CALMING CORONAVIRUS FEARS BY PUTTING STATISTICS IN PERSPECTIVEDrew Hendricks
BY: Mark T. Guithues, Community Legal Advisors Inc Prepared Saturday, March 14, 2020
The purpose of this correspondence is threefold. 1) Give everyone encouragement and calm their fears in these anxious days. 2) Review some of the simple ways that you can protect yourself from getting the virus. 3.) Give healthy people a list of practical ways they can protect the most vulnerable around us.
The Super Spooky Scary Stuff Has A Good Purpose. On Wednesday, California’s Governor suggested closure of any public gathering of more than 250 people, President Trump limited travel to the United States from Europe for 30 days and the NBA and MLB suspended their seasons. Disneyland sent its guests home, and the World Health Organization said groups greater than 50 should not meet. These were the right moves, but they are super-spooky-scary to those who don’t understand the basic statistics. Cancelled events and quarantines are safe and simple tools we use to save lives. Specifically, they stretch out the lifespan of a virus, thereby “flattening” out its impact on our medical services, while allowing time for the development of an anti-virus. There a few simple things you can do today (or every day) to fight virus spread, protecting yourself and the most vulnerable around you.
Shutting Off the Noise and Understanding the Numbers will Bring You Peace. The scariest thing about this is the endless cacophony of emails, social posts and the media repeatedly clubbing us with pending disaster. You can find peace in the real numbers. There are only two numbers you should pay attention to with a disease like coronavirus: (a) infection rate, and (b) mortality rate (also called “death rate”).
Infection rate is the likelihood that you or a loved one will catch the disease, while mortality rate is the likelihood a person who caught the disease will die from it. For example, depending on the year, the CDC predicts an infection rate of between 5% and 20% (so for example 15% of 330 million Americans = about 50 million) will be infected by the common flu, and a mortality rate of about .00003 (about 12,000/330 million will pass from it). Sometimes you’ll see the term “morbidity rate,” which simply means the patient is both infected and is suffering from symptoms, and which is different from either of the above.
Perspective – Understanding Some Baseline Numbers is Necessary for Perspective. Americans live, on average, about 79 years. If we divide 330 million Americans by 79, about 4.1 million will pass away each year. Obviously, the influenza discussed above isn’t the largest killer in our society. Heart disease will kill about 0.0019 (647,000); Cancer will take about 0.0018% (606,000), and unintentional injuries about
0.0005% (169,936). Stroke and cerebrovascular diseases will account for 0.0004% (140,000) deaths this year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that about 35,000 (less than 0.0001%) of Americans died in car crashes last year.
The Estimated Numbers For Coronavirus Have Been Roughly Predicted. Because of how early we are in the process, medical experts estimate the infection rate widely, from 10%-50% of Americans (somewhere from comparable to, to 3 times, the infection rate of the flu discussed above), so for discussion purposes, let’s pick a median number of 30%, or about 100 million who may catch this virus. As to mortality rate, although the World Health Organization recently suggested a (worldwide) mortality rate at 0.034%, countries with modern medicine and disease spread prevention like South Korea have a reported mortality rate of (72/8006 or) about 0.009%. Again, picking a number in the middle, let’s
estimate a possible American mortality rate of 0.025%. If we multiply 100 million x 0.025% it equals 2.5 million Americans who might die from this coronavirus.
You’ll know somebody who dies from Coronavirus, but it probably won’t be you. 2.5 million is a big number, but still far less than 1% of our 330 million population, and even far less than the 4.1 million who would normally pass away in any given year. This assumes current medical availability and current statistics. We might learn the infection or mortality rates are grossly overreported. We might learn the disease goes dormant in the summer, like most flu’s do. We might have a vaccination by next year which puts this safely into the rear-view mirror. Most experts predict this will take two years to work through the population, so figure a number around 1.25 million a year. Stop! Take a moment and compare this with the numbers in the Perspective paragraph above and, hopefully, a quiet stream of peace will drown out that incessant CNN chatter.
Catching the Virus Is Not The End of Your Life. I said there were two numbers (infection and mortality) which mattered. But there are some other interesting statistical subtleties, at least in the US. According to the World Health Organization about 80% of the infected describe their symptoms as mild, 15% as serious, and the last 4% as critical. That means that of the 100 million possibly infected, 80 million may just feel a little sick and woozy. It also appears that children and youth under the age of 9 have been spared the wrath of the disease – with thus far no American deaths. Conversely, where our average lifespan is just short of 79 years, 80% of the American deaths have occurred in patients over the age of 80, with the balance deaths occurring to slightly younger but who also suffer from additional “co- morbidity factors” such as heart disease, asthma or other underlying, active or complicating factors. In short, our seniors are the most vulnerable and we should focus on the Practical Steps outlined below.
Cancelled Events and Quarantines Ration Modern Medicine. Having that many people sick at once has a huge impact on access to quality healthcare. By way of example, a 2018 Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security reported that, according to US government estimates, about 65,000 people in the United States would require ventilation in an outbreak similar to the flu pandemics of 1957-1958 (which killed 116,000 people in the US) and 1968 (which killed 100,000 Americans). The maximum number of ventilators that could be put in the field in the United States is about 160,000, or maybe a tenth of what could be needed. Cancelled events and sequestration help “flatten the curve below healthcare capacity” by slowing the stream of patients to our limited medical facilities. Personal sequestration keeps you out of the loop of infected people, and out of the hospital personally. Keeping the kids away from grandpa this spring and summer, though seemingly cruel, may be the kindest gift you can give. (Remember phones and video conferencing are available every day.)
Practical Ways You Can Help the Most Vulnerable. The balance of this article is dedicated to discussing some of the simple ways that you can protect yourself from getting the virus, and providing healthy people a list of practical ways they can protect the most vulnerable around us.
Attend Board And Other Business Meetings By Web Conference Or Teleconference:
Community Legal Advisors Inc is in the homeowners association law business, so we are interested in helping our clients continue to do business through this challenging period. But these tips apply to all business meetings. If your community is our client and would like our assistance in arranging a video or teleconference, just contact our office and Community Legal Advisors will set up the first meeting and attend it to help the Board and members acclimate to this new system. Our firm provides video
conferencing bridges for our clients using ZOOM software which is easy and quick to learn. If all directors attend an open meeting by phone, your notice of the meeting must identify at least one physical location where owners can attend and listen to the board’s meeting. (Civ. Code §4090(b).) That means a conference phone must be at that location so members can hear directors conduct the meeting and so members can be heard by the board during Open Forum.
- Suck in with family, start a Netflix tradition with the kids, get addicted to board games, make food for elderly or sick neighbors, look for opportunities to do things at home rather than on the
- Stay home when you are sick. Call your employer if you have questions about your time off benefits. Don’t go to work sick and actively encourage those who are sick to go
- Avoid close contact with people who are
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Regularly use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. While sneezing in your elbow is certainly preferable to sneezing in your hand, the clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. All surfaces where infectious droplets land can remain infectious for about a week, on
- To the extent possible, use knuckles to touch light switches, elevator buttons,
- When not in the office, use disinfectant wipes when available, including wiping cart handles and child seats in
- Keep hand sanitizer in your home entrances and in your car for use after getting gas or touching
contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
- Wipe down hard surfaces periodically with alcohol based anti-bacterial sprays and towelettes. At Work:
As noted above, we encourage teleconference/videoconference meetings rather than in-person meetings if any attendees have travelled to affected countries or cities.
If you believe you have been exposed to a situation or someone who could have been exposed or if you become sick, contact your employer immediately. Try to arrange to work remotely. It may be difficult for some positions to do a job remotely, but most employers will surely try.
If you or someone with whom you reside has acute respiratory illness, stay home! If you have personally suffered symptoms of acute respiratory illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home until you are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
If you have been exposed to Coronavirus but have not been diagnosed and do not have symptoms, engage in an interactive process with your employer and your health care provider to determine appropriate next steps.
If you are confirmed to have the Coronavirus, inform your fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace
To reiterate, if a fellow employee appears to have respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath, chronic sneezing and sniffles), upon arrival to work or becomes sick during the day, that employee should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. There should be no exceptions, and it is reasonable to expect everyone’s full cooperation. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available) until they can leave the premises.
If you travel, including for personal reasons, the CDC has issued guidance recommending that you check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest recommendations for each country to which you will travel. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
If you are scheduled to meet in person with any international client or other individual traveling from or through one or more of the restricted countries, you should confirm that the individual has been in the
U.S. for a minimum of 14 days without symptoms prior to the meeting. If you have questions regarding scheduling meetings with clients/tenants, contact your employer.
This Isn’t the End of the World. Experts suggest up to a third of the population might contract this virus, with 80% of those infected only mildly affected. People over 60 years old, or those with weakened immune systems or with a chronic illness like lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, are the most vulnerable. The healthy among us should actively work to slow the spread of the virus, thereby maximizing available space and medical care in our hospitals. Turn off the TV and remember, this too is going to pass. Things are going to get better and maybe this will be remembered as a time of new family traditions and renewed focus on the well being of those around us.