How Can We Know?

I’m reading all sorts of breathless and, in my view, unreasonably confident claims about what has been officially dubbed COVID-19 but which, until that catches on, I will continue to call the Wuhan coronavirus. There have now been 60,000 cases diagnosed. There have been 1,100 deaths. How do we know? The Chinese authorities continue to demur from allowing foreigners to review their numbers. I don’t think we know whether there have been 60,000 cases in China, 600,000, or 6 million. We don’t know whether the mortality rate is 2%, .2%, or 20%.

Judging from the pictures of deserted streets in multiple cities I have seen the Chinese people are reacting with substantially more concern than would seem to be warranted by 60,000 cases, an insignificant number in a country of over a billion individuals.

There is an old rabbinic saying—when a woman country comes from a far country and tells you she’s divorced, believe her. Translation: when you can’t verify the actual facts, additional credence should be placed on claims, especially when they do not portray the individual in a completely favorable light. Conversely, when you can’t verify the facts, you’re told that your concern is insignificant, but the ones making the claim are acting as though it were the apocalypse, taking the claim with a generous dose of salt would seem to be prudent.

With the news of an asymptomatic Brit who spent a couple of days in Singapore spreading the virus to 11 others, hopes that we can avoid a pandemic would appear to be fading. Much, much more stringent measures than those already put in place would be required and, frankly, I just don’t believe we will put those measures in force.

So it looks as though Wuhan coronavirus may well be in your future, mine, and that of many, many others.

4 comments… add one
  • jan Link

    There’s lots of scraps of news about China and the Coronavirus. But, accompanied it are disclaimers saying we really don’t know much it – how accurate the stats are, how virulent it is, or what to expect regarding it’s expected duration and degree of contagion.

    What I’ve read is the San Diego pharmaceutical company, behind the current COVID-19 vaccine, has a string of successes in dealing with Zika, MERS, and Ebola. And, supposedly, after China finally released this virus’s genetic sequence, Inovio Pharmaceutical created COVIF-19 in 3 hours, and it’s already undergoing clinical trials. That’s hopeful…..

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    It is worth reading an interview that the director of the CDC gave yesterday — it is insightful as to what policy makers are thinking.

    Then follow with an address the Singapore PM gave on the virus,

    It is clear the current steps are considered “containment”, but policy makers have a plan for “mitigation” and a threshold when they switch to it.

  • GreyShambler Link

    To keep things in perspective, the same source, Statnews, reports at least 80,000 people died last year in the U S of flu.

    Even the commonplace can be fairly frightening.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    I think the empty streets in China are more a reflection of the government’s fears than necessarily that of its subjects. It’s also an excuse to impose more government control on the populace, especially Hong Kong. They’re not letting this crisis go to waste.

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