Flattening The Curve

The COVID-19 Pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world. We recently surpassed over 1.3 million confirmed cases worldwide with a death toll of over 73,000 persons. Throughout the last two months, we have heard a lot about flattening the curve. I have seen many a conversation online not quite understanding what that term means.

While most of our politicians are extremely late to the party, some are finally beginning to truly understand mathematical exponents and what can happen to our cities, our states, our country, and our world, if COVID-19 is allowed to run its course unchecked. As of the writing of this piece, the US has over 360,000 confirmed cases and over 10,500 deaths. Unfortunately, those numbers are expected to rise steeply this week. The US has conducted 1.2 million tests thus far, which is one for every 273 persons in the country. That still greatly lags countries like South Korea that has tested one for every 119 persons, or Germany who has tested to one in every 119 people.

There are however a number of people taking to social media proclaiming the cure is worse than the disease. There are still many in a position of power who prefer to put the interests of the stock market above the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of their citizens or refuse to listen and heed the advice of the very people charged with. While we all tend to do better when the stock market does better, how the Dow Jones did today is of little concern to someone on a respirator, especially someone who will be bankrupted by the slow response to this pandemic by the US. As our cities and states have virtually shut down, unemployment is skyrocketing. People are being laid off wholesale and it hurts. To almost all of us who have one comma their bank account, this is hurting big time. Think about those who don’t even have that. The historic and unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package recently passed by the US Congress might end up being little more than a downpayment in rescuing the country from the economic damage caused by COVID-19. So much for the arguments made by many of the same Congressmen about how reckless the previous administration was in asking for only $800 billion during the great recession a little more than a decade ago.

2.2 Trillion dollars is a lot of money. As former Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen was famously quoted, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”  One trillion is a thousand billion. But even a record $2.2 Trillion doesn’t actually go very far. Let’s say that money was given not to businesses and banks, but directly to US citizens. Dividing $2.2 trillion among the 330 million Americans would amount to just over $5,700 for every man, woman, and child. Suddenly $2.2 trillion doesn’t seem like a lot does it? At the same time, $,5,700 could provide a very needed lifeline for the 78% of us who live pretty much paycheck to paycheck.

Let’s put aside the economics and focus on the coronavirus itself. First, let’s stop deluding ourselves that this is a disease that only kills the elderly. Yes, in China, 80% of the reported deaths were among those 70 and older. For those over 80 years of age, the fatality rate is just under 15%. For those in their 70’s the mortality rate stands at 8%. For those in their 60’s the death rate is 3.6%. Mortality rates do drop precipitously from there. Let’s talk numbers.  There were those throughout  March equating COVID-19 to the annual influenza death rate, which kills around 36,000 Americans every year. Of everyone who contracts influenza, the mortality rate averages .1%. This past week, the US topped 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day, more than double either lung cancer or the flu deaths. COVID-19 currently has a mortality rate of between 3%-5%. If I offered you 100 pieces of whatever your favorite candy was and told you as you took the box that somewhere between 3 to 5 of the pieces of candy in the box would kill you, would you eat them anyway?

COVID-19 mortality is also liked to other underlying and cronic health conditions, not just how many times one has traveled around the sun. According to hospital records, of all those requiring critical care, 40% of all patients had other chronic health problems. Those include people with Asthma (25 million Americans or almost 8% of the population), people with heart conditions (121 million Americans), immunocompromised persons including those undergoing cancer treatments, transplant patients, and persons with HIV (10 million Americans), those with severe obesity (78 million Americans), persons suffering from diabetes (100 million Americans), as well as people with chronic kidney or liver diseases.  In point of fact, a great majority of this country is at risk, no matter your age. A six-week-old died at the end of March in Connecticut from COVID-19. The virus does not care about age or economic status. We have to try and beat it with science and smart thinking.

So let’s get back to flattening the curve. If one person infects 2.5 people a day, then those people infect 2.5 people the next and so on, you can see how quickly we turn into a Faberge commercial from the ’80s, only this time not with beautiful bouncy hair, but with death and disease.

How can we easily demonstrate how exponents work? Easy. Remember back to a joke a teacher might have shared in school. If I gave you the choice of $1 million today, or a penny today, and doubled that penny tomorrow, and so on, for the next 30 days, what would you choose? Most of us would instinctively reach for the $1 million today. That is the same thing we are going through with those saying just keep the elderly inside and let the rest of us go about our business. Do the math. If you took the penny today, and two pennies tomorrow, and 4 pennies on the third day, by the end of the month, you would have over $5 million. Here is the spreadsheet to prove it.

The coronavirus is a terrible pandemic. It is has hurt all of us, but hopefully, far fewer of us that if we did virtually nothing. This pandemic will take many hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe millions before any vaccine or cure is found. It will create economic havoc we haven’t seen in our lifetimes as well. However, from every calamity comes opportunity. How we deal with today and how we plan for tomorrow will say a lot about us.

How will you and your store deal with making a sale today? Making a sale tomorrow. How will you get back to normal, whatever the new normal becomes? How many of you are looking at the changes we all need to make in our lives to face this new reality of our world. What new technologies will you invest in? What new technologies will you learn? What new technologies will you embrace as your future?

What steps are you taking to be ready for the influx of people with missed annual eye exams, with broken eyeglasses, with glasses made poorly by cheap online retailers? Will you be ready to make the most of 2020 when we are all able to?

Lastly, a BIG thank you to all the healthcare workers out there making a difference and putting their lives on the line for all of us, especially today, World Health Day. 

We are all in this together… but 6 feet apart for now.

Be safe!

Be well!

Be patient (not a patient)!

Flatten The curve!