Asteroid Virus Spin
Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities.
This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they charter the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.
“Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Tracking infections over a two-week period beginning Aug. 31, it found that 0.23 percent of students had a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus. Among teachers, it was 0.49 percent. Looking only at confirmed cases, the rates were even lower: 0.078 percent for students and 0.15 percent for teachers.
This topic was a very contentious argument a month ago. Donnie Shrimpfingers got criticized for "hypocrisy" as he urged the restart of schools while cancelling the GOP convention. Trump inconsistent? The hell you say. As always in this headlong rush into social destruction, the need to express anger and contempt for the Other Side is relentless. So rather than argue the merits of the case for keeping schools closed -- the Trump Deranged population of cyberspace base their argument on his personality.
So now, the "early" data suggests that it might not have been a bad idea to open public schools. But the headline assures the reader that the surge in misery "is yet to arrive." I do not claim that this data proves anything about the long term course of the virus. The long predicted "surge" in "cases" in schools could indeed arrive at any time. Or maybe not.
What bothers me about this aspect of the overall "debate" about public health policy is the triumphant tone when internet "news" stories relate anything that is scary -- more deaths, more cases, more proof that Trump is a shit head. When a snippet of news appears that cuts the other way, like this little tale, the MSM always qualifies and minimizes the good news while reminding the readers in the headline that you should not expect this good news to remain good.
Turning to the specifics of this article, those are indeed some small numbers of infections in this study. What little good news we get, we should appreciate.
Placing this into a national perspective, the fatalities will pass 200,000 soon if not already. I have seen headlines and internet posts proclaiming a "model" that predicts a death toll of 400.000 by early in the new year. This range of fatality certainly sounds ominous. As the death toll hits 200,000, we have lost six one hundredths of one percent of our population. When it doubles, we surpass one tenth of one percent of the population. That leaves it in the vicinity of half the fatalities from the 1918-20 Spanish Flu -- the worst epidemic in our history. Adjusted for population growth, the current death toll would have to multiply ten times over to match that health care crisis.
Our civilization was not destroyed by losing a bit less than one percent of our population then. The Roaring Twenties and a stock market bubble followed.
So in terms of cost-benefit analysis, we are weighing the consequences of trying to fight the virus with Shelter in Place against the death toll. It is a value judgment -- not science -- to pick between the two outcomes of hundreds of thousands or even millions of fatalities against the social pathology of destroying 30 million or so jobs.
This decision to shut down human interaction all over the world will be doing its damage for years at least, and most likely for ever. Yet all the headlines and political chatter are still couched in scary terms about spikes and surges and models predicting carnage. The typical American binary conception of every "story" renders the question as only whether you believe that the virus is a killer. Of course it is a killer and the loopy theories about how it is all a hoax are nonsense.
The point of view that I have held since I first heard about Shelter in Place is that all this talk about deaths from the virus have to be considered in light of how much damage this unprecedented attempt to shut down public life would do. After six months of this crap, I am really tired of the scare mongering.
Even good news comes under a headline promising bad news to come, when it comes to the virus.