Veaux frames the issue as “How can a disease with 1% mortality shut down the United States?” and then he’s off to the races:
There are two problems with this question.
It neglects the law of large numbers; and
It assumes that one of two things happen: you die or you’re 100% fine.
The US has a population of 328,200,000. If one percent of the population dies, that’s 3,282,000 people dead.
Three million people dead would monkey wrench the economy no matter what. That more than doubles the number of annual deaths all at once.
The second bit is people keep talking about deaths. Deaths, deaths, deaths. Only one percent die! Just one percent! One is a small number! No big deal, right?
What about the people who survive?
For every one person who dies:
19 more require hospitalization.
18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
10 will have permanent lung damage.
3 will have strokes.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.
So now all of a sudden, that “but it’s only 1% fatal!” becomes:
3,282,000 people dead.
59,076,000 people with permanent heart damage.
32,820,000 people with permanent lung damage.
9,846,000 people with strokes.
6,564,000 people with muscle weakness.
6,564,000 people with loss of cognitive function.
That’s the thing that the folks who keep going on about “only 1% dead, what’s the big deal?” don’t get.
The choice is not “ruin the economy to save 1%.” If we reopen the economy, it will be destroyed anyway. The US economy cannot survive everyone getting COVID-19.
There’s more than money at stake — this is a lot of misery. Even if the economy could survive it, surely this is a scenario worth working to avoid?
UPDATE: (7/27/2020) As I should have pointed out initially, the numbers below the 65,358,000 hospitalized are a breakdown of that number, not in addition to it. As far as I know, we don’t have any data at all on what the long-term effects, if any, of COVID-19 are likely to be on persons who are not hospitalized for it.
I’ll be speaking at a virtual symposium on the future of legal education to be held on Wednesday, Aug 5. The program starts at noon, and I’m on Panel 2, which is somewhere in the middle because we start with a keynote, and there are four panels. Six hours in all!
My talk is entitled “The Virtual Law School 2.0” and builds off a talk I gave … 20 years ago. And the (horrible) slides for that one are still online somewhere, too.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EDT
The University of Miami School of Law, in partnership with the AALS Journal of Legal Education, is delighted to host a virtual symposium to discuss the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed legal education in the U.S.
The symposium will seek to explore the ways in which the delivery of legal education online implicates power and identity and entails institutional and pedagogic transformation. Please join us for a keynote by Professor Cass R. Sunstein, followed by stellar panels featuring Deans Leonard M. Baynes, Darby Dickerson, Eduardo M. Peñalver, Vice Dean Andrew B. Dawson, Associate Dean Margaret Y. K. Woo, Professors I. Glenn Cohen, Charlton Copeland, Meera E. Deo, Michele DeStefano, Doron Dorfman, Yvonne M. Dutton, Sheila R. Foster, Mary Anne Franks, A. Michael Froomkin, Osamudia James, Nina A. Kohn, Mary A. Lynch, Rhonda V. Magee, Jeremy R. Paul, Michele R. Pistone, and Mr. William E. Adams, Ms. Judith A. Gundersen, Mr. David C. Reeves, Ms. Kathleen M. Sullivan, Ms. Kellye Y. Testy, Mr. Richard M. Trachok II.
Academics, practitioners, students and alumni, and members of the public are welcome to attend. There is no charge for participating but advance registration is required.