Perspective comparing flu and COVID-19.

“The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses, between 140,000-810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000-61,000 deaths annually since 2010” in the U.S. (see reference.)
That should provide some perspective for you. We don’t usually worry much about the flu because it comes and it goes every year. Some years are worse than others. We don’t get 24 hour reports of flu deaths even when they number in the thousands every winter.

One of the troubling things about this COVID-19 pandemic is the level of panic that is being encouraged by 24 hour coverage concerning death rates in various nations. Some nations are connecting death from perhaps many other causes to COVID-19. They are using raw mortality to index death by COVID-19. But probably other causes of death haven’t been totally crowded out by COVID-19. Mortality is part of every day in America and in all other nations for some of us.

The effort to do social distancing was started to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by people who are critically ill with COVID-19 so that the hospital could also treat the normal numbers of people who have accidents or heart attacks. This strategy isn’t working to preserve hospital space for all people even those without COVID-19 because people are becomming so afraid of COVID-19 that they don’t want to get anywhere near a hospital. And even with social distancing, the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and a lot of us will eventually get it. A lot of us are going to survive it.

Can we all take a deep breath? And another. Let’s recognise that mass hysteria can be caused by over-emphasizing illness and especially death in the news and online. Let’s not panic. Turn off the news, stop worrying that you might die of COVID-19. Wait and see what happens.

Meanwhile, our government has already spent money that it doesn’t have to the tune of 2 trillion dollars. Our recent treasury debt offering in the marketplace got no buyers except our own Federal Reserve. That means that all of the dollars in the U.S. are losing their value right now. Go to any online inflation calculator and you will discover that your dollars can afford to buy less this year than before in previous years. Whatever your salary or earnings, they will now buy less.
Anyone who has saved money is now holding money that is worth less than before the 2 trillion dollar stimulus passed in Congress. Our government is stealing from people like you both in the present and in the future. And already, there are some including President Trump calling for more debt and more monetizing that debt by making money worth a little less. Debtors benefit from such a monetization and it rewards some to take on even more debt. The lion’s share of the COVID-19 stimulus is going to corporations and large government sponsored organizations. There’s too much debt right now and there was too much even before the stimulus package was passed. We don’t need more “stimulus.” Stimulus isn’t magic for the good of the economy. Instead it hurts the economy’s long term health. And stimulus isn’t a cure for COVID-19.

I once saw a cartoon of Snoopy and Charley Brown talking about death. In the cartoon, Charlie Brown said that someday he would die. And Snoopy responded by saying that on every other day, he wouldn’t. Let’s keep that cartoon in mind and ignore the fever pitch of panic and hysteria in the press and online.

We also don’t need draconian measures. We don’t need to arrest people who aren’t at home or reject the licenses of businesses that don’t want to close their doors. President Trump refused on more than one occasion to advocate for measures like that. There is no government authority that translates into a greater magic that can accomplish what time is already accomplishing as we face this COVID-19 and get over it. It’s ok to stay home during social distancing and it’s ok when some businesses close because they aren’t needed at this time of social distancing. But jail for non-complaince with a government declaration in favor of social distancing is for communist nations, not the U.S..

Fortunately, we are learning more about this virus and what it’s doing inside people who are sick. According to Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctors are learning how to read chemical indicators from people who have been infected with COVID-19. It is hoped that doctors will be able to plan treatments according to those immune system indicators.

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quote from, accessed 31 Mar 2020.

Observations during the epidemic.

I enjoy learning about the world as it is unfolding, even during a pandemic. It’s interesting that I can’t find consensus about COVID-19’s rate of transmissivity R0 or its lethality. Although it’s tempting to do a minute by minute analysis of the data stream online, sometimes you have to wait for data to become more coherent over time. How contagious is COVID-19? We can’t tell because there are asymptomatic carriers that have so far been overlooked. We can’t tell how lethal the virus is right now either because of the same issue with undetected carriers that have no symptoms and who don’t know that they are ill.
The most frightening stories are from doctors and nurses who are facing patients that they can’t save from being overwhelmed by COVID-19. These stories describe virus that directly damages living lung cells, destroying many of them. When that happens, a patient’s immune system can go into overdrive and cause damage not just to the virus but also to the lung cells which are already being undermined by virus. These very sick people usually die. On the other hand, many people experience milder disease and they recover. There have been stories about 90 and 100 year old patients that are in recovery. A physician treating COVID-19 wants to save all his patients and she can’t. The sudden number of people dying of this disease can make doctors and nurses feel as helpless as all of us feel, but worse in some ways because they know the details of the deadly attack. Lots of others who may have the virus but who aren’t there in the hospital are fine.
There are people trying to turn this challenge into an epic catastrophe. Will it end our civilization? Will it kill millions of people? Will it destroy economies everywhere? Maybe not. We can’t tell how this coronavirus story will unfold because it’s still unfolding.
As you wait for what is already happening to finish happening so you can adapt to it, you have a new opportunity to do something different than what you usually do. Take time to relax, to gather your strength, to update your humor or your love of music or cooking or to do a life review. Do you like the life that you’ve been living?
What might you like to change about it?
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An old tool: Gamma Globulin to treat novel coronavirus infection.

Back about a hundred years ago in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, Americans faced more than one wave of deadly flu. The first wave was the deadliest and a year later the flu virus was less deadly because it was less virulent. More people survived also because of an antibody treatment that was developed. It was considered a miracle cure for those with no other hope of surviving. Purified antibodies found in the serum of people who had fought off the virus and survived it were injected into sick people. That sometimes saved the sickest people, giving them another chance at life. This treatment may offer more hope than using a ventilator, which sometimes fails to save those in dire straits.

As we worry about the novel coronavirus, Johns Hopkins University is doing a trial of IgG, or gamma globulin treatment to help people who are sick with coronavirus. In order to treat them with gamma globulin, it is important to find COVID19 survivors so that their serum can be purified and cleaned up for use in transfusions. The serum gamma globulin treatment is thought to be as safe as a blood transfusion. It can be repeated if it is needed as the donated IgG gets broken down in a patient’s body over time. It’s another bit of hope for people who are afraid and looking for a solution to help their loved ones.

In the meantime, we will wait and hope for a vaccine to be developed. Other medicines may be brought into use as well.

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Reference: “Antibodies from COVID-19 Survivors Could Be Used to Treat Patients, Protect Those at Risk”; Katie Pearce, Johns Hopkins University Hub,, accessed 27 Mar 2020.

Mercy is better than magic.

Today there are 29 people in Spokane county, where I live, who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Of course there are more infections in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and other large cities. Infections are spreading in the largest cities and people are becoming more afraid. This is a moment when people want mercy. Can they get it?
Congress has apparently decided to keep doing what it has been doing, only more so. The bill to help people displaced by shutting down restaurants, travel, bars, schools has been stuffed with pork for pet projects to help fund a bunch of projects that have nothing to do with this epidemic. The bill has been created to overspend by a couple of trillion dollars which will hurt our dollar’s monetary value and cause an increase in inflation. That will hurt Americans everywhere. The same people that Congress claimed that it was trying to help. When so many people’s survival is at stake, why can’t Congress do something new instead of the same old thing?
Since our republic was founded after the American Revolution, we have had three ideologies in our country that influenced and created an environment for policy formation. Classical liberalism came first from the nation’s founding to the Civil War. Modern liberalism came second, from the Civil War until WWII. And neoliberalism, our current political ideology came after the Second World War. The power of the federal government has grown as our nation has gotten older. Many seem to believe that a government with unlimited power can do more for them. But more power clearly means less wisdom. Look at Congess’s actions today.
Classical liberalism embraced rationalism and humanism. That gave way during modern liberalism to faith without rationalism. And under neoliberalism there has been an increasing faith in limitlessness tending towards fantasy and magical thinking. We live now in the era when many people refuse to believe that there are reasonable limits in government spending. History shows otherwise. Our economy isn’t healthy because of overspending. Congress is using the novel coronavirus as an excuse to destroy the value of the dollar. Drunk on too much power, Congess has refused to behave with a sober realization that overspending will unleash destruction in new and unpredictable ways.
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A vegetable garden might help you.

Some regions of the country are experiencing grocery shortages of items like toilet paper, fresh garlic, spaghetti sauce, pinto beans, alcohol swabs and who knows what else. As people get sick with COVID-19, there may also be a shortage of manpower to stock shelves and truck the produce of the nation to where it’s needed. Resilience is a helpful thing in the face of shortages. Also, with so much government money being spent beyond our GDP production, inflation appears to be inevitable at this point. You can do something to help yourself by growing up some of your own food.
Bloomberg was ridiculed for saying that a farmer’s job is so easy, just put the seed into the ground and the sun and soil will do the rest. Of course that isn’t true at all. Farming uses all kinds of know-how! But it is true that plants that produce chlorophyll to allow them to package sunshine into plant products like sugar and other carbohydrate is a boon to your table. You should take advantage of green grow power.

     Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is a useful resource if you don’t know how to garden. According to this book, a small square footage can be planted to feed a family. The size of your garden depends on how many people live with you. A four by four foot plot can feed one person, and two or three of those can feed two people. For a family of four, four four-by-four garden plots can keep your family stocked up in vegetables for the summer. And with smaller plots, there’s less work.  Perhaps you can also learn to freeze or can some of your produce. You can learn to compost and recycle vegetable trash to get better soil.  If you have a balcony or back deck instead of a back yard, you can try container gardening of your favorite herbs, or vegetables.  Maybe all you want are salad ingredients or blueberries or raspberries.
What else are you going to do that rewards you more during social distancing? Plant a garden in the ground or in a raised bed or in containers and you can enjoy vegetables all summer and freeze or can the rest to tide you over the winter. Go out a buy your seeds today.
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The U.S. is expanding its avenues of treatment to save lives.

President Trump today briefed the press. He said that chloroquine would be available to fight acute infections with the novel coronavirus. Chloroquine has been found to be effective in Australia and South Korea according to anecdotal stories about coronavirus. He also said that Gilead’s remdesivir may be used for compassionate intervention to save the life of any person who might otherwise die of acute infection. Remdesivir was developed to fight ebola virus and it has some effectiveness as an antiviral for use in coronavirus infections. In anecdotes from abroad, remdesivir has been described as a drug that has initiated a quick turnaround of acute pneumonia and high fever. It seems to allow the body to fight the virus by holding back viral amplification and attack of the body’s systems giving the body’s defenses a chance to win out against an otherwise faster attack.

President Trump looked weary as he addressed the press corp and he commented that they were all sitting too close together and endangering each other. After all the meetings he’s attended, he deserves a good meal and a long nap. Likewise, the press corp deserves a rest from all of the hullabaloo. From empty toilet paper shelves to kids staying home from school, everyone has been stirred up by the virus pandemic. Taking a rest from it is essential from time to time.

No one knows the future. As we face uncertainties, it was encouraging to hear progress against the novel coronavirus in the drug treatment arena. Nations are collaborating on beating back this deadly foe. They are sharing their insights to help all of humanity. Let’s hope for more progress as we continue to implement social distancing, testing when symptoms appear, quarantine and isolation as necessary. Remember that if you feel overwhelmed by the fear of this new virus you can pause and take a breath, take a few minutes to drink a glass of water, or go for a walk. We are moving towards better days eventually as we endure today’s upheavals and uncertainties.

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Social distancing a worthy strategy to reduce viral transmission.

President Trump spoke to America at a press briefing on St. Patrick’s Day. He asked a variety of experts in health, economics and government to speak. The most important strategy to prevent transmission is social distancing. With social distancing, people are asked to stay home as much as they can and to avoid groups of people larger than 10. The idea behind social distancing is to slow down the rate of transmission so that our hospitals can cope with people who need medical help to defeat the virus and survive it. Social distancing may also reduce the number of people who become infected, especially among the elderly. Dr. Debbie Birx specifically adressed the importance of social distancing.
In support of enhancing survival, mobile hospitals may be deployed and the Army Corp of Engineers may remodel some buildings to provide more care areas. Peter Navarro and others in Congress are considering fund grants or loans for increasing phamaceutical production here in the U.S. in support of enhancing supplies of products that have formerly been manufactured abroad. This will provide more pharmaceutical security to those that depend upon medicines that may be less available from foreign sources.
Steve Mnuchin talked about funds that may be available to people who can’t work because, for example, restaurants and bars have closed. He suggested that a government check to provide some living expenses to people who can’t work may be made available to people in need. This is to speed up providing a tax relief aid instead of reducing payroll taxes or having a tax rebate which would take longer to become available cash.
President Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about how to support cases of severe pneumonia that the nation’s manufacturers may be ramping up production of machines that support respiration for people with pneumonia. He also said that some grocery stores are trying to have designated time periods where only the elderly shop to avoid exposing elderly people who need groceries to younger people who may inadvertently transmit the novel coronavirus. President Trump mentioned that both political parties want to support policies that enhance the survival of Americans as we all face the novel coronavirus this year. It is hoped that August may see a lessening of viral threat, but it remains to be seen what will happen. Encouraging loved ones, mobilizing resources to where they are needed, avoiding unnecessary contacts and helping where help is needed will see Americans through.
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Don’t allocate any more spending on this new coronavirus.

Congress has oversight of the Federal Reserve, so Federal Reserve mistakes are Congress’s mistakes. Our Federal Reserve has made errors of policy under Congressional oversight that have made the stock market less connected with real world production and real world markets. The process of change from production to investment has been called Financialization.
These Federal Reserve errors have allowed the stock market and our larger economy to develop a reckless independence from market forces and a growing fragility. Easy money, or capital available at very low interest rates, has provided a playing field for large capital holders to recklessly risk large loans in a variety of investments, many that aren’t good investments. If an investment fails, there’s more money to borrow. Zero Interest Rate Policy was supposed to be a temporary measure after 2008 that allowed the Federal Reserve to borrow money and bail out the Too-Big-to-Fail Banks. But we have all noticed that ZIRP has been destructive to our middle class, especially old retired people who saved money that now doesn’t pay any interest income to them. Yet the Federal Reserve has already done ZIRP again, they declared over the weekend.
The Federal Reserve should stop that! The Federal Reserve isn’t helping.

Imbalances in our markets are being caused by reckless investing. Malinvestments hurt the economy because they waste economic resources. The Federal Reserve’s experiments have obscured price discovery and kept unsound companies in business. Congressional tolerance of monopolies has artificially raised the cost of tuition, cars, housing and healthcare. During the Great Depression, The Banking Act of 1933 initiated a separation of commercial and investment banks and the part of the Act that did that is called Glass Steagall. That part of the Act kept people’s savings from being used by risk hungry investors who might destroy people’s savings if their investment failed. Federal Reserve policy mistakes ended the Glass Steagall separation between commercial and investment banks during bank deregulation. Policies to undo the separation between investment and commercial banking started slowly during the Carter Administration and continued to completion during the Clinton Administration. Because Glass Steagall was repealed, banks bet everything on the subprime housing market. When the subprime housing market failed, a lot of banks failed too. If Glass Stegall had been still in force, there would have been a cushion to soften the losses. Instead, bank bail-outs during the Great Recession provided a government subsidy for bad banking practices that have only continued.

Don’t be fooled into believing that our nation’s concerns over a new coronavirus have provided investors a reason to crash the Stock Market. Because of bad Federal Reserve policies, investors knew that our markets have become less resilient and they were obviously waiting to cash out as they are doing now. Derivatives have allowed a casino-like environment in global trading and investing under a regime of cross border capital flows. Derivatives have allowed investors to create dollars out of bets that they now want to trade for dollars built from people’s hard work that have been invested in the stock market to get a retirement fund. After Glass Steagall protections were removed, and after ZIRP policy, retirees were driven to invest in the stock market. I know that people who actively invest in the stock market see money invested there as being all the same. But obviously the money earned over a lifetime is more dear to the earner of that money than money earned by betting derivatives. Glass Steagall protected saver’s money. We need that protection again as can be seen by today’s stock trading. Retirees can’t afford to lose their retirement funds. As money hungry investors cash out, people’s retirement dollars are evaporating. What will older people who cannot work now do when their retirement evaporates?
Global trade has hit a speed bump but that’s not a reason to crash the market. There’s no indication that global trade is ending for all time.

The nCoV 2019 virus shouldn’t become an excuse to crash every part of the U.S. economy. It also isn’t an excuse for Congress to allocate more dollars that aren’t accounted for to fight people’s fears or to raise confidence.
I don’t applaud when our Congress suggests an unlimited budget to fight a new virus. We should all ask Congress where exactly will they put the money that has already been allocated and who will benefit? Why do they need more money? Do they want the whole economy to become nationalized, or what?
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Trying to blame the CDC or WHO or the President for a pandemic is silly.

Not that long ago, people would often say, “There’s no cure for the common cold.” That quip was supposed to remind us that people and organizations have limited power. It isn’t surprising that a highly contagious and somewhat deadly flu-like illness can’t be stopped. Many examples from history show us that this outcome isn’t something new. Airplanes in the context of global trade have just made the spread of such a virus much faster.

It isn’t that we took a misstep somewhere in the line of contagion. Please don’t blame the CDC, the WHO or the President. There just isn’t a procedure to stop the spread of nCoV coronavirus 2019 once it’s in the population. That’s because it’s an airborne contagion that people can transmit before they have symptoms of any illness. It is an invisible menace that we will all have to face up to with steady courage.

We can only try to slow it down. How can we slow its spread? Make some washable masks (see previous posting). Stock up your pantry and eat at home. Reduce unnecessary public outings. Buy extra toilet paper and other supplies to enhance your resilience in the face of this challenge in case you become ill. Get some gatoraide. Make sure you have analgesic medicine (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetominophen) to lower a fever. Stay home when you can…read a book, watch a movie, make some art, play your guitar or listen to music, read your favorite on-line posts, talk with your family.

As this virus makes its way through our cities remember to be kind to the sick and grateful if you remain well. Human beings have limited powers and so do human organizations and they still can’t cure the common cold or even the uncommon new cold. You can cope.

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