[This article originally published on Wednesday February 26th, 2020]
It’s disappointing, sad, and shocking that I feel that I need to write this article to deliver good information that has been readily available for over a month that most American simply don’t have. This is because both the mainstream media and the authorities in the United States have done such a poor job of it thus far.
I have no appetite to do a bunch of ranting here as you will soon see it is far too easy to do. But the above needed to be said right upfront as this has been to-date a significant disservice to the American public and demonstration of irresponsibility. Note: I’m not partisan and have zero “left” or “right” agenda and this is not at all a political article.
Let’s get started. First, let me establish some ground rules for this article so you know what I’m presenting and how to view it. Everything stated below is my collection and presentation as fact based on the best consensus of available information by multiple sources to make it a “fact” based on wide consensus. Anything that has is arguable or anecdotal will be presented in ORANGE text. Anything that is my opinion, contested by some, or forward-looking based on my analysis will be presented as PURPLE text.
What is the Coronavirus
This Coronavirus or, specifically COVID-19, is a new respiratory disease that was first detected in Wuhan, China in early January 2020. But, there are indications that it was seen in December 2019 or possibly even earlier in November. Corona viruses have been around, and corona or “crown” is simply a reference to how this virus presents itself under a microscope — it has spiky edges that resemble a crown. COVID-19 is the novel or new one of this variety.
This coronavirus is similar in a lot of ways to SARS, another serious outbreak more than 15 years ago from the China region that had thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths. However, this is where the bad information has circulated too much already around this. COVID-19 is not SARS from the past and it is also not a normal influenza (flu) that affects many people around the world yearly. It is different in several distinct ways that deserves your attention and action and I’ll explain the what & why.
A Little More Background on How We Got Here
The US media and some of the global (World Health Organization – WHO) and national (US Centers for Disease Control – CDC) organizations didn’t give readily available information quickly enough and downplayed the spread, effects, and reach of this virus for the past month. I don’t make these statements with the luxury of time now and speaking with magical hindsight. There are numerous positive examples of other countries and organizations that have been doing a far better job managing this situation. Noteworthy examples are Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Singapore got hit hard very quickly and has dozens of cases and the stopped the contagion cold in its tracks and are educating their public with high-quality information and taking things very seriously and the results show exactly that.
I’ve been closely tracking this virus for over a month because I saw the clear potential of what it was extremely likely to do based on its characteristics that I will share with you shortly. This wasn’t a guess nor prescience on my part. It was simply critical thinking and seeking information that was readily available. If I have this information, certainly organizations that their their whole purpose of existence is this subject matter should have and could have done better. Further, this is still a problem and why I’m making this crystal clear hopefully in this article. The WHO and CDC just in recent days have finally changed their tune, are taking this very seriously, are no longer simply concerned with protecting world and national trade, and putting the population’s health as a higher priority. But, stay vigilant for more nonsense and foot dragging undoubtedly that will be displayed.
This is from Singapore’s Ministry of Health. They learned their lessons from SARS very well from over 15 years ago and their response to COVID-19 has been excellent and they’ve stopped the virus cold in its track in their country.
Now, I’m not naïve, I get why they had skewed priorities. It’s a balancing game to not crash economies and cause other damage to society. I would argue they clearly didn’t get the balance right as they squandered time to really contain this thing and not have it be the raging pandemic that it is right now across the world in multiple “hot spot” countries. By the way, the definition of pandemic that health organizations have defined themselves, they are refusing to use the word right now, even though it meets their own criteria! (see below WHO graphic)
Bottom line: the cat is out of the bag and the virus is now rapidly spreading to dozens of countries across the world on all continents (except for Antarctica, for now).
Why You Should Pay Attention to COVID-19
This new virus is not as catastrophic in terms of death rate like Ebola, that you may remember from multiple outbreaks in Africa. That had a mortality rate of 90% and was truly awful.
The normal influenza or flu that all of us have suffered at some point typically has an average mortality rate of under 0.2%. That is two-tenths of 1%.
You hear a lot of nonsense in the past month such as “more people die from the regular flu every year”. That is true, but also a stupid statement to make in context of what’s happening right now with COVID-19. I’ll explain why.
First, COVID-19’s mortality rate is estimated to be at least 2% right now. That is ten times worse than the normal flu, 10x as deadly. That is assuming you have access to a hospital and a high-quality Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility. Further, the rate for complications and more serious cases is around 15-20% of total cases. So, 20% of people that get this will have complications and will need to go to the hospital or ICU to get proper care. We have seen that the death rates have climbed when this isn’t the case. So, this makes COVID-19 not 10x as deadly as the flu, but 20x or greater if you can’t get the care you need with a swamped hospital system. Why would the hospital system get swamped? Read on.
Second, there is another critical characteristic of the virus you need to understand. This is the R0 (“R-naught”) rating of it. This is simply the number or ratio of how many new people an infected person will infect. An R0 of 1.0 means that every person will infect another person. So, you will see linear growth and the virus will continue to live on in an outbreak, city, country, or world. A R0 of less than 1.0 means that it’s going to burn itself out. Because every infected person gives it to an average of less than one new person. So, the virus’ days are numbered if you can do containment effectively.
Conversely, an R0 of 2.0 means that every person gives to 2 new people. This is the disaster of geometric progression when you get to a number of 2. Think about it, on Day 2, you have 3 people (original “Patient Zero” and now 2 new people sick). On Day 3, you have 6 people. On Day 3, you have 12 people. On Day 4, you have 24 people. Then, the numbers take over and you get to massive numbers quickly.
Guess what the R0 of COVID-19 is. Best estimates right now is that it’s definitely over 3.0 and one study said as high as 6.7! Are you starting to get the picture now of why this isn’t “just like the flu, what’s the big deal!”?
Where are We Right Now?
We’ve had this data for weeks now and the time to act and take some extreme measures to contain the contagion and get the R0 in control was not done by pretty much anyone in the world (mainly courtesy of the WHO, that should’ve sounded the alarm in January). Now, it has a foothold everywhere. It first crippled China in a terrible and sad way. You still have tens of millions of people in major Chinese cities in full lockdown mode right now. You see roads barricaded. You have people who have been welded shut into their apartment buildings. You have people rounded up and arrested for violating curfew and leaving their homes. This has been going on for weeks. People are scared, sick, hungry, and have lost loved ones to the virus. These measures are horrendous, but necessary. The Chinese government would not be doing this unless they understood the implications and that it’s absolutely necessary to get the R0 contained and stop the contagion disaster.
Sadly, all of this was done too late. Official numbers from China (that, by now, no one believes anymore), are that over 80,000 people are infected and over 3,000 have died. It is widely thought that that the Chinese government is trying to prevent panic (societal and economic), and for optics purposes are not reporting true numbers. We suspected this for weeks and this is now the world consensus on their reported numbers. Projections based on leaked documents are that the death rate is 50 times greater than stated, at least in one certain region (Shandong Province) in China. My own conjecture is to add a zero to the official numbers and more likely add a zero and multiple by 2. So, that makes it total infected in China 1.6 million people and possibly 60,000 already dead.
What you should also know to get caught up on this is that there was a cruise ship (the Diamond Princess) in Japan that had an outbreak and more 700 people were infected. All these people eventually were evacuated from this ship and are either in Japan right now or many of them were taken back to their respective countries. Unfortunately, an American evacuation plane that took Diamond Princess evacuees back to the US intermingled non-infected people with a bunch of infected peopled. The infected people were in the back of the airplane separated from the others with a tarp and duct tape. I’m not making this up. Even worse, people who were not previously infected are now testing positive for the virus back in the US now, potentially having gotten infected on that flight.
New hot spots have emerged in South Korea (over 1,200 cases that blown up just in a number of days), Italy (exploded in a few days to almost 400 today), Japan (nearly 200), and Iran (nearly 150), but they are under US sanctions and have limited medical supplies and test kits, so there is conjecture that they have thousands if not tens of thousands of cases right now.
What Else Do You Need to Know about COVID-19?
Besides the 2-3% death rate, the 15-20% serious/complication rate, and the high R0 of 3-6.7, we also have observed that people are infectious before they have symptoms. The opportunity we had in January to get more serious about this and quarantine people, stop flights earlier, etc. all was squandered because we already knew that asymptomatic people were spreading this virus. But, many countries and authorities, including the WHO, just ignored it and said it’s not a big deal. In fact, the WHO slammed the US for stopping flights to and from China and there were implications hurled that it was a “racist” decision. Now, of course, they’re singing a different tune and virtually all flight activity over China has ceased as well as borders closed with neighbors refusing to admit anyone. This has also been increasing across the world right now in terms of stopped flights and border closures.
When the flights were still happening, as far as detection at airports, they were just using temperature guns and pointing at people’s foreheads that may have a fever, when we already knew that the virus has a long incubation period (up to 24 days and there’s been one report of 27 days!). So, pointing a temperature gun at a forehead is useless for asymptomatic spreaders. As well, even today some authorities are still talking about a 14 day quarantine period, where we already know for a fact that people can be asymptomatic for far longer and the incubation period can easily be up to 24-27 days.
Here’s an interesting historic fact about the sailing age of the 17th century when the word quarantine originated. As you may guess of the root of the word and the “quar-“ part, it was originally intended to be a period of time that incoming sailors from other places were to stay on their own for 40 days just to make sure they didn’t introduce anything problematic into the population. So much for ancient wisdom, huh?
Here is a summary of what we believe we know about COVID-19 right now:
- High complication rate (15-20%, requiring hospital/ICU)
- High R0 (3-6.7)
- More deadly than standard flu (at least 10x more deadly, maybe more, especially if you don’t get access to a hospital, more on that below…)
- Asymptomatic spreaders and long incubation period of up to 24-27 days
- Spreads via droplets (cough/sneeze), by touching public surfaces, and we believe also via aerosol transmission. That makes it really bad and virulent as you do not want to be too close to infected people and for any length of time. It will get into your eyes or other orifices very easily.
- This is a new virus and, while most people like 80% may not even notice and just experience as a sore throat, fever, and overall not a big deal, it will make its way quickly through our population and we have no existing “herd” immunity to it
- As far as detection, we’ve seen people that have tested negative for the virus (sometimes multiple times) and then tested positive later…
- Men are more susceptible than woman at a 5:3 ratio
- Kids, mercifully, seem to not be targeted by this virus
- And worse, you can get infected again, and if you do, there is even more damage done and it can be very bad news for you
What am I Doing for COVID-19?
Disclaimer, I’m not a doctor nor a health professional. I only wrote this article to share with friends, family, and other interested parties to get a quick primer on COVID-19 and the world situation right now.
If you’re just catching up on this subject now, you will be disappointed to hear that there is already a significant run of some basic preparation supplies at places like Amazon and likely even your local Home Depot, Lowes, and other supply stores. This happened a while ago. So, some prices you see below may shock you. Some things are still available and priced normal.
Here’s what I am personally sourcing to be on the safe side and to be prepared:
- Elderberry Syrup for overall immune system support during cold/flu season. I sip a tiny amount several times a day. It tastes pleasant to me, although it’s too sweet. This particular brand I consider very high quality and I trust it. By the way, this isn’t some random recommendation as the US New England Journal of Medicine has written about this via double-blind scientific studies that show benefits and reduction of symptoms, faster cycle of getting better, etc. So, even if you do get sick with a cold/flu, taking this has scientifically been shown to make the symptoms not as bad and the whole sickness go by quicker. https://amzn.to/2VujyAS
- N95 Masks are useful to avoid the droplets/particles that are airborne that may infect you. You have to put this on right, though, and not do it sloppy. When you do, they can be effective, but don’t forget eye protection, as well below. Note: for those that are sick, this may be hard to breathe through and just a normal surgical mask is also effective for them. https://amzn.to/32yV1MI
- P95 Respirator is much more effective for you to protect against virus and it will stay on better and not be as annoying. The big benefit here is that these are still available (for now!) at a reasonable or pre-crisis price. This is also an item that is great to have in the house for messy clean-ups, painting, sanding, etc. The point is that this isn’t an exotic purchase an you can feel good about having this and not just buying something for the virus outbreak. https://amzn.to/2PyIraZ
- Also, stock up on your favorite Vitamin C, Niacin, and other supplements you may have personal experience with that help cold and flu symptoms. This is up to you and I’m not going to get into the efficacy and scientific reports of what you may or may not need as this is a hotly debated topic. All I’m pointing out is that if these items work for you with your previous experience, just go ahead and stock up on some of this now.
- Goggles to protect your eyes as an easy pathway of the virus to enter your body. These are still available for reasonable prices. https://amzn.to/2TrXEvp
- Gloves will be really useful, especially if your’e taking care of loved ones inside your house or generally to protect yourself from touching anything you don’t want to touch. These particular nitrile gloves are still readily available at normal prices and not a bad item to have in the house always. https://amzn.to/2PyIbc1
We have already seen lock-downs of entire towns that have been put into quarantine and that is very disruptive. This has happened not only for large swaths of China, but also in recent days in Italy and some other countries. Now, Germany, US, and many other countries are sounding the alarm. Whatever your comfort level is and if you are a preparing type of person, go and make your preparations now for disruptions that may occur for you where you live.
It also will be a very good idea to make sure that if things get bad, that you have extra stuff in your pantry to last for a while. I already saw the government now advises something like 2 weeks of food. You may consider how optimistic you feel about how fast things may blow over and if you want more than that for yourself and your family.
This all sounds crazy and unreal. It does to me, too. It’s up to you how you want to prepare for the eventuality of this becoming an actual thing for where you are. I personally am a Boy Scout preparing kind of person and the stuff I mentioned above aren’t outlandish things to have anyway in your house.
What Else is Happening?
It’s also distressing from an economic standpoint that due to the China lock-down of huge portions of their population, there have already been significant knock-on effects to our complex global supply chains. China provides a lot of manufacturing and products to the world economy; estimated to be at least 20% of parts and products for the world. They have factories that are either still shut down across the country or running at much lower capacity. In today’s “just in time” supply chain model, this is severely limiting operations for many global companies.
It’s also hurting already in other ways. Just one example, the US gets 97% of it’s antibiotics from China. We also get many other things from them that we no longer manufacture ourselves in the US. So, you can imagine what a prolonged supply chain shock is going to do here. Another knock-on effect is tourism, for everyone. Another is all of the oil exporters to China. If Chinese factories aren’t running or running at full capacity, they’re not importing and buying the same amount of oil from sellers that need that income. The effects go on and on.
In the US, this has manifested in the most visible thing being Apple saying that they’re not going to make their original revenue guidance, since they simply can’t make enough iPhones in China nor sell enough in China because of all of the disruptions right now. More to the point, the US stock market has been down for 3 days in a row and has shed 7% of it’s value. Many companies are carefully looking into their supply chain issues right now and getting prepared for tossing aside original earnings estimates for 2020 and other measures they need to take. You can imagine that layoffs will be very likely to occur or are already occurring.
There are bits and pieces of what I wrote above in the media. But, I feel they’ve done an awful job and have not reported things that we’ve known for weeks and some things for over a month. They also soured things by initially ridiculing and downplaying things, which I fear has set people still to this old news and are not paying attention to what is actually happening right now.
I hope this is a useful article for you to consider and do what you feel is appropriate based on your own critical thinking. If you need more resources, let me know. I’m happy to share everything I have and what sources I track. Honestly, in my experience, people don’t respond to me providing a bunch of links and resources and that’s why I spared you a hundred links here. Some do. If you’re one of them and want to know where to actually get good unbiased info and solid analysis, message me.
I wanted to write a summary article to help put the pieces together and also put aside a lot of the nonsense and misinformation that is out there still. Hopefully, I achieved that goal.
Wash your hands, watch your hygiene, and be mindful of what’s going on out there.