There’s a pandemic of fear being spread by the media. Yes, COVID-19 coronavirus is a serious medical concern. But the world has come to a screeching halt. People seem to be cowering in their homes in fear and panic. Here are some reasons to be optimistic in the middle of all the darkness.
First things first, let’s get to know the word pandemic. The word pandemic does not relate to a disease’s lethality or really even to how easily it’s transmitted. If these two were the measure of a pandemic, the seasonal flu would be a yearly pandemic. The case fatality rate (CFR) for COVID-19 is declining even as the new case counts are going up (more on this in a minute.)
No, pandemic refers to an illness with sustained and continued transmission and exists simultaneously in more than three different geographical regions. That is definitely coronavirus.
The effects of COVID-19 are physical, emotional, psychological, social and economic on a scale we’ve not experienced on this planet since World War 2. It is a major global challenge, but not because of how dangerous the disease is, but because of the fear and panic being sown by the media and the level of disinformation flowing from every dank, dusty, rotten corner of the internet.
So today, I’m going to share reasons why you shouldn’t panic and you should have optimism about the COVID-19 coronavirus and the pandemic if fear connected to it. Here we go!
We have COVID-19’s number – Speaking genetically, that is. As soon as the first cases were officially reported in late December, scientists began working feverishly (no pun intended) to crack the genome of this disease. They had the entire genome of SARS-CoV-2, the official name of this coronavirus, mapped by January 7, 2020. That’s about 10 days from when China finally admitted they had an outbreak of COVID-19 on their hands.
As genome-cracking goes, that’s light-speed. We discovered it was a bat-borne coronavirus, had it’s origin sometime between November and mid-December of 2019 and seems to have a relatively low mutation capability. (1) That’s good for us, since viruses pretty much depend on mutation to dodge natural human defenses and drug therapies.
Vaccines are in the pipeline – The usual time frame for vaccines to reach the phase 1 safety clinical trials is about 18 months. Those trials began on a vaccine candidate in February, 2020, less than 2 months after the first official reported cases. (2) The drug is called mRNA-1273.
Want even better news? The drug passed the initial trial stages and has been sent to the NIH for initial human trials, with the first human having already received the drug. (3) Her name is Jennifer Haller and she seems to be just fine.
We’re finding treatments that work for those already sick – Antivirals are being developed to help those who get sick heal and return to life. Drugs like Cloroquin, an anti-malarial in use since the 1930’s, are showing great promise.
Australian scientists are testing Cloroquin along with a no longer used HIV drug with very good initial results. The initial patients receiving both drugs seemed to do very well. (4)
Other drugs like remdesivir, oseltamivir and interferon-1b have shown promise as well.
Science is on this in a major way – As of this writing, there are 1,157 articles available on PubMed dealing with COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2. (5) That is a whole lot of research by a whole lot of really smart people! And that doesn’t even cover the articles, studies and other work not reviewed or made available yet.
So when you roll your eyes at the breathless hair hats in the media because they’re peddling fearmongering clickbait again, remember that the smart people are on this. From genetics to prevention to cures and more, the research is happening on a massive scale.
The case fatality rate is falling – According to the World Health Organization (a notoriously political and unreliable bunch,) the United States has, as of this writing, 31,573 cases of COVID-19. We’ve had 402 deaths from the disease. That’s a CFR of about 1.2%. Not long ago, that rate in the US was around 2%. The CFR in Germany is about0.3%.
Yes, there are anomalies. Italy and Spain have inordinately high CFR’s. Why? Relatively uncontrolled migration, aging populations and social habits that contributed to the spread of the disease early on are possibilities. In countries which immediately controlled the flow of people from places like China early on, the spread rate slowed and the CFR fell.
Thailand, for instance, closed it’s borders practically before the first case occurred. They report 721 cases and only 1 death. (6) While the variable CFR’s in these countries could be coincidence or simply fate, think about something.
We know what the risk factors are for dying from COVID-19. (You can read my article on that topic right here.) As a result, we can begin to offer additional protections from exposure to those populations, and we will and are. We’re now testing in the United States. Case counts will go up. But with more treatments available and more precautions being taken, there’s no logical argument against CFR’s going down.
In other words, everything imaginable about the detection, prevention and treatment scenario points to a lower rate of death from this virus. Good news, indeed.
Most cases are mild, kids seem to be safe and people can heal – We know from US and Chinese CDC statistics that very few cases make it to the critical stage. That’s where death is most likely. The numbers also tell us that those most likely to reach critical are those with underlying diseases or conditions, like diabetes, lung and heart problems and other significant problems. (7)
Additionally, despite what the fear peddlers on TV, the radio and the internet tell you, children seem to survive very well. And while there are some cases in which permanent lung damage has been seen, that lasting side effect has not been widely seen in previously healthy people.
Air pollution is falling because of lockdowns – There’s no doubt that this pandemic will extract a massive economic toll, but there may be at least a temporary silver lining. Satellites passing over China and Italy show that air pollution levels have plummeted.
Some reports claim that the quarantine has prevented 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from getting into the atmosphere. (8) For reference, that’s about as much as Chile produces in an entire year!
Pollution is disappearing in Italy, too. People in Venice say the canals have gotten so clean that the fish have come back!
An old treatment may be a new shield against COVID-19 – A Johns Hopkins researcher is using a century old technique called “convalescent plasma” help boost immunity in newly-infected people. This same technique can be used to help protect medical professionals against contracting the virus while treating patients, too. (9)
By harvesting anti-bodies from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 and then creating a serum which can be used in both sick and healthy people to create an immunity shield against the virus. The best news? It can be done using equipment found in virtually any hospital or medical center.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in all the screeching of the media monkeys. The constant flow of seemingly ever-worsening news combines with the isolation of “social distancing” and “stay-at-home” orders to make us feel like the world is ending and we’re the only ones left to see it.
But there is good news, and lots of it. Keep yourself focused on the ways that we’re winning, because there’s lots of those, too.
Keep the faith and keep after it!