Virus: Don’t jump the gun on recovery

It seems like even the virus has joined our lightning-fast news cycle, with some flattening reported at scattered sites around the country. This is the good news, reported simultaneously with the bad news of the death toll rising, rising, rising. More than 23,000 yesterday afternoon.

Dr. Deborah Birx called the Philly hot spot

As a journalist, I think broadcast reports do not help by succumbing to the temptation to lead the newscast by saying a “new record” total of deaths has been achieved. Each death creates a new record. Giving the number is sufficient. The drama of touting a new “record” just scares people.

Just getting the right numbers and analyzing them correctly is a chore.

Last week, after White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx identified Philadelphia as a hot spot, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said it is not a hot spot. Fact checking by the Inquirer determined that Birx was right.

Let’s be clear: I am not suggesting that Farley was lying or is incompetent. Two people can look at the same data and draw different conclusions. That goes for Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been wrong on a couple of occasions. As late as Jan. 21, he told an interviewer that coronavirus was nothing to worry about. In February, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were urging people to visit their respective Chinatowns.

With COVID-19, the facts are not static, they keep changing as we learn more about this miserable disease. It isn’t immutable, like algebra.

One significant change has been the anticipated death rate. It has fallen off a cliff. When I started writing about this disease three weeks ago, I used what was, admittedly, the worst case number, 2.5 million dead Americans. The current “worst case” number is around 140,000, which is tragic, but a tiny fraction at what we were expecting three weeks ago.

If we can believe the flattening, and if it doesn’t reverse, at some point we will ask how we got the original estimates so wrong. 

Did we overreact?  

I’d rather overreact than under-react, I would err on the side of caution.

Right now, some politicians — not just President Donald Trump — are war-gaming how to take manacles off the economy  to let it come back, slowly. A number of states have talked about the road back to recovery. 

In his daily press briefing yesterday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked about “opening the valve,” and that — uh-oh — “the worst is over.” That was a mistake because he does not know that, and even if he could know that, it undercuts the “stay indoors” state mandate. Under a reporter’s questioning, he retreated a little, saying this is what the numbers suggest, but that “stay home” still must be observed.

With the death toll falling short of predictions, it appears the horror movie we are trapped in isn’t as horrible as the reviewers suggested it might be.

But if we end the lockdown and social distancing too soon, it may come back and present us with a double feature. If you jump the gun, you may get shot.

26 thoughts on “Virus: Don’t jump the gun on recovery”

  1. As a non-journalist, reporting by media on anything, if overblown, can be for some, scary. However, I will only opine on the subject matter, Covid-19. To put it politely, the media, in general, indulge themselves in times like this. It sells their product, that’s for certain. Why can’t there be more measured reporting??? Even with this Pandemic still raging, they, it seems, can’t help themselves.
    As far as the predictions by the task force, I suppose better safe than sorrow. But the skeptic in me says the experts need to keep their expert reputations. And predictions are from the models, the far from perfect computer models. Does that sound familiar?
    Thank God the models were wrong!
    We will prevail, says the optimist in me.

    1. As a journalist, I dislike generalized broadsides against “the media” for sensationalized reporting.
      I see very little of it. Please specify who you are talking about.

      1. Stu,
        Below are some thoughts I drafted after a Task Force update on April 1, 2020.

        “Even now in the midst of the biggest battle we are facing since WWll, the Corona virus, some in the cable media, as well as broadcast nightly news and late night comedy as well as devious politicians continue to fight Trump at every turn. (This is not new. eg., Russia, Ukraine, Impeachment—all based on lies! It has been documented. But you won’t find it, if you don’t want to). It would seem they care only about themselves. Just watch some of the White House reporters confrontations with him at the Covid-19 Task Force updates. The irrelevant and leading questioning, the persistent interruptions. Trying to pit Doctors’ Birx or Fauci’s expertise with what the president may have opined a day or two early. Young petulant journalist parroting each other! Why? They are always looking for a anti Trump headline so to feed the frenzy.”
        This is what I refer to as Indulgence or what you call sensationalism.
        Furthermore Stu I haven’t the means to dig deep. I still have my memory and up to now haven’t forgotten what Trumsters like me have been ridiculed about.

        Also, my remarks were not aimed at you.
        Tom

  2. HAPPY TUESDAY !!!
    We are a nation of guessers and second guessers. If you have a specialty, we use a “model (guess ). If you are a meteorologist (? weather guesser ?), you predict ( guess ). If you’re from the neighborhood, you take a shot at it. and so on……………….
    Models: Some one or a team, puts data into a computer. The resulting information is based on the information placed into the program. In street lingo, you guess what is available, then the computer guesses that this is what will happen. ( sorry. I only have an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. I gained more knowledge from accredited course work over the years )
    As for the Corona virus Team, They should be limited to only speaking at the press conference. When you are a guess on any news outlet, those T.V. faces have an agenda. Either to make you look good or make you look bad. If you are not a guess, you can not be tricked, forced, manipulated, screwed……….
    It was said of our President. Only give the facts. DON’T take any questions from the peanut gallery, and give the floor to your professionals. I don’t need to hear stupid questions with sarcastic responses. We don’t need to be entertained. We need to be educated.

  3. Mr. Bykofsky,
    Thank you again for taking the time to write your column,. I didn’t read you as much before when you wrote for the Inquirer, but now I look forward to reading your columns every week.
    Thank You,
    Kevin Sweeney,
    Philadelphia Pennsylvania

  4. I fear for our nation. When eventually we come crawling out of our caves or up from our underground bunkers, we may find only a smoking wasteland of shuttered businesses and a destroyed economy (ergo, a destroyed nation), with steel-fisted governments at every level incrementally removing our freedoms. This is how nations are brought low…with the passive acceptance of the populace. What did Neville Shute write? “This is how the world will end. Not with a bang but with a whimper.” It’s time for people to say ‘enough!’ and dare to live with this menace.

    Stu, I await your kick to my butt, the slap to my face.

      1. Sort of a nasty response. Suggesting, as I did, that we should stop cowering and take back our nation is NOT urging people to die, it is urging people to LIVE. Think about this: since 1898 to 2015, 3,681,989 people have died in auto accidents in the USA. Yet it remains your right to get into your car and take your chances every day you drive. You have a better chance of dying in your car than dying from the corona virus.

        1. You need to stop comparing apples to oranges Vincent. Auto accidents do not spread by people coughing on you or your car, touching you, being within a certain distance of you, etc.

          You know opening the country will result in more people contracting COVID-19 and that will result in more deaths. Yet you and the rest of your gang cry the tRUMP mantra despite what the medical profession says. It appears your kind wants to make it more difficult for us to recover.

          1. Just because I disagree with you Vincent you say my mind is closed. You are the one with the closed mind. No matter what evidence is presented you are against it if it different than what your traitorous faux president, aka lying donnie tRUMP, wants you to believe. Let me add to what I said. Your mind is not just closed, it does not even belong to you. It belongs to that piece of crap tRUMP.

            The time of you and your ilk are coming to an end Vincent. Come this next presidential election the cesspool of that pedo-in-chief will be drained and flushed away.

      1. Not a response I would expect from a usually thoughtful person. I am not suggesting anything remotely like what you say. Merely suggesting that we should carefully move back into society and start living again. If it is acceptable to go to a grocery store with a slew of other people and be safe by maintaining a distance, why not the same in a park? Why is Valley Forge Park closed to walkers? Our federal government doesn’t trust people to be smart enough to walk or jog six feet from another person? Why are all the playgrounds for kids closed off? Don’t we trust parents to watch their kids while they play apart from others? Why can’t a man or woman get a haircut? Can’t a cutter wear a mask? Can’t a cutter wash his/her hands? Surely there is some middle ground between licking a public washroom basin (Jeez, Stu) and living like cave people. That’s all I am suggesting.

        1. Sorry, Vince. Sometimes your Ayn Rand philosophy pushes me over the edge.
          I didn’t mean it in a “bad” way. I should have said your “freedom” can lead to infection and death. You are in a high-risk group.

        2. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
          Vince,
          As always, you make valid points. ( Stu was just picking on you, because ) As we speak, the people in Michigan are protesting their Governor’s edict.
          Hopefully soon we will be allowed out.
          In the mean time, keep checking your bank account for your “waffle”.
          Tony

          1. It was in my bank account this morning. Astonishing that government acted so swiftly.

          2. That check has socialist tendencies Vincent. Do you like Socialism or do you only accept it when you can gain something?

          3. Tony, since when do you speak for Stu? For the many years I have known him he is quite articulate and can express himself extremely well.

  5. Kenney ate in Chinatown to show how safe it was. Cuomo and Diblasio told everyone to keep goin out to dinner on March 13. Maybe it has something to do with the food why the Democrats are so hung on Trump getting a later start to take the pressure off their late start.

  6. As a thinking American, I so enjoy your banter, men. I research my column about how to assist parents helping children learn — SUPPORTING SUPER STUDENTS–and the most important advice I can give them is to teach their children how to check the “facts” and think for themselves. For that they don’t need computers and/or lesson plans.

  7. It’s amazing to see such misinformation coming from Trump. It’s also amazing to see people like Tony & Vince swear by that shithead.

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