The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

#Coronavirus: The Italian Catastrophe and the Pandemic Danger to America

Posted on | March 22, 2020 | No Comments

 

Everybody complaining about the economic impact of shutdowns, quarantines and “shelter-in-place” orders to deal with the Chinese coronavirus pandemic should take a hard look at Italy. As I have pointed out, Italy was particularly vulnerable to this disease because they had a large number of Chinese workers — 300,000 nationwide — mostly employed in the fashion industry. (Also, Italy had more Chinese tourists than any other European country, about 5 million annually.) A lot Chinese workers in Italy traveled to China for the Lunar New Year celebration Jan. 24, and then evidently brought the virus back with them when they returned to Italy in late January/early February.

As pointed out by Tyler O’Neill at PJMedia and Stacey Matthews at Legal Insurrection, the initial response to the Wuhan virus outbreak in Italy was impeded by social justice concerns about anti-Chinese “racism.” The mayor of Florence, for example, took to social media in early February to promote the politically correct message “hug a Chinese”!

 

The fear of inciting anti-Chinese “racism” among the Italian populace had a harmful impact on that country’s initial reaction to the outbreak of a disease which indeed originated in China, but when Italy finally got serious about the pandemic, they got very serious.

On March 9, a nationwide lockdown order went into effect. At that time, there had been fewer than 500 coronavirus deaths in Italy. Now, less than two weeks later, the cumulative death toll is approaching 5,000, and Saturday there were nearly 800 coronavirus deaths in a single day reported in Italy. Some accounts suggest Italy is wrongly exaggerating their coronavirus death toll, but I think this suggestion is dubious. Even if Italy’s death toll includes cancer patients, AIDS patients or diabetes sufferers who might have died even if they hadn’t caught this virus, such considerations do not reduce the expenditure of resources devoted to treating these vulnerable people with underlying health issues. America has lots of vulnerable people, too, and if they get the Wuhan virus, nurses and doctors will have to treat them. That is the problem.

While I have never been someone who automatically trusts “experts,” the concerns of medical experts about the Wuhan virus pandemic deserve our careful consideration. What worries them is that there is a finite number of beds in intensive-care units, and a finite number of ventilators, which are needed to treat the severe respiratory problems that this disease causes. Reports from Italy indicate that, even apart from the coronavirus death tolls — which is scary enough — their medical facilities are being strained to the max in an effort to keep up with the number of patients requiring ICU treatment.

“Well,” says my patriotic American reader, “we’re better than Italy.”

True enough, but there are limits to what even American ingenuity can accomplish. Let us assume that President Trump waives all the regulations that might otherwise slow U.S. production of ventilators and other medical supplies necessary to deal with coronavirus patients. But what about doctors and nurses? We can’t educate thousands of new medical professionals in a matter of weeks, so the human resources necessary to treat tens of thousands of coronavirus patients is going to be strained — overtime shifts, 70-hour weeks, etc. — and every hour of a nurse’s time spent treating a coronavirus patient is an hour not spent treating patients with other medical problems.

Imagine being an expectant mother nearing your delivery date, when hospitals are trying to cope with this deadly viral pandemic!

Do you see now why the situation in Italy is so scary?

On the day Italy imposed a nationwide lockdown, they reported 97 new deaths. That seemed shocking at the time — a hundred a day! — but in the past 12 days, Italy’s daily death-toll has increased eight-fold. There are about 60 million people in Italy, whereas we have about 330 million here. If we cannot bring this pandemic under control — if we can’t “flatten the curve,” as they say — our number of coronavirus deaths could rapidly escalate to the point where many hundreds of Americans are dying every day. As I pointed out Saturday, 11 states have 87% of reported U.S. coronavirus deaths, so the other 39 states are comparatively safe. That’s good news, if you live in Iowa, Idaho, Alabama or one of the other states with zero deaths so far. If you don’t live in one of the pandemic “hot” zones — Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, etc. — the economic impact of lockdowns and quarantines may seem excessive, but the alternative is a loss of the safety you’ve had so far.

We can watch the progress of the pandemic in Italy and extrapolate the probable course the Wuhan virus outbreak here. The bad news is, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Italy went into lockdown about a week before similar measures were imposed in most U.S. cities, and yet the Italian outbreak continues to escalate. We can therefore project that the number of American cases will continue doubling every three days or so for the foreseeable future, and the death toll will keep mounting. Death by coronavirus generally takes two or three weeks from the time the patient first exhibits symptoms, so that patients who will die during the week of April 6-12, who were exposed to the virus a week ago, may just now be experiencing their first fever, cough, etc.

The good news is that, eventually, the Wuhan virus pandemic in Italy will peak, and the daily death toll will decline. My hunch — and it’s just a hunch — is that Italy will pass that peak sometime in the next 10-14 days. The cumulative number of coronavirus cases reported in Italy will still keep increasing (because it’s cumulative, after all), but the number of deaths reported each day will start going down, and once that happens, it will be possible to begin thinking about how soon it will be safe to end the quarantine orders, to re-open bars and restaurants, etc. Our situation in the U.S. will probably lag a week or two behind the progress in Italy, so by late April, the worst of the Chinese virus scare could be over.

Let’s hope so, anyway. In the meantime, we’ve got at least another month of “social distancing” ahead of us, and I must once again urge everyone to read this article about symptoms of the disease.




 

Comments