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Is the Coronavirus a Tempest in a Teapot?

With the hype surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak in China, one can’t help but think of past plagues and outbreaks that have impacted us here in the United States. The Coronavirus looks serious. It’s some sort of genetically modified virus that has had its core DNA strand altered to specifically attack human cells.

As of this writing, there are more than 28,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases in the world, and 565 deaths as a result of the virus. Some of the people dying from it are perfectly healthy, so it sounds serious but is it?

It’s hard to tell from the facts that we know so far. Most viruses go through stages: You have the initial outbreak, and then it rapidly starts to spread from person to person, then it peaks and then it starts to taper off. According the charts being kept by Johns-Hopkins, which is some of the best available data to us as Americans, it appears that the Coronavirus is already starting to peak in China. That’s good news if it’s true.

There will continue to be outbreaks in additional countries, because many world leaders were too foolish to not shut down air travel immediately when word of the outbreak came to light. But based on what we see in China so far, those outbreaks will be equally limited in scope. We’ll see rapid runups of patient cases and the peak of the virus in a matter of weeks in each outbreak, rather than months. In plain English, it looks like the Coronavirus rampages for a very short time and then will taper off.

This, of course, is assuming that our numbers coming out of Communist China are at least close to accurate. For all we know, the wildly incompetent regime in Beijing could be burying people in mass graves. Bottom line: We don’t know exact totals but based on the numbers we have from Johns-Hopkins, this is starting to look more and more like a tempest in a teapot every day.

We also remain suspicious about the two alleged spies arrested at the exact moment that Americans were first learning about the Coronavirus outbreak. One was a Boston University student caught smuggling vials of “biological materials” in his socks at Logan Airport. The other was the head of Harvard’s chemistry department, Dr. Charles Lieber.

The feds say that Lieber was raking in $50,000 a month in exchange for stealing American technologies and giving them to a university program in Wuhan. Yes, the same Wuhan in China where this virus originated, possibly as part of a bioweapons program. Dr. Lieber’s scientific specialty: Nanoscience, as in, manipulating and altering matter at the atomic level (such as, for example, altering the core of a DNA strand in a virus). Curious, no?

One thing that we do know for certain is that viral outbreaks tend to bring out the Mad Max/end of days feelings in most of us. Bottled water and surgical masks disappear from store shelves, and we start sharpening our machetes in the garage. Viral outbreaks scare us. Especially new ones, because we have so little information initially.

To put things in perspective, I looked up some data on recent catastrophic outbreaks here in America. During the most recent outbreak in memory, it was pandemonium. People were dropping like flies. If you think the Coronavirus sounds bad with more than 560 deaths over a two-week period, get this: During the most recent serious viral outbreak in the US, nearly 700 Americans were dying every single day.

You probably remember that catastrophic outbreak, because there was so much media coverage about it. Oh, wait. Maybe you don’t remember it. That incident was the regular flu season during the winter of 2017-2018. More than 80,000 Americans died in a four-month period, over the regular old flu. That’s more Americans than we lost in the entire Vietnam War and more than we currently lose to fentanyl/heroin overdoses every year. Just the simple flu.

In a normal year, flu deaths in the US range between 12,000 and 50,000, but that winter of 2017-2018 was a particularly bad one. And there was zero media coverage of it at the time and no public panic. So, based on the death rates from the Coronavirus outbreak so far, I remain cautiously optimistic. But I also have my machete sharpened, just in case.


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