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Is the Coronavirus Way Overblown? Let's See

Medical professionals are at odds with some political pundits
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2020 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Amid all the high-octane reporting on COVID-19, another story is circulating at street level—that the whole thing is way overblown. After all, New York City has only 154 confirmed cases (LiveScience), LA County 40 cases (LA Times), and the state of Illinois just 46 (NBC Chicago). What's more, people will tell you coronavirus is no worse than the flu. Yet school systems and sports leagues are shutting down, mass events are being canceled, and President Trump is reversing course on his early skepticism to enact new travel bans. "I don't want people dying," Trump said. So how do we square this circle?

  • Politics: One poll found that about 6 in 10 Republicans aren't worried about the coronavirus, while 68% of Democrats are. That might be because more Democrats live in cities—which are having worse outbreaks—but the New York Times notes that right-wing pundits are circulating doubt about the virus. Sean Hannity says it might be a deep-state "fraud," while Fox Business anchor Trish Regan was put on hiatus after calling the virus "another attempt to impeach the president," per Bloomberg.

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  • Britain: Boris Johnson is lending credence to the "it's overblown" theory by refusing to ban mass gatherings or close schools, CNN reports. But with 798 reported coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Friday, the Express reports that Johnson is under pressure to alter his strategy.
  • Fear of panic: One infectious disease expert warns that panic could be worse than the disease. "I am not scared of COVID-19," writes Canadian doctor Abdu Sharkawy, per ScienceAlert. "What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world."
  • The flu: But the medical data is concerning. There's no established death rate yet for COVID-19, but it appears to out-kill the flu. Our World in Data estimates that in the 65+ age group, COVID-19 kills 6% and the flu only 0.8%, Vox reports. What's more, COVID-19 still has no vaccine.
  • How many? Health officials say the virus may be vastly underreported. Medium notes that when Wuhan thought it had 444 cases, it really had around 12,000—about 27 times more. Likewise, Ohio health officials say 100,000 state residents might have the virus. If numbers are that high, the virus will quickly spread and numbers will soar.
  • What to do? Stay calm. Stress alone can weaken your immune system. Forbes offers click-worthy advice, like: self-quarantine if you're sick, wash your hands thoroughly when you get home, and "practice social distancing, at least 6 feet from others." The goal is to let medical professionals tackle the virus while we calmly wait it out.
(See why there's a possible downside to panic-buying.)
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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