back to where it was 20 years ago. That’s not laying off teachers. What was the teaching load in our colleges 20 years ago? Make the faculty teach loads the way they used to do.

            Private sector people are losing their jobs. Health care workers are losing their jobs because no elective procedures are being done. Yet, every freeking public sector job must be protected.

            The government lies regularly from Uncle Sam down to the Mosquito Control District. It’s how they stay funded.

          • TMT – are you including Federal employee pensions in your criticisms?

  4. Perhaps it would be good to have those headlines about the number of flu deaths each week. That might provide an incentive to folks to get a flu shot. The CDC estimated that only a little more than a third of the country’s adults had a gotten a flu shot for the 2017-2108 flu season. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1718estimates.htm

    • Over the years, we’ve had news about auto deaths, drunk driving deaths, cigarette deaths, and oxy-contin deaths… etc, etc…

      And yes there is all kinds of media – always have been.

      Anyone stood in line at the grocery and looked at those magazines that have just outrageous sensational front pages claiming just outright lies – and yes.. people do buy them. They’ve been there for as long as I can remember. If people believe that stuff – who you gonna blame?

      Conspiracy theories have infested the internet – and yes.. folks read them then distribute them – and people believe them – to the point where they actually go and attack others.

      It is incumbent on each one of us to intelligently discern the information we encounter – no matter where we encounter it. Media is only one source – nowdays – it’s all over the internet.

  5. You have a good writing style and your experience shows. However, this is pretty much just another take that “COVID-19 isn’t worse than the flu”:

    And I realize that COVID 19 is not the flu.

    If you did, you would not say the following and try to use this as support:

    More than 80,000 Americans died that year.(from the flu)

    You’re making a direct comparison to the flu, with the implication that since this is like the flu we should not have these headlines filled with statistics that you feel are overblown.

    However, unlike the flu, we’ve lost almost 60,000 people in 12 weeks. This is nearly 10 times who we lost on Sept. 11th.

  6. One possibility that you neglect to consider is that, without those headlines providing an incentive for people to practice social distancing and stay at home, there would likely have been more deaths.

    • Yes.. that is an interesting point. What prior flu outbreak have we had where they said it was imperative that we practice social-distancing?

      Is that a new thing about flu in general or something very specific to this one?

      And WHO is telling us this? Yes… the govt .. but where are they getting it from? Scientists?

      Do we believe the scientists when they say that his particular flu requires social distancing?

      how about it? Any skeptics here or we’re all believers?

  7. “without those headlines providing an incentive for people to practice social distancing and stay at home,there would likely have been more deaths.”

    Or likely there would be far fewer deaths, misery and despair. Along with a far more freedom, opportunity, and quality of life.

    • With zero social distancing, you say it’s “likely” there would have been “far fewer deaths, misery and despair”?? If we’re already at 60K deaths after 12 weeks with social distancing, and counting? Sorry, that doesn’t compute.

      As for that “far more freedom, opportunity, and quality of life,” we agree: without distancing, for the handful of weeks that folks managed to avoid coming down with the virus they definitely could live a more carefree life! Then, the infection: a small price to pay (if you live through it). Herd immunity, here we come!

    • Ah, but Acbar, my friend, you are a sensible man. I fear many of Scientists, Healthcare Professionals, and Policy Experts in Virginia, are not so sensible:

      For example, here are some of their mandates for Virginia:

      “Recommendations for Maximizing Social Distancing in Virginia

      Maintain and strengthen stay at home order:

      Maintain the stay at home order until daily new infections in Virginia are zero or close to zero. Consider tools to promote greater adherence to the order. We know from other countries that strict lockdowns can dramatically reduce the number of infections in as little as five weeks. The Virginia stay at home order is less strict than many in the United States and countries that have contained COVID-19.

      Educate public about social distancing within homes:

      About 80% of transmission is within family groups. If there is a risk of infection, housemates should reduce risk by separating temporarily.

      Require businesses to enact safer service and product delivery policies. To the extent possible, Virginia should require companies providing essentials to provide curbside pickup or other methods to reduce risk for employees and customers. Labor unions are already calling for such rules: “UFCW Calls on CDC to Issue Mandatory Guidance for Frontline Workers During Coronavirus Outbreak”.

      Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities:

      We know from China that most coronavirus infections occur within families. Multi-case families are well known to be common here as well. A “Safe Family” program is needed. Anyone who has tested positive, is presumed to be positive, or is a close contact of a positive individual should isolate. Anyone who is isolating but is not confirmed for COVID-19 must have at a minimum their own bedroom and bathroom. Individuals with a dedicated bedroom and bathroom in their home and not requiring medical care might isolate at home. For those who cannot safely isolate at home, Virginia should use college dormitories as a low-cost voluntary isolation option. This will dramatically reduce the number of cases and dramatically shorten the time we spend under lockdown. These facilities should also be open to first responders. Virginia should designate hospitals for COVID-19 patients to reduce the spread of the disease in healthcare settings.

      Recommendations for Cheaply Scaling up Isolation Capacity in Virginia

      General guidelines for isolation:

      Prioritize Highest Risk Individuals: Individuals who live in collective housing should be the first to be isolated.

      Home Isolation: Isolate at home those who are alone, but make sure they are committed not to leave their apartments/homes and they have no-contact delivery of food and other necessities.

      Distinguish between two groups:

      (1) Known to be positive: People who are known to be positive and who have mild/no symptoms can isolate in shared spaces with other positive individuals, such as dormitories with shared bathrooms.

      (2) Presumed positive or close contact of individuals who have tested positive: This group includes roommates/family members of those who have tested positive. These individuals must be isolated individually. Individual isolation means they have at a minimum their own bedroom and bathroom. Individual isolation is required for this group because we have not confirmed whether they are sick, and we therefore don’t want them to become sick from others or infect others.

      Use college dormitories: Use local college dormitories as low-cost isolation option for those who require limited monitoring and care, i.e. people who would isolate at home if they lived alone. Dormitories (including facilities with shared bathroom and separate bathrooms, as appropriate) should also be made available to presumed COVID-19 cases, close contacts of infected individuals, and first responders. Use hotels and AirBnbs as well if funds are available. Further information on Wisconsin’s voluntary self-isolation facilities: https://www.nbc15.com/content/news/Wisconsin-opens–569259181.html

      Implement “safe travel” rules to prevent importation of new cases: Implementing a stay at home order without travel restrictions is like to trying to drain a bathtub while the faucet is running. Virginia should curtail nonessential air and highway travel so that progress in reducing cases is not undermined by newly introduced ones. We should follow other states in announcing a mandatory 14 day quarantine for most out-of-state visitors, with exceptions for shipments of goods and other travel deemed critical. For further details: …”

      ALL THIS LINKED INTO URGENT LETTER TO VIRGINIA’S GOVERNOR:

      “The Honorable Ralph Northam
      Governor of Virginia

      Dear Governor Northam:

      We are scientists, healthcare professionals, policy experts, business owners, and concerned citizens.

      We are calling on you to make Virginia a leader in deploying aggressive strategies against COVID-19. Your March 30th stay at home order is saving lives and your Forward Virginia blueprint contains important steps. However, we believe even more actions will be needed before we can safely reopen Virginia. As you know, all Virginians are hurting, but Virginians who happen to be elderly, unemployed, low income, African-American, or working in high-risk jobs are suffering disproportionately.

      We know Virginia is severely resource constrained as a result of this crisis. That’s why we are proposing high-impact actions our state can implement now at minimal cost, even in the absence of additional federal support.

      Our goal must be near-zero infections in the short-term. Anyone who tells you this is impossible is ignoring the experience of other countries. Taiwan and South Korea – countries with populations several times larger than Virginia’s – have only a handful of new cases every day (and zero on some days). Virginia can replicate their success with the right policies. And that means Virginia will get back to work and become a model for the rest of our country.

      The EndCoronavirus.org network of scientists and activists drafted this letter in conjunction with the undersigned concerned citizens of Virginia. We respectfully request that you immediately implement the following low-cost, high-impact actions:

      Empower local governments:
      The counties and cities suffering most from COVID-19 lack the legal authority to take independent action against the disease. Virginia should empower municipalities to make and enforce additional rules on social distancing, masks, mandatory quarantines for outside visitors, among other measures. Aggressive policies in areas with higher rates of transmission will protect neighboring counties. All municipalities should continue to enforce state-wide rules.

      Maximize social distancing:
      Maintain the stay at home order until we have near zero new daily cases in Virginia. Educate the public about the importance of social distancing within homes (most infections likely occur within families). Require businesses to enact safer product and service delivery policies, such as curbside pickup when possible. Ensure Virginia businesses that remain open provide their employees with protective equipment as appropriate and adhere to social distancing. For further details: Social Distancing Recommendations.

      Expand mask usage:
      Ensuring greater usage of masks in Virginia is critical if we want to save lives and end the lockdown. Virginia should require cloth face coverings in public spaces such as supermarkets and common areas of apartment buildings. Building staff should enforce the rule – not police. Individuals with serious health or safety issues related to masks should be allowed to enter buildings without face coverings if they voice their health or safety issues to building staff. Authorities should provide free masks at key locations, such as supermarkets, and to low-income and high-risk individuals. Virginia should continue to educate the public about how to safely make and wear masks. All Virginia officials, starting with Governor Northam, should model the use of masks in public. For further details: Mask Recommendations.

      Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to cheaply scale up testing:
      Consider low-cost approaches to cheaply scale up testing, such as CT Scans. CT scans have a low false positive rate and tens of thousands can be done per day with existing equipment. Medical and safety protocols exist. CT scans were used extensively in Hubei province in China as an integral part of the early identification and isolation policy that led to a rapid decrease in the number of cases. ddPCR Group Testing Methods should also be considered. Virginia must scale up testing to the point that we test everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, workers in high-risk jobs, and members of the general population, including individuals who live in high-risk settings (nursing homes, prisons, etc.). For further details: Testing Recommendations.

      Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing:
      We need an army of at least 1,000 paid contact tracers, but if that is not feasible in the short-term, volunteer contact tracers can make a significant dent in infections. Engage with municipalities and community organizations to coordinate community volunteer contact tracing efforts (or work with Virginia Medical Reserve Corps). Contact tracers should support infected individuals and perform door to door checks to identify individuals with symptoms requiring testing. For more details: Contact Tracing Recommendations.

      Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities:
      We know from China that most coronavirus infections occur within families. Multi-case families are well known to be common here as well. A “Safe Family” program is needed. Anyone who has tested positive, is presumed to be positive, or is a close contact of a positive individual should isolate. Anyone who is isolating but is not confirmed for COVID-19 must have at a minimum their own bedroom and bathroom. Individuals with a dedicated bedroom and bathroom in their home and not requiring medical care might isolate at home. For those who cannot safely isolate at home, Virginia should use college dormitories as a low-cost voluntary isolation option. This will dramatically reduce the number of cases and dramatically shorten the time we spend under lockdown. These facilities should also be open to first responders. Virginia should designate hospitals for COVID-19 patients to reduce the spread of the disease in healthcare settings. For further details: Isolation Recommendations.

      Implement “safe travel” rules to prevent importation of new cases:
      Implementing a stay at home order without travel restrictions is like to trying to drain a bathtub while the faucet is running. Virginia should curtail nonessential air and highway travel so that progress in reducing cases is not undermined by newly introduced ones. We should follow other states in announcing a mandatory 14 day quarantine for most out-of-state visitors, with exceptions for shipments of goods and other travel deemed critical. For further details: Safe Travel Recommendations.

      The signers of this letter, including EndCoronavirus.org initiative leader Yaneer Bar-Yam, would welcome the opportunity to discuss these recommendations with you. Please reach out to … for any matters regarding this letter. Thank you for your leadership during this difficult time.

      Signed:

      Scientists, Healthcare Professionals, and Policy Experts:

      Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, Professor of Public Health Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Luiz Shozo Ozaki, PhD, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases, Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, University of Virginia, Richmond, VA
      Dean Kedes, MD, PhD Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD Physics, President, New England Complex Systems Institute, Founder, EndCoronavirus.org, Boston, MA
      Kate Langwig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Ronke Akinkugbe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
      Fern R Hauck, MD, Spencer P Bass, Twenty-first Century Professor of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
      Larry Mesner, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Bob Klesges, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Germantown, TN
      Pamela B. Teaster, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Scientists, Healthcare Professionals, and Policy Experts:
      Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, Professor of Public Health Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Luiz Shozo Ozaki, PhD, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases, Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, University of Virginia, Richmond, VA
      Dean Kedes, MD, PhD Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD Physics, President, New England Complex Systems Institute, Founder, EndCoronavirus.org, Boston, MA
      Kate Langwig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Ronke Akinkugbe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
      Fern R Hauck, MD, Spencer P Bass, Twenty-first Century Professor of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
      Larry Mesner, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Bob Klesges, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Germantown, TN
      Pamela B. Teaster, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Scientists, Healthcare Professionals, and Policy Experts:
      Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, Professor of Public Health Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Luiz Shozo Ozaki, PhD, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases, Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, University of Virginia, Richmond, VA
      Dean Kedes, MD, PhD Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD Physics, President, New England Complex Systems Institute, Founder, EndCoronavirus.org, Boston, MA
      Kate Langwig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Ronke Akinkugbe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
      Fern R Hauck, MD, Spencer P Bass, Twenty-first Century Professor of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
      Larry Mesner, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Bob Klesges, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Germantown, TN
      Pamela B. Teaster, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Scientists, Healthcare Professionals, and Policy Experts:
      Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, Professor of Public Health Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Luiz Shozo Ozaki, PhD, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases, Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, University of Virginia, Richmond, VA
      Dean Kedes, MD, PhD Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD Physics, President, New England Complex Systems Institute, Founder, EndCoronavirus.org, Boston, MA
      Kate Langwig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Ronke Akinkugbe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
      Fern R Hauck, MD, Spencer P Bass, Twenty-first Century Professor of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
      Larry Mesner, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Bob Klesges, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Germantown, TN
      Pamela B. Teaster, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Chongzhi Zang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Soyoun Kim, PhD, Research Specialist in Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      Judith Miriam White, PhD, Professor and Virologist, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
      Daniel A. Engel, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
      J. David Castle, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
      Peter Uetz, PhD, Associate Professor Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, Center for Biological Data Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
      Malcolm M Smith, Professor of Microbiology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
      Young Hahn, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
      Nammalwar Sriranganathan, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
      Michael McVoy, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

      This letter can be found at:
      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VnsP9ZIYvbRo-pDMG8HZIMiRU1CF7OmfdJzrKhq40rQ/edit

  8. “You’re making a direct comparison to the flu, with the implication that since this is like the flu we should not have these headlines filled with statistics that you feel are overblown.
    However, unlike the flu, we’ve lost almost 60,000 people in 12 weeks.”

    All this talk of how can’t compare yearly death tolls to what we have experience so far is ridiculous.
    It is called a flu “season” for a reason

    From the CDC “In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. While influenza viruses circulate year-round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May. ”

    And a look at the mortality figures shows they have a typical surge period of 13- 15 weeks.

    This is a blog about Virginia, and in Virginia COVID has NOT been as lethal as a bad flu season.

    • Does the fact that people are socially distancing have anything to do with how many are getting infected?

      If we did not socially distance – would it be like a lot of other flu seasons?

    • 60,000 is a really bad flu season. And flu is in fact seasonal.

      We are at about six to seven weeks into this surge, not 15, and we don’t currently know if it will be seasonal or will continue year round.

  9. ‘The food supply chain is breaking,’ Tyson says as plants close

    Tyson Foods (TSN) is warning that “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the supply chain as the coronavirus pandemic pushes food processing plants to close, leading to product shortages in grocery stores across the country.

    “The food supply chain is breaking,” wrote board chairman John Tyson in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.”

    So is this the media hyping this issue?

    If the CEO of Tysons is making this statement – is it wrong for the Media to report it?

    Bonus Question: Is it the Govt telling Tysons to close plants or is Tysons doing this on their own?

  10. I’m curious about what is meant when we use the term “social distancing”, particularly when we’re talking about whether or not it is working. Are we separating it from the “Stay at Home” orders? If you consider them one and the same, a heck of a lot of people aren’t staying at home from what I’ve seen, but they do appear to be complying with the “not too close” version of social distancing, for the most part, when they are out and about and we not seeing massive breakouts of the illness. Doesn’t this show that the “not staying home” version of social distancing is working? If so, is there really justification for not opening more segments of the economy? Presently, I can go to Walmart and “mix” with a thousand other people, plus Walmart employees, and we can all touch a lot of things, then we can all go our separate ways to “mix” with 700 more different folks, not counting employees, at our favorite home improvement store, and we can all touch a lot of things, and then go our separate ways and come in contact with X-number of others. This is happening pretty much everywhere and yet certain segments of the economy, who can conceivably take the same level of precautions as my example businesses are not allowed to open and both businesses and their employees are suffering. There seems to be some good brains on both sides among the “Bacon’s Rebellion” frequent flyers. What am I missing?

    • good questions and there are actually some scientifically-based answers that have to do with how close you are and how long you are in close proximity.

      Science is dictating the guidelines and Govt is adopting them as policy.

      Never before with any other virus have we had such rules.

      Why now? What makes this one so different and what makes the recommended social distancing so important?

    • Social distancing and stay-at-home are complementary policies. We do not have true quarantine, which would be a mandatory stay-at-home. We have stay-at-home except for trips for needed items, such as food and medicine. And when you do go out, practice social distancing. To make sure we keep the “needed” trips to a minimum, only “essential” stores are allowed to stay open. Because it would be difficult to practice social distancing in some venues, such as restaurants, concerts, movies, etc., they are ordered closed. That reinforces stay-at-home, because there are fewer places to go.

      Yes, you go to WalMart and Lowes and “mix” with folks and you and they touch things. I know that you wash your hands when you get home. But some of those other folks may not do so. Also, those are big stores and it is easier to keep a fair distance between people. With smaller stores, it is not so easy. The more stores that are open, the greater the risk of community spread. By allowing grocery stores, home improvement stores, and a few other “essential” ones to stay open, we reduce the risk of spread. Somewhere recently I read that 40 percent of the state’s economy is still “open”. I don’t know if that is correct, but it sounds about right. The places that are closed are the smaller places where the risk for spread would be higher.

      • I would guess closer to 70-80%. About 30-40% of people are working from home. Essential services, sole proprietors, and agriculture are all still working. Retail and restaurants are working curbside.

      • The current unemployment rate is about 20% – and projected to go higher.

        What is worrisome is that meat packing plants are closing and that’s having a cascade effect on producers.

        It appears that the meat packing plants are deciding themselves to close rather than the govt shutting them down – which the Tysons CEO said that until they can figure out how to keep COVID 19 out of the plants, they have no choice.

        Similarly, other manufacturers including the auto industry is saying the same thing – i.e. , it’s not the govt shutting them down, it’s the virus.

        That makes no-never-mind to the anti-govt boo birds… it’s all the govts fault anyhow.

        • It’s partly a supply chain and consolidation issue. Used to be many local slaughterhouses. Now, very few, the ones that are left are mostly very large, and mostly centralized under very large companies.

          This has been a hot topic with small farmers well before covid. But it’s also an issue that crosses industries. Consolidation and extreme efficiency without a disaster plan is fine until you have the disaster.

  11. How to reconcile the title of this post: “Are Daily Headlines Driving the Fear?”

    with this poll:

    Americans overwhelmingly support state-imposed restrictions on businesses and the size of public gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They also back a temporary halt to immigration into the country, as ordered by President Trump, to deal with the crisis, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

    The poll finds that Americans’ concerns about becoming seriously ill from the virus have not eased in the past week and also shows that Americans continue to give their governors significantly higher ratings than they offer Trump, who still draws mostly negative reviews for how he has handled the crisis.

    &w=1440

    Are we to believe that the “media” has “shaped” people’s opinions to such a degree that a majority of them are being misled?

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