COVID-19: Some have confused ‘flattening the curve’ with ‘eliminating the virus’

In a question about COVID-19 to Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, Returning the Favor) on FaceBook, a follower of his, Darlene Gabon, asked:

Mike. In a recent post, you said you’ve been to Tennessee and Georgia, giving speeches and filming for your new show. Before that, you were on the road shooting for Dirty Jobs. Is it really so important to film a television show in the midst of pandemic? Is it responsible of you to encourage this kind of behavior when infection rates are spiking? Don’t you watch the news? More and more cases every day – aren’t you concerned?

Mike Rowe’s response:

Hi Darlene,

Of course, I’m concerned. I’m just not petrified.

On March 15th, the day after my part of the country was locked down, I posted a link to an interview with Dr. Michael Osterholm. I’m posting it again, because I believe you and everyone else in the country would benefit from listening carefully to what he has to say. https://bit.ly/2WLOM6o

COVID-19: Some have confused 'flattening the curve' with 'eliminating the virus'Dr. Osterholm is the Director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy. This is the same epidemiologist who ten years ago, predicted a coronavirus would come from China and turn our country upside down. In his book “Deadliest Enemies,” he anticipated the utterly irresponsible way in which the media would report on the situation, the completely opportunistic and shamelessly political way our leaders would likely react, and the unprecedented chaos and confusion that would arise from all the mixed messages from the medical community. His resume is unexampled, https://bit.ly/3jvzQTW, and his analysis of the situation is the most logical and persuasive of any I’d heard so far. He’s also the only expert I know of who hasn’t walked back his numbers, reconsidered his position, or moved the goalposts with regard to what we must do, what we can do, and what he expects to happen next. I say all of this because Dr. Osterholm publicly predicted – in early March – that we could conservatively see over 100 million COVID cases in this country, with a very strong possibility of 480,000 fatalities – even if we successfully “flattened the curve.”

It took me a few weeks to accept this scenario, because 480,000 fatalities is a frightening number, and [a] lot of other experts were saying lots of conflicting things. But eventually, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Osterholm was probably correct, and quickly navigated the four stages of grief that usually precede acceptance – denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. By late April, I had come to accept Dr. Osterholm’s predictions as a matter of fact. Since then, I’ve had three full months to come to terms with the fact that, a) I am probably going to get COVID-19 at some point, b), I am almost certainly going to survive it, and c), I might very well give it to someone else.

I hope that doesn’t sound blasé, or glib, or fatalistic, or selfish. Four-hundred eighty thousand deaths is an obvious tragedy, and I’m deeply sympathetic to all who have been impacted thus far. I’m also very concerned for my parents, and everyone else in a high risk category. But when Dr. Osterholm says that COVID can be slowed but not stopped, I believe him. When he says a vaccine will not necessarily hasten herd immunity, I believe him. And when he says that people have confused “flattening the curve” with “eliminating the virus,” I believe him.

Thus, for the last three months, I’ve been operating from the assumption that this is a year-round virus that’s eventually going to infect 100 million people and kill roughly 1/2 of one percent of those infected, conservatively. I’ve accepted those numbers. Unfortunately, millions of others have not. Many people have no sense of where this is headed, and I understand why. They’ve been betrayed by a hysterical media that insists on covering each new reported case as if it were the first case. Every headline today drips with dread, as the next doomed hotspot approaches the next “grim milestone.” And so, for a lot of people, everyday is Groundhogs [sic] Day. They’re paralyzed by the rising numbers because the numbers have no context. They don’t know where it will end. But Dr. Osterholm says he does, and I’m persuaded that he’s correct. He might be wrong, and frankly, I hope he is, but either way, he’s presented us with a set of projections based on a logical analysis, and accepting those projections has allowed me to move past denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, and get on with my life with a better understanding of what the risks really are.

Fact is, we the people can accept almost anything if we’re given the facts, and enough time to get evaluate the risk and make our own decisions. Last year in this country, there were six million traffic accidents and 36,000 fatalities. Tragic, for sure. But imagine for a moment if no one had ever died from a car accident. Imagine if this year, America endured six million traffic accidents and 36,000 fatalities…for the first time ever. Now, imagine if these accidents and fatalities – over 16,000 and 90 per day respectively – imagine if they were reported upon like every new incidence of COVID. What would that do to our willingness to drive? For a while, I suspect it would keep us all off the roads, right? I mean, six million accidents out of the blue is a lot to process, and 36,000 deaths is scary – especially if you don’t know how high that number could get. It would take us a while to access the risk, before we blindly hopped into our cars again. Eventually though – after getting some context and perspective – we’d be able to evaluate the relative danger of operating a motor vehicle. Then, we could decide for ourselves when to drive, where to drive, and how much to drive. And so we do.

Again, don’t misunderstand. I’m not ignoring COVID, or downplaying COVID, or pretending the risks at hand aren’t real. Nor am I comparing COVID cases to car accidents – I’m simply comparing the fear of each to the other, and the fear that always accompanies uncertainty. I don’t want to get this disease or give it to someone else, any more than I want to be in a car car wreck that injures someone else. But I’ve accepted certain things about the pandemic, and now, I’ve gotten used to the risk as I understand it. I take precautions. I get tested as often as I can, and if I can’t physically distance, I wear a mask – especially around higher risk people. Likewise, I wear a seatbelt, obey the speed limits, and check my mirrors before changing lanes. Yes – I’m aware that we’d all be a lot safer if we kept our cars in the garage. I’m also aware we’d be a lot safer if we all kept ourselves in the house. But that’s not why cars, or people, exist.

Anyway Darlene, that’s a long way of saying that I have accepted Dr. Osterholm’s numbers, and now, after three months of acceptance, I’ve made a decision on how I wish to live my life. Sooner or later, you will too. We all will.

Mike

PS. My foundation is selling masks to raise money for our next work-ethic scholarship program. They’re going fast.
https://www.bfit540.com/products/mike-rowe-works-face-mask

MacDailyNews Take: It’s a Dirty Job dispensing reality to those who’d rather ignore it, hide in fear, and/or cast blame in all directions, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Thanks, Mike!

Again, we obviously remain in a catch-22. We must have an economy and we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Both conditions will exist simultaneously until we have effective treatments and a vaccine, so try to be as safe as you can be – wash your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your face, wear a mask in public, practice social distancing, etc.

The CDC guidelines for how to protect yourself and others — especially older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes and are at higher risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19 — are here.

Also, in breaking news: The CDC just changed how long you have to quarantine after COVID-19:

Based on new research, the CDC guidance now states that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 cases can stop isolating after just 10 days and do not need to be tested before returning to work—they just need to be fever free for 24 hours…

Keep in mind that people with severe COVID-19—primarily those who end up in the hospital—may be infectious for much longer, even as many as 20 days. However, the CDC does point out that the majority of severe COVID-19 patients — over 88 percent — were no longer infectious after 10 days and 95 percent could not infect others by the 20 days mark.

In the document they also point out that “reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 has not yet been definitively confirmed in any recovered persons to date…

Read more here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers far, far too many to list individually for the heads up.]

35 Comments

    1. While we aren’t going to eliminate the virus, we can still flatten the curve to avoid overwhelming our medical facilities. So, wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands frequently, and self-isolate if we think we may be infected. The alternative is Starr County in Deep South Texas that is sending some patients home to die because they don’t have the resources to treat them.

      The problem with pointing out that most people don’t die of COVID-19 is that some people hear that as nobody they value will die or be seriously harmed, so there is no point in taking reasonable precautions to slow community spread. Congregating in bars is a direct consequence of the message from some quarters that this is no big deal. It is a big deal, to the tune of twice as many American casualties as World War I or Korea or Vietnam, all of which seemed like pretty big deals at the time.

      1. Well we can all rest our weary little heads now that YOU have spoken.
        You are like the older sibling who teaches the world to us younger greenies.

        We are dependent on you to explain the reality while Mom and Dad I mean the Democrats and Republicans argue.
        We should all just call you our Big Brother.

        Please tell us again about how China is more efficient than the US.
        And tell again how our Lieutenant Governor of Texas told the old folks they should just die.

        Oh and don’t forget to tell my favorite, how Antifa is just a few college buddies out having a beer with no harm intended. Please, please, please!!

        We all need you here to filter the real world through your distorted made-in-China rose/red colored glasses, how Conservatives like YOU should come to the Dark Side…I mean liberalism.

        Tell us again o’ Big Brother how all people should stay home until our economy is wrecked, our government in more shambles and the world waiting for us to deliver Joe Biden to save it.

        Tell us these things and more, over and over and over and over again until we understand how to achieve the sum of 5.

        O’ tell us Big Brother how thou art….

        1. The very first time I posted on the novel coronavirus, in early February about the time the disease was named COVID-19, I said that the #2 lesson from the 1918 pandemic was to folllow the advice of public health professionals. The #1 lesson was that telling the truth saves lives and coverups cost lives. We now have the Chinese and American illustrations of that as applied to a new pandemic.

          I am not going to say any of those things “again” because I did not say them in the first place. You made them up because the truth is no more politically convenient to you than the truth about Spanish Flu was convenient for the Wilson Administration.

        2. TowerTone,
          Do you delight in being an asshole? Looking at all your downvotes tells me that everyone agrees with me.
          Are you one of these ‘give me liberty (from masks) or give me death‘ jerk-offs?

    2. No. It’s distressing, terrifying and mind bendingly exhausting for this “ It’s a Dirty Job dispensing reality to those who’d rather ignore it, hide in fear, and/or cast blame in all directions, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It.“ guy who, in 15 yrs of IC trauma management witnessed dozens of deaths in that time.
      In the last 5 months I’ve held hands with more dying souls than I care to remember. Many lifetimes of such moments. One impossible to forget day after another for weeks on end, we lost patient after patient. By the minute, hour, day, week they died. When one victim I looked after for 30 days continuously, 18 hrs a shift just opened his eyes and passed away, my whole team went into meltdown. It sounds unprofessional but that’s a measure of the investment healthcare workers make. Within an hour everyone is back at work investing in the next case.
      I’ve witnessed seasoned professionals, at all levels, collapse over patients, come to with utter fear in their eyes, cry uncontrollably, rage and die a little every day.
      What do health professionals think needs to happen?
      No interstate travel.
      Mandatory mask wearing everywhere out of the home.
      No bars, restaurants/diners.
      Social distancing everywhere.
      No public gatherings >20
      Tenfold increase in testing and widely expanded track and trace with follow up program for effective quarantine.
      Personally I’d like less of these unbalanced articles that undermine the message for all the wrong/trite reasons and more input in the public debate if we are to avoid a second wave that destroys what is left of our professional sanity.
      Think of it like the litter guy, don’t make his job harder because that’s his job.

      1. Well said. Thank you.

        The point, for people like Mike Rowe and others who are missing it, of flattening the curve is not to magically end the pandemic. Despite Rowe’s assertions, nobody sane is equating flattening the curve with immediately ending the pandemic. That’s a strawman argument, and any idiot can swat down a strawman. (So, I guess well done, Mike.) No, the point is to (1) avoid overwhelming hospital capacity while (2) staving off mass infection and needless death until a vaccine and/or treatment is deployed.

        We all miss the niceties of pre-pandemic social life. But right now, in the absence of American leadership, we can follow the lead of every other developed country in the world in tamping this thing down until the scientists have us covered. Give them time to do their job. And yes, it would all be a whole lot easier if we had some national leadership to mandate a coordinated, systematic response, rather than relying on the various state and local leadership to do its job. As we’ve learned from the rest of the world, only a concerted, organized, well-led response is effective.

        The bright side is that we can fix it in November. 400,000+ more dead Americans later.

        1. Sort of…you do have the part correct about the fact that the only goal is and can be flattening the curve, that is, preventing overwhelming the medical system but MANY have confounded the issue into believing that the goal is to keep all measures until this virus is no longer significant… and so they draw a similar conclusion as you do, which is “…until a vaccine and/or treatment is deployed.”

          That is a non sequitur and is NOT required. They can help but are simply tools. The main thing is about either achieving herd immunity (with which a vaccine MAY help but is NOT a 100% guarantee…in fact there has NEVER been a successful vaccine against ANY coronavirus) or the virus somehow fades away, which based on evidence to date is not likely to happen and is more likely to turn into another seasonal virus, though its future impact is likely to be diminished eventually due to herd immunity (but only time will tell).

          And why do so many try to politicize this issue? “But right now, in the absence of American leadership, …” adds NO value and is totally misleading. Based on what is now known, there is NOTHING that can be done nor could have been done by ANYONE to prevent the spread of this virus. Not Obama, not Biden, not Trump. That is a FACT!

          If you base you political opinion based on the thought that someone could have done something meaningful, you are woefully misguided. You seem to place so much trust and dependency on the scientific community as if they are some holy messiah to resolve this.

          All that could have been done and can be done is to try to slow it down but nothing more.

          Remember, over 90% recover from this on their own, with NO assistance. And over 99% survive. And there are many many times over that are infected but NEVER get sick. Such that the risk of dying from COVID is less than dying in a car accident AND for those under 65, the risk is lower than dying from the seasonal common flus. This has been confirmed time and time again even by frontline doctors that have seen MANY COVID patients.

          I mean no disrespect to the above poster…death is tragic…and I appreciate the work of frontline staff. I hope and trust that the same compassion gets extended to the other over 230,000 deaths in the US EVERY MONTH. I do not know what region they are from but if you are in a hot spot, surely this will cause emotional drain, but it does NOT represent the experience everywhere nor reflective or what will happen everywhere.

          I get that the media has so distorted this whole thing but people really need to get this thing back into perspective by looking at the bigger picture to get a grasp of the actually over all situation.

          1. “Such that the risk of dying from COVID is less than dying in a car accident”.

            Um, no. US auto accident deaths in 2018: 36,560. US COVID deaths in just five months: well over 150,000.

            I have a unique perspective in that I hear from people in ALL areas around the country about what is going on in the front lines. And if you spent two seconds in my shoes, you would understand this is not media distortion.

            Your writing likely reflects that after five months you personally haven’t seen what is going on or known someone involved in the battle or who has died, so you naturally tend to dismiss the threat. I can tell you everyone in North Jersey and NYC right now wears masks ALL the time – for good reason. More than one in 400 NYC residents died from this. More than one in 8 nursing home residents up here.

            1. I appreciate your perspective and I agree that this virus CAN have dire consequences. And yes, people and families have been and are being affected by this. Death in its so many forms is always tragic. But you are making the same mistake that many people do which is to take facts out of context.

              There are hot spots all over the place BUT to truly understand the scope of this pandemic you have to look at the overall picture. That is what epidemiological stats represent. And YES, the stats CLEARLY are that the risk of death from COVID19 is LESS THAN dying in a car accident AND if you are less than 65 with no pre-existing conditions, the risk is less than dying from the common flu…which BTW this year alone has killed between 40-60,000 people AND it is the SAME flu virus from the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu PANDEMIC that ONLY killed just over 12,000 in the US BUT killed up to 600,000 in 2009 worldwide.

              Statements like “More than one in 400 NYC residents died from this. More than one in 8 nursing home residents up here.” are also out of context. 1/400 = 0.25%. Not to say this does not translate to many deaths, but in the context of diseases, this is not out of the ordinary.

              There are MANY reasons why many people died this year in NYC and especially in nursing homes, including mismanagement and poor decisions made earlier on, including sending known COVID patients INTO nursing homes.

              There are also MANY issues with the way that counts are being done that has been published and acknowledged that clearly inflate and distort the real numbers.

              But even if you take the numbers at face value, a few weeks ago it was published that in Canada that over 80% of all deaths were in long-term care facilities, or about 7000 out of the then 8500 (now at over 8900) in a country with just over 1/10 the size of the US population. In the US, almost 50% of deaths have been in long-term care facilities. Let that sink in for a moment.

              It is SO important to maintain perspective of the bigger picture and not lose the forest from the trees, including the secondary effects of the lockdowns that has causes 100’s of thousands of lives from suicides, untreated medical conditions, on top of domestic abuse and violence, mental health issues, and of course the financial devastation, etc., many of which will FAR OUTLAST the effects of COVID. And I HAVE PERSONALLY met people DIRECTLY impacted by these, some whom have lost loved ones.

              And it is clear that your argumentation is more emotionally charged than fact based such that you are over stating your position with a statement like “US COVID deaths in just five months: well over 150,000.” In fact, at this point, the US just reached about 150,000…so NOT WELL OVER….but again, if you spend time looking at the actual stats, they are highly questionable. And many people in authority and knowledgeable about the matter are.

            2. Smayer97, as I have since you started posting here, I have trouble imagining this “context” you keep citing for your claim that 150,000 American deaths in six months with many more obviously to come is not worth worrying about. A blind man could see see the consequences of opening up with a large proportion of the public unwilling to take reasonable precautions precisely because they have been told not to worry. The threat isn’t hypothetical; the surges in hospitalization in the Sunbelt states followed the opening of bars there exactly as the experts predicted, and as you dismissed.

            3. You are the one that is dismissing the facts I have presented.

              And I NEVER said “that … American deaths … is not worth worrying about.” I have not dismissed any of what is perceived to be going on in the so-called hot spots. You are building strawmen arguments.

              You really need to stop overstating your position as it is clearly emotion-based and misinformed…

              Again # cases is meaningless on its own (on top of the fact that the numbers are hugely suspect, as I have documented before). But again, # cases does NOT = # hospitalizations and does NOT = # deaths. This virus, and COVID, are NOT a death sentence.

              I am not saying that there are not increases…there are… BUT there are numerous doctors on the ground in those so-called hotspots that have documented that things are NOT what the media wants you to believe. There is a lot of misinformation AND DISinformation.

              Do some real work to find the facts and you will see. Even if you take the numbers at face value, the “threat”, as you so alarmingly put it, is no worse than driving a car and less than the seasonal flu if you are under 65. Have you stopped driving yet? If not, why not, since the risk of dying is greater? HAve you taken your H1N1 Swine Flu shot this year? If not, why not? You or someone close to you could be # 60,000 and 1. If you haven’t taken these precautions, maybe you are being “selfish” for not thinking about all those people that can die because you are on the road or have not taken your H1N1 flu shot.

      1. And next week AAPL’s qrtly report is going to show a lot of Covid’s influence and likely for some qtr’s afterwards too.

        Indeed there is a political component and it’s been fairly clear how differently each team deals with and defines the proper mo.

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