SPECIAL: Following COVID-19 Pied Pipers Off the Cliff

J Robert Smith

  • April 10, 2020
  • 3 min read

An expert avoids all of the many pitfalls on his or her way to the grand fallacy.”

Henry Mintzberg Collection of Expert Quotes

“When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion.”

Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August


The experts and epidemiological models have been embarrassingly wrong. COVID-19 isn’t a figment of our imaginations, but it’s not the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic – not by a long shot. We’re in the midst of an historic overreaction to a contagious infection. Tens of millions of working Americans and small businesses are paying the price. Paychecks and jobs, lost, and small businesses hanging by threads.

Are experts and their radical prescriptions crippling America? Why have New York City and surroundings served as the template for responses across a nation not acutely struck?

The Spanish flu killed an estimated 675,000 Americans. America never shutdown then. Globally, up to 50 million people died.

As of this writing,16,535 Americans diagnosed with the coronavirus are dead. Most are old, and many had preexisting conditions. Since 2010, the U.S. averages about 34,000 flu deaths annually. Most of those who die from the flu are, yes, old and suffer underlying medical conditions.

While the COVID-19 death toll will rise, it won’t begin to approach the 1918 body count. It may not even hit the worse flu season (2017-18) in the last decade, which took an estimated 61,000 lives. Most Americans under 60 who get COVID-19 aren’t endangered. Many may not even know they’re sick.

With COVID-19, there will be no mass graves dug in community parks. Hospitals aren’t being overrun.

New York City and surroundings are outliers. They’ve been hotspots. The Big Apple seems to be an epicenter for unusual reasons. It’s an international city. The Elmhurst section of Brooklyn is full of Chinese. Among the Chinese are those who travel to China – or who are visited by mainland Chinese. Population density is high in New York’s five boroughs. It’s simple common sense: infectious disease spreads rapidly in densely populated areas.

Epidemiological models first predicted 2.2 million dead Americans. Ever since, revised modeling has ratcheted down the death toll. Last week, the range given was 100,000 to 249,000 dead. The week of April 5 was projected as grim, when the death toll would explode. No such thing is occurring.

In reaction to COVID-19, our multi-trillion dollar economy is closed. Millions of now unemployed Americans await relief checks from Uncle Sam. Tens of thousands of small businesses are on life support. How many mom and pop businesses will be victims of COVID-19 shutdowns?

If the economic shutdowns drag on, or the economy is reopened too slowly, the damage done may take more than months to repair. It may take years. No apocalyptic scourge forced federal and state officials’ hands. These wounds to the nation aren’t being inflicted by a virus, but by our leaders and the experts that bend their ears.

Talking heads drone on that one life lost to COVID-19 is one too many. Have we become so insulated by our affluence that we’re too easily jolted? No one wants to see a life lost to a virus, but death happens in many ways daily.

The mortality rate on earth is 100%. Humans throughout history have had to cope with adversities and death with toughness and resilience – and on far greater scales than the COVID-19 contagion. What does our lack of proportion say about our judgments? Should we ever again follow experts so uncritically?

If we so readily retreat and shutter the country when confronted by a milder contagion, what happens when truly formidable challenges arise? Are we any longer tough enough to survive and thrive?

What do you think? Weigh in!

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