Pandemicmania: Why This Virus and Why Now?

Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP

When the coronavirus panic started to set in about a month ago, my thoughts were not about one’s probability of contracting it, mortality rates, etc.  Those are facts that can be easily researched.  Since the panic ensued, about 162,000 Americans have died.  In that same 21-day period, about 150 of those deaths were attributed to the Wuhan Virus (it has obviously increased since then).  Assuming governments at all levels had done nothing, we do not know what the spread rates or mortality rates would be.  It is likely more would have contracted the virus and perhaps there would have been more deaths because that is what viruses do.  Would the death rate have reached 13,000, which is the number of Americans killed by the common flu this past winter?  Would it be 80,000 like the number killed by the flu two winters ago?  Considering that worldwide, Wuhan Virus has killed less than one-tenth that number, we can put this in perspective.

Of course, the answers to those questions is speculative.  What is clearly not speculative is the economic impact this is causing.   The last non-socialist country to inflict such economic damage upon itself was the Weimar Republic of Germany.

When all is said and done- and it will be- the media has to seriously look itself in the mirror and admit their role in the ensuing panic.  In many instances, we will find that they deliberately exaggerated or even created stories simply to increase clicks, viewers, readers and advertising rates.

We have lived through pandemics before and very recently without the panicked reaction we are seeing today.  In 2003, we were warned about the SARS pandemic.  By time it ran its course, it was in 29 countries and infected over 8,000 people, killing 775.  There were 8 cases in the United States, no deaths.  H1N1 is even more recent and was present in more than 29 countries, affecting more people and killing more people (about 4,000), including the United States.  You remember that one, right?  It was called Swine Flu.  Yet, there was no panic, no daily White House briefings, no “quarantines in place,” no cessation of economic activity.  To date, Wuhan virus has killed 348 Americans, less than one-tenth those killed by Swine Flu.

With SARS, the economic damage was estimated at $40 billion worldwide.  The panic created over Wuhan virus has far exceeded those numbers in less time.  We will know when the scheduled economic predictors start to trickle out of Washington the magnitude of the economic damage, but suffice to say, it will be huuuge.  And for what?

This writer is not one for conspiracy theory, but the thought that the media is feeding the panic cannot be denied.  Before panic gripped the nation and everyone forgot there was a presidential election this year, Democrats were resigned to the fact that the only thing that could almost guarantee a victory in November would be a cratering economy.  But, as statistics came in showing that the economy was humming along just fine and would likely continue to do so as Election Day approached, coronavirus could not have come at a better time for the Democrats…and the media.  President Trump noted that we are likely headed for a recession as a result.  Looks like Paul Krugman, the Democrats, and the media got their wish.

Of course, this is not to denigrate the steps taken thus far to mitigate the economic damage whether it is bailouts of industries hardest hit by the panic, or individuals who, through no fault of their own, are furloughed, laid off, or simply let go, or who had their hours scaled back.  That is very real money lost to very real people, some in very real dire financial positions before the panic.  And of course local and state governments and businesses should heed CDC guidelines to stop the spread of the disease, but does that necessarily mean we shut down entire sectors of the economy?

Let’s look at it another way.  Bars and restaurants, at any one time, have less than the number of people in a grocery store at any one time.  Yet, one is shut down by government edict or “suggestion,” and the other is not.  Wouldn’t it make sense that the more people, the greater the chance of transmission?  Also, some localities and states have called curfews suggesting “non-essential” travel stay off the road.  One is not sure what that is intended to do, unless Wuhan virus jumps on motor vehicles at night.  And who decides what is “essential” and “non-essential?”  It is not as if the roads are loaded with ambulances rushing Wuhan victims to hospitals at night.  I understand: if you’re not on the road, you’re being a good boy and staying at home…

Make no mistake- this is a panic.  The dictionary defines it as: “an uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing unthinking behavior.”  If anything matches this definition, it is the current state of affairs.  It is uncontrollable because the media in their 24/7 search for viewers and readers needs it for advertising dollars.  And there is clearly “unthinking behavior,” most of it from local and state officials like Mario Cuomo who thinks that taking cars off the road will cease the spread of Wuhan virus.

For a rational explanation of Wuhan virus, see this article from the Atlantic.  One will see that, comparatively speaking, the panic we are now witnessing may not be justified.  To wit, other novel viral outbreaks like SARS had a worse potential than Wuhan virus without the panic.

They may feign concern, but this is the best thing for the 24/7 media.  It is “must-see” television on steroids.  It is the little girl in the well and the O.J. Simpson car chase wrapped together and writ large.  This is a golden opportunity for the media, Democrats, and the Left to further disparage a President they despise.  In some cases (usually involving a Democrat governor or mayor), it has also been a great excuse for a power grab.

When this is all over and fewer Americans have contracted or died from Wuhan virus than did from the regular, old run-of-the-mill seasonal flu in this or any year, will the media come to the conclusion that just maybe they over-reacted and created a panic?  It is doubtful.  They will likely slap themselves on the back for a job well-done in “getting out the word.”  Let’s see how many “journalists” win awards covering this story.

The economy will bounce back and workers will return to their jobs.  The government will be left holding a $1 trillion (at least) price tag.  But it should give every American pause and concern how the media can manipulate a story and create such panic on a massive scale.  Imagine the next real pandemic- because there will be.  Living through Wuhan virus, will people listen again, or ignore the media?  Has the media cried “big bad wolf” when, instead, comparatively speaking, it was just a little mouse all along?

For some strange reason, this writer cannot get thoughts of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” out of my head as an analogy.