But I found one. Dr. S is a client who depends on me for financial advice. This particular morning, I looked to him for medical advice. He was objective and clear-eyed. Yes, this will get worse. The natural progression of the disease combined with a mobile society will result in many more cases. For many, the illness will be experienced as flu-like, with a full recovery in a matter of weeks.
But there have been deaths. The mortality rate for the who contract coronavirus has yet to be fully measured. In China, it looks like that rate may be 2%. In a large population, that is significant. In the US, we don't know the rate is - but that is because we are not yet accurately recording all cases. As the disease spreads and our data collection improves, we will probably find the rate to be about 1%. That is a small number, but it is higher than the flu.
Any deaths are not trivial, but Dr. S points out those particularly at risk. First, our children don’t seem to be affected greatly by the illness. Younger people appear to be able to combat the virus effectively. The people most at risk are elderly and/or those with other health risks. While the flu hits the old and very young alike, the coronavirus takes its toll on the oldest in our population. That’s why the spread of this disease in a nursing home is so scary.
How long will this last? Dr. S told me about “herd immunity.” It is a common concept in microbiology. At some point, people will stop getting sick. It happened with SARS and others. Do we develop a collective immunity? Or has the virus just run its course? We don’t know.
Dr. S points to other contagious illnesses. The typical time for the disease to run its course is 3-6 months. That was a great relief to me. After all, we have been hearing a vaccine may be a year or more away.
Rational minds among us are not taking this lightly. They are doing what all scientists do. They are tracking the progression of the disease. They are collecting data on those who succumbed. They are sharing information on effective treatments. But they are not panicking. Instead, they are offering us solid information on how to stay well.
So when I find fear rising in my throat when I hear of more cases and more deaths, I think about Dr. S. And I try to keep my head about me and surround myself with rational minds. Be reasonable. Be safe. And focus on the calendar.