Coronavirus: Choose The Third Route

Coronavirus and COVID-19 erupted in China. Then it spread across the world as a downside of globalization. Shit happens.

Now what?

First, let’s define what we’re talking about. Abstract and alarming concepts like the coronavirus are easier to handle when clearly defined. Put your fears on a piece of paper. They’re smaller than what your mind blows them up into.

The coronavirus is a serious problem that the human race can overcome, especially if we keep our heads together.

Facts and Context

Coronavirus is a virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, like the HIV virus causes AIDS disease.

Like any virus, it has a special number called R0. This number explains how fast the disease spreads. The current R0 value for the coronavirus is between 2 and 3. This means that a single infected person will, on average, pass the infection to 2 or 3 other people.

Say you have 1 infected person on Monday. If the R0 value is 2, by Sunday you might have 64 people infected. By the end of the second week, 8 192 people infected. By the end of the third, that’s 1 048 576 people.

Notice that the spread of the virus is not linear – it is exponential. This is why the people who completely ignore the situation are deluded.

The most documented symptoms so far are high fever, dry coughing and trouble breathing. Most (≈80%) people have only mild symptoms. Some are even asymptomatic – they carry the virus (Coronavirus) but don’t have the disease (COVID-19).

The incubation period is somewhere between 2 to 14 days. This makes it difficult to discover the infection. Even though a person might test clean today, tomorrow they might not.

At the time of writing this article, there is no cure for COVID-19. Several groups around the world are working on it but developing a cure is slow work. It will take time.

The World Health Organisation currently puts the death rate of COVID-19 somewhere between 1% and 3.5%. For comparison, the death rate of the seasonal flu in the United States is about 0.1%. Notice that these numbers are for developed countries with access to healthcare.

The majority of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 deaths are the elderly and people who already suffer from other conditions. This does not mean younger people aren’t at risk.

We all are, to varying degrees.

The virus spreads via bodily fluids, the mouth, eyes and nose. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that masks prevent you from getting infected. but wear one if you are already infected to protect others.

The real kicker behind all this is that you, most likely, will not have any significant problems if you contract the disease. Mild fever, coughing, breathing difficulties, and then it’s over.

You can eventually get on with your life.

So why the fuck should I stay at home?

Fair question.

You should stay at home because this is not an individual but a systemic problem. As an individual, you’re likely to be fine. As a society, we are suffering.

With a 2 week incubation period, the coronavirus is difficult to test for and contain. It’s invisible and fast-spreading. Scientists are saying that 40-80% of the global population could get infected, while 10-15% of those will need weeks of hospitalization.

Let’s be conservative and say that ‘only’ 25% of people get infected. In a country like Italy, that means 15 000 000. If 10% of those need hospitalization, that’s 1 500 000 people.

Italy has about 200 000 hospital beds in total. Many of these are already filled with tumor patients, pregnant women, the mentally ill and many others. Where do you find the beds for the extra 1 500 000 people? The medical staff? The supplies? How long does a person need to lie in the hospital before recovering? What if your wife needs to give birth? What if your childs surgery cannot happen because the health system doesn’t function anymore?

I hope you see how fragile and critical health systems are. Don’t stretch them to the breaking point with your behavior.

That’s what viruses are good at. Don’t be a virus. Stay at home.

Look, I know that staying at home, self-isolation, and quarantine sounds like a teenage overreaction.

It’s not.

There’s a difference between informed decisions and being an alarmist. Most people are on the extremes of the spectrum. They either completely ignore the situation or obsess over it, like doomsday prophets.

I ask you to choose the third route. Focus on what you can do and then do it.

If the hospital system falls apart everyone will be in for a shitshow. Stay at home. Watch Netflix if you must. Forget about gyms for a while, cancel your kid’s birthday party, don’t put others at risk. Don’t use public transportation. Don’t go to places of worship. Work from home. Read a little. Enjoy the silence. Ignore the majority of the news. It’s garbage. Find one or two sources that you trust and check for actionable advice. Help your elderly neighbors. Stay sane.

In a row of matches, be the one that doesn’t catch on fire.


MARIN MIKULIC