Coronavirus 2020

Coronavirus: An American in Korea Weighs In

By Robin Postell

As March 2020 opens up, the coronavirus has revealed itself in the U.S. Deaths in Washington are reported at a nursing home, and other states including Florida and Georgia report cases.

The CDC released this map on March 4, 2020 showing the reported cases globally

Until a couple of days ago, however, the U.S. was eerily quiet on the whole thing – many taking to social media attesting it was probably just a “demotard” hoax, or pick your poison – throwing in political barbs wherever they see an opening as Super Tuesday approached.

I wanted to know what was really going on from a source I could trust. Nothing from the press, mainstream or otherwise. I wanted someone I knew and trusted who was living on the frontlines, so I reached out to my international connections.

My friend Michael Cavada, who is a professor now in Daegu, South Korea, answered me immediately when asking on my personal Facebook page how bad was it.

On Sunday, March 1, 2020, he wrote:

Hey. It is bad. Meaning the city of Daegu, 2.5mill, has been nearly totally shutdown. Schools canceled, large public gatherings prohibited, the economy has bottomed out (nobody leaving their houses to consume), and most notably is the suspicion that everybody has of everybody else. Hospitals have run out of beds, medical supplies are in need, and doctors and nurses are suffering from exhaustion.

Many nurses and doctors have been shipped in from other parts of the country.

Take me for example, 12 days ago I was making about 8,500$ per month between both of my jobs: professor and tutoring business. Now, I’m making about 3,000$ per month. Times my economic woes by millions and you get the idea.

Streets largely empty, large buildings are closing, etc…You get the picture.

However, the government has been dealing with this in an exemplary fashion. About 90,000 tests have been conducted. Even drive-through tests have been put in place. Thus, the number of infections is so high.

Anytime a person who has been infected is recorded the government sends out text messages to citizens who are in that area. For example, if an infected person went to a store in my neighborhood, then I’d get an emergency text message telling me.

Whereas, the reaction in the states is reckless. Government trying to control the message, not being honest about things, and more importantly, not FUCKING testing.

500 tests in the USA thus far is beyond negligent. Mark my words, the virus is already in the states and the only reason the numbers are so low is that the USA is not testing, nor does it really have the systems in place to administer mass tests. The CDC is woefully lagging behind.

I’m shocked that the US did not prepare for this. After all, it has been raging in Asia for 2 months now.

This virus spreads like butter in summer. It can take up to 27 days to incubate in some people, which means they go around shedding the virus unknowingly for weeks before they are aware they have it. It can also spread asymptomatically. In addition, it can spread through aerosols, which make it a super spreader. That means it can spread through eye contact as well as the usual mouth and nose points of entry. There have been cases in Korea, Japan, and China where people have even been reinfected with the virus. All of this adds up to mass spreading. Oh yeah, it often only causes mild reactions in people, so then they go around shedding it while thinking they only have a mild cold. Nasty fucker.

The flu has a 0.1% mortality rate. Coronavirus has a 2% rate. At most, the flu kills about 650,000 people per year. So, do the math: 650,000 times a 20% increase in mortality and you now have a massive number. It is not the flu, it is much worse. Yes, about 80% of people will be fine, but those in that 20% range are fucked. Plus, it has a 14% mortality rate for people over 60-65. And if they have any kind of heart or lung condition, then the virus is a death sentence.

My wife and I have been spending about 23 hours in our home per day for 12 days now.

Furthermore, Korea has a national health system, so everybody gets tested for free, no questions asked. Millions in America have no insurance, are they willingly going to walk into a hospital/clinic to get tested? Hell no! They would rather get sick and spread the virus around than go into debt.

In an epidemic, to be able to respond efficiently, everybody needs free access to healthcare. And I’m sure insurance companies are going to fight tooth and nail to avoid paying for tests. They always do.

Michael Cavada from a Facebook message

Finally, I had some information that I could trust. I poked around television news, but mostly YouTube news where I could more pointedly customize my search results. Not everybody does that or knows how. There are still so many people, either older people or people without great internet connections, who rely on mainstream media to provide them with information.

That meant that the people who were most at risk weren’t getting adequate, if any, news about the hastening spread of coronavirus in the states.

Robin, this is not the flu, and yes, it is worse than the flu. Even if the current 2% mortality rate drops to 1%, that is still 10x worse. Additionally, throw in coronavirus plus the flu, and you get a compounding effect for the population and the health care system. Yes, this virus has existed before now, but it only existed in other mammal species, and was not capable of human to human transmission until now. This means scientists are only just learning about this virus in regards to its human consequences. And let’s not forget that this is is a virtual death sentence for the elderly. Shall I remind you that the baby boomers are old. Finally, what about all the Americans who don’t have health insurance? Will they walk into a hospital to get tested knowing it will cost them 100s or 1,000s? I think not. Rather, I fear they will just recover but be shedders.

Michael Cavada

On Tuesday, March 3, after seeing comments on my Facebook page and responding to my messages, Michael continued saying that if someone tried to tell me this is not as bad as the flu, then take a look at a Korea’s health system.

It is world-class, free for all, and it is overrun where the virus has hit hardest. The flu does not cause a health system to become overrun. Furthermore, this virus does not spread like the flu. It behaves differently. From all evidence here in Korea, it spreads much more rapidly and easily than the flu. It also can reinfect patients and can exist for days on some surfaces. Have you ever seen health workers in full-on protective gear for the flu? No. Yes, it is a mild cold for about 80% of people, but for 20% of people, it causes severe complications. While it is not a killer for people like you and me, it is a killer for the elderly and for the unfortunate 20%.

Florida has not declared a state of emergency because of its number of cases, but because they know that it has been circulating in the community for weeks. They just have not been testing. When tests start being given, numbers will skyrocket. They want people to stop gathering in large public places for events.

Michael C’avada

Until a vaccine is created and tested, he added, this virus will likely just become another seasonal worry. Add it to the list. Unlike other coronaviruses, (SARS, MERS) this one seems to be milder but spreads easier.

Watching how many, not all, Americans are digesting this epidemic is sad. The politicalization of this virus is a new low point in America. If Americans can’t come together to understand science, when the desired effect is to simply protect people from illness, then what is left to come together about? Trump’s administration is not being very forthright. And Pence, a man who regularly shuns science and shunned his own religious beliefs just to be Donald’s henchmen, is surely not the guy to run the operation. Korea is dealing with this in an organized, rational, and unified way. It is all about the evidence, the science, and the ways that civil behavior needs to operate in the new paradigm so that everyone is safe and informed. America seems like a dysfunctional, political juvenile. The attitude that one party can control the message is closer in line with Chinese communism. A good contrast to pay attention to are the Chinese and Korean models for dealing with this epidemic. China is trampling human rights, lying about their statistics, and enforcing Orwellian rule upon its people. While, Korea is being transparent, honest about its numbers, and trusting that its citizens will practice the correct civic duty because everybody has a stake in the outcome. I’m not saying that America is China, it clearly is not, but the tendencies of the current administration are pointing to a more Chinese like control of its people. It is saddening to watch the creeping death a great democracy.

850 cases reported today. Over 100,000 people tested. Gov’t is now starting to test all citizens, for free of course, not only those who are showing symptoms or who have been in contact with infected, but the general population. This is a perfect model of how a health system needs to mobilize quickly. Also, the gov’t is now deploying the military to aid in the fight. Guess I’ll be getting tested soon then.

Michael C. from Degau, South Korea on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

And through all this, there has never been a run on any supplies in stores, except for masks, he said. No run on food or water. The South Korean government has now given Michael and his wife five free masks in the past seven days. They put them on their front door.

There is no run on things because the general population understands what is happening. In other words, it is not panic buying.

Michael C. on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Except for the zealots, everybody seems to be working together.

And finally, the last word from Michael was earlier today, Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

He went onto point out that the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the new mortality rate is not 3.4%, a 14% increase. Ultimate, the mortality number will fall after the world tests millions of people because so many infected are asymptomatic “shedders.”

But what you need to understand with this new increase, is that for the population 50 and over, and especially 60 and older, this virus is a date with death. And still, the US is not testing like it needs to be. Infer that 1,000s of people are walking around shedding this virus. Everything I have been warning you about is coming true. Sucks to be right!

Michael C. on Tuesday

I will be reaching out to other contacts and begin drilling down on national and state cases here in the U.S.

Writer and photographer since age 7, I took it pro when I turned 21. Freelancing for magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs ever since, my portfolio grew. The publishing industry has changed and I continue adapt. Now, I'm shifting gears and looking for new adventures, both personally and professionally - the two have, frequently, been synonymous.

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