Coronavirus: Stay Calm and Avoid the Hype
There is a meme that has been going viral on Facebook, saying, "Stay calm and wash your hands" with regard to the coronavirus scare. That is certainly good advice. It might be a good follow-up to caution those on social media to "Stay calm and avoid the hype" with regard to the blazing headlines and stories across all of the various media platforms. If one didn't know better, the coronavirus outbreak has been the second coming of the bubonic plague, more commonly referred to as Black Death, that wiped out a third of the European population in the mid-1300s.
Clearly, the coronavirus is something not to be ignored when thousands have lost their lives, mostly in China. But so far, the threat has been blown completely out of proportion. With the competition from the old media having lost so much of their power to the new media in the last ten to twenty years, they need events like the spread of the coronavirus to exaggerate in order to stay relevant. But staying relevant does not necessarily benefit the public when information is skewed to scare people into thinking and feeling a certain way.
First, Russian collusion dominated the headlines, then impeachment, and now the coronavirus outbreak. Democrats are trying to use it to their advantage once again to damage Trump politically now that they've tried everything else and failed.
Listening to Tim Cook during his recent interview with Susan Li on the Fox Business Network, the coronavirus has been just a blip on business operations: the workers in China involved in producing Apple products are on their way back to work. Some of the statements he made in the course of the interview included "I'm optimistic that the coronavirus is getting under control" and "Apple is fundamentally sound." But based on most of the reporting for the last week, one would think the end of the world is at hand, much in the way a major hurricane or other natural disasters are now reported. The events are clearly tragic for those affected, but they will shortly come to an end, and life will go on. The coronavirus, too, will pass, with the vast majority of people unaffected.
A local NBC affiliate serving northeast Ohio, WKYC, broadcast a story, "Stay Vigilant, Not Scared," that went against the grain of the majority of stories on the subject by talking about how the coronavirus outbreak is not a pandemic and how people have survived many health scares in the past that have been similar in nature, particularly the SARS and MERS outbreaks, and the risk is extremely low, and the flu remains a bigger threat to Americans. Dr. Drew Pinsky, a noted addiction specialist who was ousted from CNN because of his conservative-leaning point of view, echoed and amplified this sentiment to a broader audience on the YouTube channel Daily Blast Live. Rush Limbaugh highlighted Pinsky's statements on the Daily Blast podcast during his Friday broadcast. (A transcript of the segment from Limbaugh is here.) The following comment is from the transcript, where Dr. Drew puts the current outbreak into context with regard to normal influenza:
PINSKY: We have in the United States 24 million cases of flu-like illness, 180,000 hospitalizations, 16,000 dead from influenza. We have zero deaths from coronavirus. [The number has since gone up a little. —ed] We have almost no cases. There are people walking around out there with the virus that don't even know they have it, it's so mild. So it's going to be much more widespread than we knew. It's going to be much milder than we knew. The 1.7% fatality rate is going to fall. Where was the press during the Mediterranean Corona outbreak, where the fatality rate was 41%? Why didn't they get crazed about MERS or SARS? This is an overblown press-created hysteria. This thing is well in hand. President Trump is absolutely correct.
Even an editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine put the coronavirus outbreak into its proper perspective:
[T]he overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.
Even an American who caught the virus while on a cruise ship wrote for the Washington Post what it was like to have it and described it as not all that terrible. Certainly, no one wants to get it, but it doesn't sound nearly as dangerous to a person's health or as lethal as it's been portrayed. From the article "I have the coronavirus. So far, it isn't that bad":
I am in my late 60s, and the sickest I've ever been was when I had bronchitis several years ago. That laid me out on my back for a few days. This has been much easier: no chills, no body aches. I breathe easily, and I don't have a stuffy nose. My chest feels tight, and I have coughing spells. If I were at home with similar symptoms, I probably would have gone to work as usual[.] ... [M]y treatment has consisted of what felt like gallons and gallons of Gatorade — and, when my fever rose just above 100 degrees, some ibuprofen.
Based on all of the media coverage, one would think the apocalypse has arrived. The coronavirus outbreak will further damage their credibility by making dire warnings that essentially everyone needs to be prepared to avoid his imminent demise. Even Tucker Carlson has been snookered and bought into the hype. This has been surprising coming from someone who spots and exposes media cons on a regular basis. When all is said and done, it will be one more case of crying wolf and further hasten the extinction of the mainstream media as a credible source of information.