One of the prime rules of thought and analysis is to use some sense of proportion. This, it seems to me, applies very powerfully in the case of the uniquely potent and widespread mass hysteria over the vicious Coronavirus.
The country and much of the world are going insane about it. Hoarding. Panic traveling.
Panic self quarantining even by persons at very low risk such as healthy young people.
The grocery stores are bare and people are lined up to buy hand sanitizer as if it were gold.
But let’s try for some sense of proportion here. These data are very preliminary and are being written on March 15, 2020. ( The "Ides of March.")
So far, there have been about 58 fatalities associated with COVID-19N in the last month since the panic started. There will obviously be many more. But, in that same period, there have been about 240,000 total deaths in the United States.
The COVID deaths, each one of which is deeply sad and regrettable, are such a tiny fraction of total deaths it is startling.
There is in the air and on surfaces each and every day the standard influenza which comes each year and for which we get flu shots if we're smart.
In the same period in which COVID has killed about 60, the basic flu has killed roughly 10,000 Americans. Again each death from each kind of flu is sad and hurts loved ones deeply.
But the number of COVID deaths is stunningly small compared with the deaths from standard old fashioned flu.
But there are no lines at super markets about the flu, no closing down Broadway or the NBA or Harvard or Yale.
Each month in the United States we lose roughly 3,000 souls because of collisions or other traumas involving automobiles and alcohol. That’s 50 times as many as COVID-19N yet there are liquor stores on every corner and TV commercials for alcohol are everywhere.
No one puts up signs or screams at the president or Congress about it.
Now here comes a really sad one: each month in the U.S. there are roughly 7,000 deaths from alcoholism. Not crashes. Drinking alcohol.
Yet we have ads on TV for beer, wine, and liquor virtually nonstop and no president threatens to reinstate Prohibition.
There’s been a stock market crash because of panic in the marketplace and the workplace over Corona. The panic is so severe that has at least temporarily wiped out roughly the entire wealth of the UK and France over a disease which will undoubtedly get worse, but so far has claimed far fewer lives than suicides in the United States, which claims about 4,000 deaths each month.
Why? Where does this hysteria come from?
I can only surmise that it is a new, juicy delicious bone for the media to chew on.
It may well be that the disease will grow much faster now. But it would be rare indeed for it to claim more lives than the Swine Flu pandemic, which killed very roughly 50,000 Americans and which caused no panic, no stock market crashes, no closing of churches.
This whole thing may well get truly terrible. I pray all day and all night that it won’t. But so far, it hardly merits the pandemonium it has caused. FDR said it best, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
That may prove to be wildly optimistic but so far what’s going on is just nuts. Yes, spend every dime we need to find a vaccine and a cure. Yes, get tens of millions of test kits.
Yes, stay home if you feel sick. But this is not the end of the world by a long, long way and if it is, I won’t be around to be criticized.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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