Hope despite COVID-19

When the Corona Virus struck we all assumed things would get better after two month. But four months passed and everything was worse. Month after month reality is more nightmarish. I am an MD physician, and an epidemiologist by training. In my latest YouTube video I give a blunt, unvarnished report of how I am reckoning with my future.

In 1918 a virus living in birds jumped from that species into humans and there was a pandemic that killed 25 million people worldwide. We don’t know the number of people who died if 100 people were infected, but it is reasonable to assume it was 1 percent or more.

In 2019 a virus living in  bats, jumped from that species into humans, and there was a pandemic similar to 1918. Many people today say the death rate of 1 percent is no worse than the ordinary seasonal flu. But what they fail to recognize is that is not THE problem. The problem is that if you blink your eyes the number of infected people doubles.

You need to know about “exponential growth.” According to legend a man owed some money to a king. The king said he would ask to be repaid in rice. He set down a checker board, and said that the man should put one grain of rice on the first square, two grains of rice on the second square, four on the third square, and so on, doubling the number of grains of rice every time he moved to the next square. The man said that sounded fair and he thanked the king for such mercy.

What is wrong with this repayment scheme?

The problem is that before the man got to the last of 64 squares, he was required to put down 9 billion billion grains of rice. That is more rice than have ever been grown on earth in all of history. That is what “exponential growth” means. A virus that grows like the grains of rice on that checkers board would have infected every person on earth in just over half a checker board.

If a virus had infected the eight billion people who live on earth and one percent of them died, that would be eighty million deaths. Since about sixty million people on earth die per year in a normal year, that would be a bad year.

The problem we are facing is not the 1 percent death rate. The main problem is the “surge.” That means the tidal wave of so many millions of people getting sick at the same time. If you get the virus, about three weeks later you might need hospitalization, and soon thereafter intubation and placement on a ventilator.

The best plan is to follow my daughter on Twitter: @FelicityEnders         She has a PhD in epidemiology, is a big shot at May Clinic, and she is very articulate. A better source of information than me.

The man who was repaying the king in grains of rice on a checker board would be much better off if he stopped after ten squares which required him to put down a thousand grains of rice, than if he stopped after eleven squares, which required him to put down two thousand grains, or twelve squares which required four thousand squares.

When your enemy is doubling every day or two, you have to make a decision rapidly. Currently the only proven way to stop the doubling of COVID-19 is to lock ourselves down into extreme social isolation immediately. My wife and I have done that.

Times like these force me to make peace with death. Making peace with death and making peace with life are two sides of the same thing. My religion has helped me. If you read the history of plagues and massive amounts of death in the past, religion helped a lot of people. Some viewers prefer the word “spirituality,” which is an equally good word. Another way of saying it is, “What is life really all about?” Ironically the nurses and doctors who are risking their lives to treat this illness, are one model for what life is all about.