As of yesterday, I can no longer individually reply to requests for information or opinions regarding the COVID-19 virus. The number of emails and messages has become overwhelming. That said, I don’t want to leave readers and friends hanging, so I’ve put together the key information, predictions and recommendations that I’ve gathered or formed over the past few weeks.
BEFORE I GET STARTED—THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC, but it is definitely time to take a few key steps to avoid panic later.
Disclaimer: I’m not a scientific expert in pandemic epidemiology…or anything for that matter. I exhaustively researched pandemics and healthcare plans to address pandemics for my first novel, THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC (TJP), which was published in 2010. TJP was one of the first modern novels to address the average citizen’s experience during a lethal pandemic, from the arrival of the virus to a sensationalized breakdown of society. The virus I “brought to life” was far worse than anything we’ve seen in recorded history. That’s how you sell fiction. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything even remotely as deadly and destructive as the virus I created for that novel. Why tell you this? Because we’re not dealing with this kind of scenario with COVID-19—BUT WE’RE STILL FACING A UNIQUELY LETHAL CRISIS. Let me explain.
WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY DEALING WITH?
COVID-19 is very likely twice as contagious as the seasonal flu, spread by DROPLET CONTACT (cough, sneeze or nose/mouth wipe that ends up on a surface and is then transmitted when someone else touches the surface…or if someone sneezes/coughs right into your face) and quite possibly some AIRBORNE CONTACT (aerosolized droplets from coughs and sneezes float around for a while and land in your mouth, eyes or other mucus membranes). Airborne contact has not been scientifically demonstrated, but the fact that it spreads faster than seasonal flu has experts suspected an airborne component.
MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY:
Chinese epidemiological reports based on current infection data puts the case fatality rate (CFR) at around 2%. This may change, but experts think it will hover right around that number. Seasonal flu has a CFR around .1%…so COVID-19 is 10-20X more lethal if contracted. On top of that, 20% of those infected require critical care (ICU level) to survive. This is important to remember.
EPIDEMIOLOGY AND CASE FATALITY BREAKDOWN:
Noted Harvard epidemiologist and many other experts expect 40-70% of world population to be exposed to COVID-19 within a year.
- UNDER 50 Years old—.2 to .4 CFR (2-4X greater than seasonal flu. Not so bad?)
- 50-59 — 1.3% (10X)
- 60-69 — 3.6% (You do the math)
- 70-79 — 8%
- 80 and above — 15%
- Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease? 6-10%
This is rough guess stuff based on data presented above and expert opinion (not mine).
- This will not be an apocalyptic scenario like any of my books. We’re looking at a slower burn scenario with limited, but significant impacts on society and daily life.
- The food supply/power grid/water supply systems are unlikely to fail. I just don’t see that happening. What I do see happening is a brief, intense run on the stores (a few weeks), which will empty the shelves temporarily. Food will return, but daily essentials like toilet paper (think of what you resupply every few weeks), OTC medicines, prescription medicines will constantly be in demand. Picture a grocery store and how much shelf space is dedicated to different classes of items.
- You will need to prepare for a 1-2 month period of general, but not complete “shut down.” Businesses closed. Restaurants shut. Day care and schools closed. Work places closed? THIS WILL BE THE MOST FRIGHTENING TIME—FOR GOOD REASON. You will want to avoid or severely limit public exposure. YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR THIS! Can you remain mostly at home for a month or two, without resupplying? If you have to go out, can you keep yourself safe from infection and panic induced crime?
- The closure of schools, daycares and work WILL SERIOUSLY STRAIN financially insecure families, if not ruin them financially. YOU MUST PLAN FOR THIS. Talk with employers ahead of time. Whatever it takes. This won’t last forever, but too many people can’t afford to take a single unpaid day off from work TODAY! I can’t understate the importance of this aspect.
- Don’t count on the healthcare system to help you. The U.S. has 1 million hospital beds…only a fraction of those are capable of ICU level care. If 20% of half of our population requires critical care—that’s around 30 MILLION very sick people without a bed when the pandemic music stops!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY?
- Do whatever is within your means to prepare for a 1-2 month period of minimal public contact. Food. Medicine. Home essentials. FOCUS ON STUFF YOU CAN YOU USE EVEN IF COVID-19 DOESN’T MATERIALIZE. This is the key to readiness. Everything I buy will be used no matter what within a matter of a few years.
- Prepare for your kids to be home. Even if the schools don’t close, do you really want them at school? The reported fatality rate is VERY LOW for kids, but they can still bring the virus home to YOU!
- Start talking to your employer today about COVID-19 plans. Better to get the conversation rolling now, then to pull an absence that cost you your job or a few weeks of pay.
- Stockpile FLU mitigating medications. CLICK LINK TO SEE LIST. Most of us will come down with nasty flu symptoms that are not life threatening, but can be very uncomfortable…and possibly get worse if left untreated.
- Stockpile disinfectant supplies like bleach based sprays/solutions, disinfectant wipes for door handles/cars/shopping carts, hand sanitizer, and masks (any kind…to prevent wiping mouth with contaminated hand in public).
- Stockpile IMMUNE SYSTEM boosting supplies like Multivitamins, extra Vitamin C, Elderberry in any form, Oregano Oil…lots of stuff out there that can help with this. Stay rested. Eat Healthy.
Let’s hope this doesn’t get nearly as bad as the experts suspect—BUT LET’S TAKE SOME STEPS NOW TO EASE EVERYONE’S FEARS AND BURDENS IF COVID-19 CONTINUES TO SPREAD.