My family in France is hurting. My home country has closed its borders — which are always open because of its place in the European Union — but that isn’t all. My mother requires a form to leave home! She isn’t allowed to go outside to visit family or friends. Over 100,000 police officers have been deployed to keep order as tens of thousands have been diagnosed with covid-19. The country is basically closed down for business.
But it’s not what’s happening over there that has me worried!
It’s what’s happening over here in my home away from home — and how little we’re doing to prevent the spread of this virus compared to other countries where it’s already blown up. Sure, it might sound like the United States is taking drastic action. Local governments have advised against large gatherings. They’ve asked people to hunker down. Bars and clubs have closed. Restaurants, too. Schools are cancelling class. Colleges are kicking kids out of their dorms.
But this isn’t enough! The very possibility of a national shutdown terrifies people here. Maybe it’s the cultural differences between us, but the possibility of not shutting down is what terrifies me. The mayor of New York City has said he has no interest in quarantining the city.
The disparity between people who take this crisis too seriously and those who don’t take it seriously enough is widening. But those who take it too seriously will soon be transformed into those who were taking it just seriously enough the whole time.
What do I mean, you ask?
Take the Spanish flu of 1918 for example. It had a fatality rate of around 2.5 percent. Seasonal flu falls at .1 percent. Covid-19 falls closer to the Spanish flu at around 2.0 percent. The reproduction rate of these illnesses help us determine how contagious they are. Seasonal flu falls at 1.3, which means an infected person might be expected to infect slightly more than one person on average. Spanish flu was 1.8. Covid-19 is a whopping 2.3.
Don’t forget: Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people when the world’s population was only 1.9 billion. Because covid-19 has so much more in common with the Spanish flu than the seasonal flu, you might imagine how many people would die in a world of 7.8 billion souls if we didn’t take drastic actions.
Spanish flu hit in the midst of WWI — a war in which my great grandfather fought and died, not in combat, but from respiratory sickness! We couldn’t do anything then. But we can do something now. And we’re failing to do it.