If you are merely awake much less alert you have heard by now countless reports in all media of the horrific dangers of Covid-19. We are being inundated with numbers, stats and models and modeling. Some are merely anxious others appear to be terrified. Let’s cut to the chase and talk about what really frightens us–death. We have all been sick at times during our lives. We don’t going around every day in numbing fear of getting sick. It is dying that scares the bejeebers out of us. The story line is that we all need testing and lots of it, into the millions and the tracking of our bodies by government. Let’s look at some history of science and modeling and probabilities for perspective and a more informed understanding of what we are trying to discern from all that data.
During the War the Eighth air corp was taking tremendous losses from the German defenses and the high command was determined to make ever effort to reduce that loss ratio. The B-17 was the basic bomber we used and it was rugged and well armed and the squadrons flew in box formations to maximize the firepower of the .50 cal machine guns mounted in each plane. In spite of that the losses were quite bad. As only the military can do and especially during the War they mounted an investigation and analysis to determine what could be done to the planes to increase the odds of survival from missions. Where should they strengthen the planes or add more armor? They brought scientists, engineers and folks from the manufacturers and the assembly plants to do a study. After each mission they would photograph, note, chart and measure each damaged part of the skin or other parts of the plane. They itemized whether the damage came from flak, cannon or machine gun fire from German fighters. They accumulated in a short period of time mounds of data. Regardless of how hard they worked to make the data reveal a coherent pattern that would lead them to conclusions to act on they were baffled. They could not come up with any effective recommendations. Finally they brought in another fellow whose name I do not recall nor his background but I think he was a mathematician.
They showed him their reams of data and then let him take a look at what they were doing to inspect planes upon arrival from a mission. The story is that in less than a day he straighten them out. He told them they would never find what they were looking for with their current testing and analysis because, wait for it, they were testing and analyzing the wrong thing. They were looking at and examining the planes that survived the mission. He told them to find what they wanted they would have to look at the planes that were shot down. Those were the planes after all that would reveal whatever weaknesses there were in the design. Not the survivors. Duh.
Any lessons for us today? Do we really need to spend such enormous sums of money as some propose testing healthy 30 somethings with no symptoms and destroy the entire economy at the same time? I do not dismiss the seriousness of Covid-19 but would like to see us focus on the real problem as opposed to ” might be” problems. Test us old folks and anyone with actual symptoms. But calls for millions and millions of test–what for? What new or useful will we actually learn. The real problem is death due to Covid-19. Shouldn’t we focus on death rates and the factors causing the death which would include all underlying health concerns and apparently age. (Disclaimer–me and the child bride are both 77). How about more autopsies. All the info I can find indicates that the overwhelming majority of deaths does come from the elderly and those that are already sick with some other serious ailment. Last I could find researching the matter something like over 90% of deaths were people 80 or more of age! Here’s a warning for you kids, old people die. What cogent information will we glean testing tens of millions of perfectly healthy young folks? I would bet that we would learn that most young people are healthy with or without the Covid-19 infection–tada. Information about the spread and rate of spread is ok if its done within reason. It is not the spread or the disease itself remember–we just don’t want to die. The smartest people in the room may have IQ’s much higher than mine or yours but that doesn’t mean they can’t also suffer from hysteria. Recall also the truism that people view any situation through the prism of their profession. Infectious disease experts would prefer we all live in plastic bubbles then no one would ever get sick. Of course you might starve to death in the mean time. We all have our prejudices about society and life and they have theirs. Listen to them. Evaluate their advice, challenge it and their methods and conclusions. After all that is the very foundation of science and the scientific method. It can be kind ugly at times but that is how a free society works.
The hawk and the wren are both birds. One is a predator and the other a song bird. The world is better for both of them being here. Here’s hoping we’ll study the right problem, collect pertinent data and reach the right conclusions and take sensible action.
Random thoughts around the campfire. Olcranky