Should We Shut Down the World Every Three Years? Setting a Precedent With 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

“There’s nothing like a serial assault to heighten your awareness, and that’s what we’re looking at. We’re on a cycle of about every three years of getting something like this. And each time that happens, there’s more awareness that these investments need to be made and sustained. The problem is getting these monies as part of the annual regular non-emergency funding.”

Should We Shut Down the World Every Three Years? Setting a Precedent With 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

The paragraph which you just read was attributed to Dennis Carroll, who not only used to be the director of the Pandemic Influenza and other Emerging Threats Unit for the United States Agency for International Development — which was also known by its acronym of USAID — but also earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in biomedical research with a special focus in tropical infectious diseases from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Even though the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic was inevitable, governments and creators of policies have not fully prepared for it, according to this article written by Kevin Berger for Nautilus — and the reasons why are as follows:

First, this is an expanding problem driven by unprecedented population change. It’s only in the last 100 years that we’ve begun adding people at a rate that’s causing this incredible disruption of the larger ecosystem. If you and I were having this discussion 100 years ago, there were 6 billion fewer people on this planet. It took us the better part of our total existence of the species, 300,000 years, before we hit the 1 billion mark. But in 100 years we’ve added 6 billion people and we’ll add another 4 to 5 billion before the end of this century.

Second, governments and society by and large are governed by inertia. We don’t change and adapt and evolve very quickly. And we’re barely cognizant as a global society that the world we’re living in today is fundamentally different than the world our species has ever lived in. You know that old saw that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will leap out. But if you take that same frog and put it in a pot of ambient water and slowly crank up the temperature, it will stay in that water and boil to death. It loses perspective on the changing environment around it. We’re that frog in the ambient water. We’re oblivious to the conditions that have enabled zoonotic viruses to become integrated into us.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus did not just come out of nowhere. Rather, it is considered to be classified as a microbe which causes a zoonotic disease, which is derived from an animal that is not human and “spills over” into humans — and the belief which is held by many members of the scientific community is that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus came from the handling of a bat.

An estimated 631,000 to 827,000 of the 1.67 million viruses which currently exist on our planet have the capacity to infect people, according to The Global Virome Project as published in Science on Friday, February 23, 2018 — but the potential to infect does not necessarily correlate with illness and death, according to Dennis Carroll in the aforementioned article.

Still, a fear of what is unknown about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus has caused panic worldwide — to the point where if not everything is shut down, whatever is left open may very well be affected. No one knows how many people will die from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus if left unabated — and yet, no one knows how many people will die from shutting down the economy and ordering people to stay at home for as many as two full months.

Setting aside the obvious issues of unemployment and lack of social interaction for a moment, the problem with the latter scenario of shutting down the economy is that deaths can occur indirectly from that aforementioned fear of the unknown.

“That Discomfort You are Feeling is Grief” — and Potential Suicide

David Kessler is the founder of www.grief.com and has studied the influenza pandemic of 1918. “This is a time to overprotect but not overreact”, according to this article written by Scott Berinato for Harvard Business Review in which people are feeling a sense of grief in general. “The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Kessler advises thinking about letting go what cannot be controlled — as well as focusing on what you can control, which includes washing your hands.

Stocking up on compassion is another suggestion by Kessler, as a greater number of people are becoming snippier and ruder than before the pandemic occurred. “So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.”

One unanswered question is how many people who suffer from depression or have had thoughts of killing themselves will be affected more adversely by the aforementioned grief?

“Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds”, according to this article from the World Health Organization. “Suicide is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.”

The link between grief and suicide is not untenable, as Doreen Marshall — who earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and is the current vice president of programs at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — offers similar advice in this article to David Kessler if you are struggling about what you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those. Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
  2. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others. It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because it’s part of depression.
  3. Get outside in nature–even if you are avoiding crowds. I took a walk yesterday afternoon in my neighborhood with my daughter. The sun was shining, we got our dose of vitamin D, and it felt good to both get some fresh air and quality time together. Exercise also helps both your physical and mental health.
  4. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

Increased Danger of Innocent — and Helpless — People Who are Trafficked?

With the collectively incessant push to curb the numbers to prevent more people from dying as a result of contraction the 2019 Novel Coronavirus comes a perceived lack of consideration of the consequences to the alternative — namely, deaths and other dangers which are an indirect result to the decision to virtually shut down the planet.

Coronavirus travel restrictions have forced anti-trafficking groups to suspend rescue operations of Vietnamese and Cambodian ‘brides’ from China, with some now in hiding having escaped the homes of men holding them against their will”, according to this article written by Matt Blomberg for Thomson Reuters Foundation News. “Charities in Vietnam and Cambodia said some women who fled this year have been detained and shut off from communication, while others who are ‘not under immediate threat of being killed’ have been advised to sit tight.

Frequent travelers have repeatedly seen notices about spotting and reporting suspicious behavior which may be linked to human trafficking, which is the second only to drug trafficking as the largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world and “is a form of modern-day slavery and a serious crime”, according to the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. “Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to make victims engage in labor or commercial sexual exploitation.”

Of the millions of people each year who are trafficked around the world:

  • Children account for half of the victims of human trafficking. In fact, the average age that a young person becomes involved in sex trafficking is 12 years old. If the victim is a minor, no force, fraud, or coercion is necessary to prove trafficking. Any youth under the age of 18 who is involved in a commercial sex act is considered to be a victim of trafficking.
  • Sex traffickers prey on vulnerable people, especially young people, and often lure them with promises of protection, love, or adventure. They may contact potential victims through social media or approach them at clubs and bars, at school, in malls, or in metro stations.
  • Labor trafficking includes situations of debt bondage, forced labor, and involuntary child labor. Common types of labor trafficking include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants and factory workers held in inhumane conditions with little to no pay.
  • Victims of human trafficking are often afraid to come forward and unable to leave traffickers because of trauma, physical violence, fear of harm to their families, having nowhere else to go, or a distrust of authority figures.

Other Innocent People Who May Be In Potential Danger

Almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States alone, according to the 2010 Summary Report of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which equates to greater than 10 million women and men in a single year.

Further statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence include rape, homicide, stalking, and other physical and mental impacts from domestic violence — and fears abound that orders for staying at home with limited movement in the outside world will likely exacerbate those numbers.

Children may also at an increased risk of being abused as a result of the restrictions imposed by governments in the effort to reduce the number of deaths caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration of the United States for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau, 1,720 children are estimated to have died from abuse or neglect in the United States in 2017…

…and parents — whether acting alone or with another parent or individual — were responsible for 80.1 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities in 2017, according to the aforementioned statistics.

The orders to stay in place will force most families to stay together.

Is a “Cycle of About Every Three Years of Getting Something Like This” an Exaggeration?

Another pandemic resulted in an estimated 60.8 million cases in the United States alone; and of those cases, 12,469 deaths are thought to have occurred — although as many as 18,306 people may have died from as many as 89.3 million cases — between Sunday, April 12, 2009 through Saturday, April 10, 2010 from a virus which was known as the (H1N1)pdm09, according to this report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Furthermore, this journal of infectious diseases from The Lancet — of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially used as a reference and from which the following quote is extracted — “estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated. Globally, 80 percent of (H1N1)pdm09 virus-related deaths were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age. This differs greatly from typical seasonal influenza epidemics, during which about 70 percent to 90 percent of deaths are estimated to occur in people 65 years and older.”

In addition to the swine flu in 2009, the Ebola virus in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016 means that an infectious disease epidemic or pandemic has occurred on average of once every four years; so the quote from Dennis Carroll that “we’re on a cycle of about every three years of getting something like this” is not an exaggeration.

Summary

At the time this article was written, at least 40,777 people — or almost 4.93 percent — have died of the minimum of 827,419 confirmed cases in 205 countries and territories worldwide, according to this situation dashboard from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

There is indeed a “virus” which has swept the planet; but it is not only the pandemic of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus about which we have to worry. Rather, the virus is called…

…panic.

Panic is what has ensued. Call it mayhem. Call it chaos…

…call it a pandemic more painful than necessary which was woefully artificially created by mankind.

This fever — this “virus” — is being fueled by the fear of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Where are all of the level-headed people who are approaching this ridiculousness with reasonable caution and thoughtful solutions?

I have said all along that we need to be concerned about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This situation is not to be taken lightly — it never should have been taken lightly — but we need to implement smart measures that strike the balance between safety and ridiculousness.

That is not happening, unfortunately. Panic has taken over — largely because of irresponsible reporting by members of the media and illogical direction by most leaders who have no idea what they are doing. Insanity has prevailed over thoughtful solutions and rational thinking. No one seems to be listening. No one seems to be leading. No one seems to be thinking. Everyone seems to be overreacting.

We are needlessly creating our own dystopian future, which will substantially affect us more than the 2019 Novel Coronavirus itself — many people who test positive for the virus experience mild symptoms at worst and recover rather than die — and the chaos which has been ensuing must stop now before more damage is done.

As for shutting down the planet, which has already been happening: not only is it too little too late, as this situation is already out of control; but I am still not completely convinced that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus ever warranted such drastic measures in the first place based on the aforementioned data and statistics.

We will never be able to quantify how many lives were saved from staying in place versus less restrictive measures; nor will we ever be able to quantify how many more lives were placed in danger as a result of shutting down the world — especially as any deaths which may have been indirectly caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus will not be attributed to it.

I personally agree with the quote from David Kessler of “This is a time to overprotect but not overreact.” Should we reset the shut down of the world and its economy every three years, which is when a pandemic or epidemic could occur — even when it decimates industries such as the travel industry — and will those who may become more vulnerable as a result of such a shut down be able to survive it?

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 — pandemic in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources…

…as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

8 thoughts on “Should We Shut Down the World Every Three Years? Setting a Precedent With 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic”

  1. Vera R says:

    Repeat after me:
    I am not an epidemiologist.
    I am not a public health expert.
    I am not a national security expert.
    Being able to read and quote experts does not make me an expert.
    I have no expertise to offer on this subject, only opinion.
    The world does not need my inexpert opinion on this subject.
    I will use my influence as a travel blogger to encourage my readers to listen to the experts.
    I will direct my readers to authoritative sources, to include official public health websites.
    That is how I, a travel blogger, can best contribute to the public good in this difficult time.

    1. Jackson Aimson says:

      The problem with experts is they are all taught, instructed and chosen and hired by the same people in undergraduate programs for graduate programs and academic positions and for governmental or ngo positions. It’s all very circular and insular. It is not really millions of minds but one mind with all research and peer reviews being done by the same people who think the same way. Bias obviously develops not only financial, as livelihoods of most of these experts in the above noted fields like national security, epidemiology and public health depend on government and private funding, but also political and ideological which guides agendas and even research. Just because people are conferred with the title of expert by a biased academia, media and governmental state does not mean people who are independent minded should be discounted when they challenge expert notions and conventions.

      1. Vera R says:

        Gasp, you’re onto us! It’s true, all scientists are Borg, indoctrinated to serve the collective, rapaciously consuming whole planets to advance our propagation. I’m Three of Sixteen.

        “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

        ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

  2. Steven says:

    I think when one weighs the economic damage against the lives saved by “flattening the curve,” the cost will be somewhere around 2 million dollars per life. Worth it? I think not, but that’s just me.

    1. Vera R says:

      Again, we don’t have to wild-a$$ guess this. There are people who do this for a living. We’re talking about reducing the number of preventable deaths. We can learn from the data on injury prevention, such as from transportation accidents.

      DOT put the Value of a Statistical Life at $9.6 million in 2016. It revises the number upward every year.

      “On the basis of the best available evidence, this guidance identifies $9.6 million as the value of a statistical life to be used for Department of Transportation analyses assessing the benefits of preventing fatalities and using a base year of 2015. It also establishes policies for assigning comparable values to prevention of injuries.”

      https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/2016%20Revised%20Value%20of%20a%20Statistical%20Life%20Guidance.pdf

  3. tim says:

    You don’t get it Brian

  4. Joe says:

    “Should Brian write this article every 3 days?”
    We get it Brian; you disagree with the complete shutdown. It’s just like all those other pandemics. You know, when they built tent hospitals in Central Park for Ebola, and turned ice skating rinks into temporary morgues for the swine flu.

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