Victory Over COVID-19

By now, everyone knows the most dire aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic: countries and states continue to experience new cases and deaths. News warns us that when the flu season hits in the fall, COVID-19 cases and deaths will surge. But most news outlets neglect to tell us of successes. (Knowing that humans evolved to pay attention to fear, these news outlets sell more bad news.) Caution has its place, but when it fails to give the full story, it misleads and causes unnecessary fear. Focusing on negative statistics is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of finding a solution. Other essential parts of the solution are 1) focusing on what works; 2) viewing this pandemic in context; 3) realistic data; 4) avoiding distracting information and 5) action that works.

Celebrating Past Successes Inspires Future Solutions

Celebrating victories opens our minds to optimal solutions. These victories remind us that soon, humanity will prevail against the Coronavirus as we have against other pandemics. Many countries, after months of battling this virus, have experienced huge drop-offs in deaths and cases. What have they done right? And how can we replicate this?

When we look at the past 100 years, we see death rates due to infectious disease falling dramatically around the world. In 1900 in the US, the top three killers were infectious diseases. Today, the top killers are heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which kill at later ages, allowing people more years of life. In the not so distant past, murderous microbes killed many children who never got to celebrate their fifth birthday. Deadly bacteria and viruses killed many women as they were giving birth. Few were immune to the ravages of these invisible killers. The Coronavirus, so far, has killed fewer than 50 per 100,000. This is a huge success! And over 90% of these deaths occur in people who would not have been alive 50 years ago, namely those with preexisting conditions, most of whom are over the age of 70.

Red mark (outside graph on right) shows death rate of 43 deaths per 100,00 due to COVID-19 as of early August 2020. Data from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/768249

Evolution Informing Us

Thanks to our understanding of how viruses and immune systems evolve, we have gained victories against infectious disease. Armed with this knowledge, we have been able to bolster our immunity and avoid infections. We now practice physical distancing, disinfection, and hand-washing to prevent the transmission of disease. We know that eating nutritious food and healthy exercise contribute to healthy immune function. We also know that stress profoundly suppresses the immune system. We know that animals evolved system of “fight or flight” to channel energy into fight or flight. A byproduct is the suppression of immune systems. Knowing this, we can practice stress reduction to enhance our immune function. Enjoying friendships, laughter, gratitude, and cultivating a hopeful vision for the future all reduce stress. In other words, celebrating enhances immune function.

Useful, Actionable Information

Victory over infectious disease has been made possible with useful, actionable information.

At right are links to information that will help inform your actions.

Data about Covid19 replicates almost as quickly as the virus, leaving us with a glut of data and a shortage of understanding.

That said, there is much useful data which now tells clearer stories of what is going on. This information can guide us going forward.

  • Deaths by Country – per 100,000 people. Data from Johns Hopkins.
  • Deaths by Age – What age groups are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus and need the most protection?
  • Daily Deaths by Country – What can the experience of other countries tell us about the future of Coronavirus in our country?
  • Cost of Shutdown – Shutting down the economy, restricting school attendance, and limiting social gatherings may limit the spread of COVID-19. What is the cost? How do we balance protecting people from COVID-19 while protecting others from death, despair and economic ruin?

Too much data distracts. Since this pandemic began, we’ve been deluged with data. Paradoxically, this data can distract us from understanding what is really going on. Distraction prevents or delays good decisions.

Words with multiple meanings are distracting. Case in point is “case”. For some people, “case” means “sick with COVID-19”. For other people, “case” means “testing positive using PCR” whether or not one shows symptoms or not.

So, in the service of maximizing usefulness, I present data that is clear. At this point, death data is clearer than case data. Yet even data about deaths is confusing because of the way deaths are recorded. For example, sometimes deaths are recorded when people die with the coronavirus, even if the virus didn’t kill them.

Evolution In Action

The Coronavirus is not the only thing that’s evolving during this pandemic. Human immune systems evolve when they confront new viruses. Technologies evolve to track, to inform, and to treat people. Human behavior evolves to avoid the virus. Cultures evolve. What we are learning from this pandemic is helping us prevent and treat CovID-19 and future death and disease.

With over 60 million tests for COVID-19 (as of early August, 2020), the United States leads the world in tracking this deadly virus, Tracking this pandemic is giving humanity one of the greatest data sets on infectious diseases and the evolution of viruses. This empowers us to understand the evolution of viruses in a whole new way.

While the world has not yet prevailed against the coronavirus, the many victories offer hope that victory is near.