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COVID-19

by Dennis M. Myers, 03/18/2020

Last week I was given an unexpected friday off. The reason was so that the building I worked in could be "deep cleaned" after the legislative session ended. Monday was to be a single "teleworking" day.

Now, I use "teleworking" in quotes because I had actually never come across the word. Sure, I had worked remotely, and WFH meant working from home, but this is my first time working for a government agency, so the unusual phrasing caught me off guard.

Things changed rapidly. Monday morning I dropped my wife off at the bus stop and went home to work. Just after lunch my wife called for me to come get her. Her lab has shut down and she is now on paid vacation until they need her.

By the end of the day, my office had transitioned to teleworking until further notice. So now we are both home with my 70 year old uncle who is staying with us this year.

The death rate for this thing will take the better part of a year to figure out. Obviously the lack of testing hinders the calculation, and the propensity of mild cases going unreported is unknown. However, like it's sibling, SARS, COVID-19 is far more deadly than the common flu, and that kills thousands each year. The biggest factor appears to be underlying conditions, like advanced age and respiratory issues. Younger, healthy people don't appear to be having nearly as much difficulty.

Another problem we are facing is that a larger number of people develop breathing problems which require hospitalization and a ventilator. Here is where all that social distancing comes in. See, if it spreads too fast, and too many people flood the system, we run out of capacity. People who would have survived on a ventilator don't have access to one, because the hospital is full, and they don't have any more of them. There are around 100,000 ventilators in America, and the rapid spread of this disease could sicken millions.

So we hunker down, attempting to slow the spread, so that hospitals don't get overburdened, so that the largest number of us live through this.

Now, about the name. Calling it the coronavirus is a bit like calling the Spanish Flu the influenza virus. technically correct, but very generic. There are seven coronaviruses that we have identified. This one, which causes Covid-19, MERS, SARS, and then four other strains that are so common we don't even think of them as a disease. We call them "the common cold". That's why it makes me cringe when people call this one "the coronavirus."

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