Covid-19 victims, part III – a sense of perspective and judgement

di Joe Volpe del April 1, 2020

TORONTO - The Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a real disease in medical science terms, capable of killing the human body mercilessly. Ours, to be more specific. It’s best not to be infected. As a member of the H1N1 group of Flu Viruses, it is particularly aggressive. Wash your hands. Avoid touching people or things where the virus may have attached itself because we don’t know who or what is a carrier and for how long the virus survives where it attaches itself.

In short, be cautious. Do not accept things at face value. These are values ingrained in our psyche that have served us well for centuries, even as “we live the moment” – so to speak. Fear, in moderation, is a healthy thing. Without moderation (an abundance of caution) fear rapidly morphs into paranoia. Sounds crazy.

As crazy as the speed with which we have abandoned every ideological attachment to how we spend our money, and what we accepted as sound budgetary practices in government. Political Parties defined themselves in terms of individual and social responsibilities associated with how well we take care of our economic wealth: avoid [unmanageable] debt and stay out of deficit (borrowing to manage the debt).

Paranoia is the new normal. Who would have imagined that a USA led by Donald Trump would ever spend $2.2 Trillion on measures to “combat Covid19? Not all that money is dedicated to finding a cure. But, if you’re counting, that money is equal to 10% of the country’s GDP. Three times the amount of the country’s annual defense budget, which in its turn equals that of the next ten biggest spenders on military services and equipment disbursed every year.

It is 5% more than the annual GDP of Italy, the 8th largest economy in the world, and 22% more than Canada’s GDP, the 10th biggest economy in the world. Put di³erently, the US federal budget for combating Covid19 would be enough to provide 60 million Italians with the quality and standard of living they enjoyed until three months ago, for an entire year, and then some.17

But we’re in Canada. On March 10, a “prudent” Federal government announced expenditures of $1 Billion (Canadian currency) in measures to fight Covid-19. Three weeks later, that sum has risen to over $ 110 Billion.

Last year (an election year) the government budgeted for expenditures of $356 Billion, including a $19.6 Billion deficit. Today’s additional proposed expenditures means that Canada has increased its Budget by just under 30% - astounding and unprecedented.

Closer to home, an Ontario government fixated on an “unmanageable” deficit left by the previous government ($5 billion to $15 billion) now announced an allocation of $17 Billion (an 11% increase over last year’s projected spending plan) – money it does not have - to see the people of Ontario through this crisis.

On what are all these mitigation expenditures targeting the fallout of Covid19 based? Algorithms (extrapolations from data available) developed from reports of confirmed infected – tested – and deceased. These are only as valid as the sample demographic on which they are dependent.

In Canada, the sample demographic likely has relatively limited applicability because very little testing has been done. The 7,400 confirmed cases represent a contagion rate of 7.4 in every 37,500 inhabitants. The deceased (89) are only 0.012% of those infected. In Ontario confirmed cases are at 581 of a total population of 14,000,000.

Italy has been testing aggressively (but more so with the “elderly”, average age of those tested is roughly 63). The 102,000 tested so far represent a contagion rate of 102 in every 60,000. The numbers are not as reassuring for the elderly with three pre-exiting conditions. Forty-eight (48%) of those tested in a sample of 481 in Lombardy died.

In Germany, the sample demographic tested is younger (average age 45) so the recovery outcomes augur more positive results. Various virologists posit that this may explain their relatively small numbers resulting in death. Even here those confirmed infected by the virus represent a rate of 62 in 80,000.

If the numbers coming out of China mean anything the recovery rate of those who prove positive when tested is 91.6%. The USA, which until two weeks ago was doing virtually no testing has so far registered a confirmed infection rate of 162 per 340,000 (81 per 170,000).

These are the bare bones of the data that has thrown us into an entirely new dimension of behaviour – social and economic.

I didn’t take a flu shot in the Fall. Probably too late now, but if I survive this season, and there is a vaccine available in the next season, I will. Someone has to be around to pay for the disruptions to our economic order.



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