BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
There’s been a strange movement afoot to downplay the severity of the Italian incidence of death from coronavirus-related illness. First, it should be noted that, like the seasonal influenza strain, COVID-19 does not actually kill you. Usually what happens is that coronavirus infects someone and causes knock-on results, such as pneumonia, which kills the patient. Or, it exacerbates an underlying health conditions (called a co-morbidity).
The coronavirus is the trigger.
Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions in a patient.
But pneumonia or some other issue is usually the cause of death. Further, the disease tends to affect the elderly at alarming rates (though it is not exclusively an old person’s illness, despite what some elements in the media keep claiming). It’s just that the elderly tend to be most susceptible to this illness because their immune systems are inherently weaker than a strong young persons’ immune system is–and the elderly tend to have higher-than-usual co-morbidities.
Old age, though, is not the only co-morbidity that would influence whether someone was more likely to be infected with COVID-19 or not. Chronic illnesses also play a huge factor. And in the case of the United States, as Dr. Michael Olsterholm of the University of Minnesota’s virology center warned Joe Rogan, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says about 42 percent of all Americans are obese.
Given that obesity is as dangerous to the body as smoking is, that alone is a co-morbidity that should frighten you when thinking of the presence of highly pernicious, novel coronavirus pandemic on the loose.
Given a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) assessment, questioning the findings of Italy’s health service about the number of deaths related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, it is important to note that your skepticism about the disease is wrong.
This disease is a killer. It is a Spanish Flu-like event.
We can have a wider ranging discussion as to whether we should shut the economy down totally as we have or not, but let us be serious about the severity of this illness.
Many have argued in the United States that the Italians were most affected because of their socialized healthcare system or because they have a larger-than-usual elderly population. These are both fair points. But, as has been shown in recent days, even America’s hallowed private healthcare system is facing severe shortages of much-needed medical supplies and beds, as the coronavirus outbreak here erupts. Inevitably, the same triage practices Italian doctors were forced to engage in will, on some level, have to be used here as well.
This is not necessarily a matter of socialized medicine versus private medicine (though that is, in some cases, a factor that probably put more Italians at risk of death than it will Americans).
The reason that so many US leaders are dyspeptic about the chances of survival vis-a-vis the coronavirus is because of co-morbidities among the American population, regardless of age.
In 2014, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a survey in which they determined that 40 percent of the US population–133 million Americans at that time–were afflicted by various chronic diseases. The NIH white paper further estimated that 157 million will have chronic illnesses by 2020, with 81 million Americans suffering from multiple chronic illnesses.
The US population is 330 million as of 2019. COVID-19 has a projected one percent mortality rate and it is believed that upwards of 20 percent of Americans could get infected with the disease. We’re talking about serious damage both to the people and to the healthcare system, which is already teetering on the brink.
Not all of those 133 million Americans with chronic illnesses (according to NIH’s 2014 data set of those with chronic illnesses) would die, of course, but they would be the leading risks. And given their co-morbidities, it likely means that treating them would be even more complicated than treating an otherwise healthy individual and, if they did survive, their recovery time would be longer–meaning they would be a greater burden on our already-strained medical system.
Meanwhile, for those of you insisting that this is an “old person’s” disease and that no concern is needed for the young bear this in mind: according to the NIH survey cited about co-morbidity in the United States, “approximately 8 [sic] percent of children ages 5 to 17 were reported by their parents to have limited activities due to at least one chronic disease or disability.”
This is not a joke.
We’re not necessarily even talking about saving individuals. We’re trying to keep the system working under extreme duress. The next time someone tries to convince you that the COVID-19 is akin to the seasonal influenza strain, remember that we have ways of managing the flu that we do not have for handling the COVID-19 outbreak (hence why medical professionals refer to it as a “novel coronavirus”).
The kind of death and injury that Americans would be subjected to from the medical system being swamped with so many Americans being infected and likely dying from the disease is graver than anyone realizes.
CORRECTION: A PREVIOUS VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS INCORRECTLY ENTITLED “AT LEAST 40 MILLION AMERICANS WITH CHRONIC ILLNESSES AT-RISK OF COVID-19”