The number that matters most

Gradually, I think President Trump is starting to realize that  COVID-19 is about more than how the “numbers” impact his reelection effort.  Unfortunately, it’s likely all of us have friends or family who aren’t taking the COVID-19 health emergency seriously and they will continue to go about their lives, doing whatever they want, regardless that they might spread this virus to many other people.

The numbers that worry me are how many COVID-19 hospitalizations in communities around the country might overtax hospital systems.  The US is still in the midst of flu season, which has resulted in many hospitalizations and deaths.  Hospitals around the country have only so many ventilators and so many ICU beds, so hopefully our crisis leadership at all levels is carefully assessing the numbers of ventilators in hospitals, the number of ICU beds and planning for the worst case scenario.  If we plan for worst case and it doesn’t happen, the greater the likelihood we will be able to avoid unnecessary deaths, which is the number that matters most.

David French wrote a very heartfelt piece, Coronavirus and Our Sacred Duty to Senior Citizens,  about our moral duty to protect and care for those most vulnerable to COIVD-19, but he hits on something more we must do:

“But we must do even more. We must defend those we love from fraud and fear. And by fraud I don’t merely mean the standard array of scammers and hucksters who typically prey on our nation’s seniors. I mean defending them from terrible counsel from the very people so many millions of seniors trust.

I’ve written at length about the inexcusable avalanche of misinformation that for weeks cascaded out of the Oval Office and conservative media. I won’t repeat all of the false comparisons of COVID-19 to the flu or the common cold, all the president’s false declarations that the virus was already diminishing or thoroughly under control, or the claims that hyping the virus was yet another media conspiracy to undermine the president. But that misinformation was delivered to an audience that was disproportionately older and disproportionately likely to disbelieve contrary information.

The president’s declaration of emergency and the joint public/private show of force at Friday’s White House press conference should at least start to dispel the belief held by all too many seniors that there was nothing to worry about, that they shouldn’t change their plans. After all, the person and the information sources they trust the most had told them this entire crisis was overblown. The result is stories like this:

America’s toxic partisan spin war, where competing “narratives” outweigh common sense and common decency, makes it very hard to figure out facts, analyze information through the clouds of noxious spin being churned out by bleating gasbags on both sides and it leaves many Americans vulnerable to making poor personal decisions based on deliberately dishonest partisan spin. The spin warriors score cheap political points at the expense of the welfare of ordinary citizens, who tune into American media in hopes of being informed. 

With the corona virus pandemic, I’ve watched what’s being reported out of foreign countries and the numbers.  The serious concerns and dramatic actions taken by many countries to stop the spread aren’t all reacting to American political spin. I suspect their health experts and intelligence agencies are providing information to these governments, which has raised the alarm level.  President Trump has taken dramatic action on travel restrictions, while at the same time blathering on and on repeating garbage right-wing pundit spin takes, downplaying the situation.  He is the champion at mixed messaging or in common parlance, talking out of both sides of his mouth.  Numerous Trumper pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, have been blustering on for weeks about how COVID-19 is no more serious than the common cold.  Many elderly conservatives believe this and will not listen to any warnings now.

Everyone comes at how they view this situation from their own experiences, beliefs and knowledge base.  My husband’s sister died a year ago from a viral infection she contracted.  Another sister, got sick at the same time, as did some other family members.  The sister who died, got very ill very quickly.  She did have some underlying health issues and she didn’t seek medical care immediately, believing it was just some bug that would pass.  Several days into it, she was taken to the ER, but she deteriorated rapidly in the ICU (pneumonia that led to multiple organ failure).  Within a week from getting sick, she died.

My husband has late stage COPD and he got much worse in late January, after catching some bug.   I also developed an upper respiratory infection after he got very ill.  I recovered, but he is now on home hospice care and completely bed bound.  We have hospice nurses and CNAs, who make home visits several times a week to manage his care, but the rest of the time I am learning how to adjust to handling  full-time hospice care.  I have diabetes and heart problems.  This corona virus definitely raised my worry level immediately, because I was already trying to keep my husband and myself away from exposure to a lot of people.  The “social-distancing” was already the new normal for me since January.

A couple weeks ago, when I heard about possible supply issues with medications due to America being reliant on drugs from China, I checked our prescriptions and got 90 day refills on all the ones I could.  When other countries started doing lockdowns and restricting travel, I  began stocking up on groceries and essentials (truthfully stockpiling grocery basics is something I do ordinarily.) That’s me – the worrier.  I did not have to go out this weekend for the mad shopping panic, because I have been stocking up a bit more than my usual stockpiling, for more than a month.  I have some family members though, who are pretty much blowing off COVID-19 as just media hysteria.

Recently, I read Radical Inclusion: What The Post 9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by General Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman.  The major theme of their book is about how crucial radical inclusion, making everyone in a group feel included and that their contributions and efforts matter is the crucial leadership challenge, especially in our rapidly changing digital information age.  In dealing with a global pandemic, we need leaders, at home and abroad, embracing this radical inclusion mindset and realize that we, or people near and dear to us, are at risk from COVID-19 and the many ways this pandemic can impact lives.

Of course, we all need to carry on with living our lives, but we can still try to be aware that other people’s very lives may depend on mitigation efforts taken now, before this virus spread peaks or devastating outbreaks overwhelm some of our hospital systems around the country.

We should all do what we can to help those around us.


Filed under General Interest

15 responses to “The number that matters most

  1. JK

    Segment #2 – “What he meant to say” …

    For what it’s worth – my opinion – the Federal government does ‘its best good’ when it comes to stuff like developing atomic bombs and then making the decision to drop said bombs on large clusters of folks who, most likely didn’t have much (if any) say on how ‘their government’ got ‘our Federal government’ riled up in the first place.

    For ‘health stuff/advice’ I’d – again my opinion – greatly prefer having my state government officials, in concert with my state’s health department informed by my state’s county-level health authorities, inform me and mine and my neighbors about whatever the ‘best recommendations for my localest area should be’ and then I go from there.

    Of course “I’d like to think” a President (any President – any Party) would have ‘my interests’ at heart but, that’s not how federalism was ever imagined to work back when the fellows of 1787 were meeting in Philadelphia trying to figure out how best to achieve “national aims/interests.”

    Has, for instance the American People ever expected the Federal Department of Education to set their local curricula better than they, the local population, could figure out for themselves far better’n any Washington DC big-money-donating-muckety-muck preaching to ’em on Meet The Press (or Sean Hannity) could do better?

    And so we got “limited government” which, with the rare exceptions of World Wars (see Manhattan Project mentioned above) and perhaps George W’s colluding with his purported political opponents to pass stuff such as “The Patriot Act” and create the biggest bureaucratic boondoggle known to man – the Department of Homeland Security – these state level directed (and Constitutionally authorized by the way) efforts have all, mostly, seemed to work better than anything the Federal government, working way way down to the local level, has ever, can ever, manage.

    Federal Government like I said is good for stuff like dropping atomic bombs on people but not so good at making sure people get flu shots.

    • Local is where this COVID-19 will be won and lost as far as how communities deal with it. The weird disconnect is that with the most advanced means to share information known in human history, many people (myself included) often struggle trying to get accurate information about stuff going on locally or located locally.

      Everybody expects national programs in this crisis to materialize overnight and that’s not how bureaucracy ever works.
      Local people can easily start small scale programs and certainly set up a website or designate a local government phone number and staff or volunteers to direct people to the resource, both public and private, in their own community.

      Heck, the local general store or local diner used to be Information Central where I grew up in rural PA. That’s where you found out what was going on.

      • JK

        As you say. It is getting way harder to get (accurate) local information.

        Two things, and again since you didn’t pose the question I’ll voice my opinion once more (perhaps more than just the once since hereabouts “accurate and truthful” is the order of everyday) Anyway two things mainly, one perhaps counterintuitively but perhaps not because as you’ve mentioned the disconnect, the internet itself combined with what George W. adamantly proclaimed would not happen – “The terrorists will not change us” – did happen. Big time.

        Oh and smartphones. That’s the one that’s had an outsize effect. Giving rise to such sage advice for our times as “Don’t drink and drive because there are people who text and drive. And they will hit you and it will be your fault.” And while I’m at it – again since you didn’t ask – Facebook. And Twitter.

    • That’s an interesting perspective, JK and as I watch the hurried decision-making around the country, I wonder if there’s intel from places like Iran and China that paint a very grim outcome, if nature’s left to run it’s course unimpeded or if the fear of doing nothing creates an impulse to do more and more and more. I wonder about those reports floating around about burn pits in Iran visible from satellites.

      People aren’t going to live locked down for months in America, heck I doubt most of them will practice any of this self-distancing or stay home orders. Do I think trying to mitigate the spread is worth trying? My answer is yes and the thing is even in the good old days – many cities, towns and counties did impose quarantines to try to stop the spread of highly contagious disease during 1957 and the 1918 pandemic. That said, truth is a large segment of America will do whatever they want anyways – just like during hurricane evacuations, tornado warnings, etc. and ordinary people will muddle along trying to survive overreaction and under-reaction.

      I suspect home delivery services will become a booming business and expanded online grocery buying, where you can drive up to the store and they load the groceries into your car.

  2. JK

    I’m not at all certain about any ‘other places’ than perhaps the EU, the UK and a few other ‘open societies’ – one place I haven’t heard about that I’d be curious to learn more about would be Iceland … hmmm, where’d I put that bookmark:


    “Our news” would have it the old and infirm are the most likely to be affected however it looks to be in Iceland the most at-risk cohort is from 40 to 59.

    Yes LB we must mitigate as we can, it’s the responsible thing to do. Probably easier done in places like where we live than some other places which are usually in our headlines for all the wrong reasons. And yes I agree the “ordinary people” being the best suited to muddle through.

    Your last paragraph by the way may well be the safest place to park any investment money you may have laying around.

    • I’ve been checking this Johns Hopkins COVID19 tracker site:

      It will be interesting to look at the mitigation efforts, by country, and the outcomes when this is over. Long ways to go with this mess though – it could be over in a few months or it could end up being another Fall outbreak, like how the flu runs sometimes. I just don’t expect life to return to anything resembling normal for a long time. Once the virus chaos is over, millions of people will be dealing with recovering from economic disaster too.

  3. JK

    Yeah I’ve got that Johns Hopkins site bookmarked too.

    Here’s about Italy (and *some Russia) from a blog I usually visit weekly:

    • That’s interesting JK. I suspect the real scope of this might be much worse than the web trackers numbers suggest. The US reacts to media spin hysteria quite often, but for all these other countries, even the liberal open borders ones, to shut down borders, there’s way more going on with this. That’s my gut instinct. I wonder what the true death count is in Iran, where the virus spread unchecked. I highly doubt China gave accurate data.

    • JK, I wonder if the viral spread situation in Iran and some other countries, who never report accurate information to world organizations, has spiraled out of control based on intel reports and stuff like this:

      • JK

        Well there is that huge ports-facility China’s got going on with Pakistan (Gwadar) that, as I understand it, is supposedly gonna be [one of?] a main hub of its Belt and Road system … been awhile since I last had occasion to do a deep study on it, for some post David [D&N] was wanting background for … Anyway the port’s intended to counterbalance Iran and India’s Chabahar port and as the ports are very close my bet is the region is overrun by who knows how many nationalities in who knows what sort of numbers – and as I’m figuring [guessing really] there’s not likely much locally sourced building materials that’s probably gonna mean there’s a veritable navy of Chinese container ships making near daily port calls …

        So what I’m saying basically is yes I would imagine Iran’s at extreme risk of the pandemic being more an epidemic there than possibly anyplace else. I guess I should just say we might use that as a working hypothesis for now until such time as reliable information becomes available. If it becomes available …

  4. JK

    Why it didn’t occur to me to look in on John Batchelor’s site LB, I can’t rightly explain – I suppose my forced exile from the internet for that 40 days after the fire may have something to do with it. But anyway, I’d caught snippets from I think first, teevee about the Wahhabist (Sunni) government of Saudi Arabia taking a pretty drastic step:

    Then a couple days ago ‘SoD’ (Son of Duff) put a link to an article on a D&N thread noting the also Wahhabist, ISIS taking a likewise step:

    Then for the first time since my absence I took that look at JB’s site I remembered not visiting for awhile:

    • Thanks for these links JK. Like you, I was distracted by personal matters, with my husband being hospitalized in late January, then the decision to bring him home on home hospice care. My mind wasn’t really much engaged on following the news Like I usually do.

      There must be a lot of intelligence information flowing into countries about this corona virus to get so many to lock down borders and make decisions like Saudi Arabia making that Mecca decision. Iran’s situation must have been much more alarming than just the 138 confirmed dead in late February. There’s a lot more to this corona virus threat that isn’t being said for countries all over the world to risk dire economic repercussions to close borders and do countrywide lockdowns.

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