The Danger of Expectations

Strictly in my opinion, one of the biggest reasons why the current coronavirus epidemic has resulted in so many unnecessary deaths is that this particular virus goes against medical and social expectations, as well as the “rules” of past epidemics. Part of those expectations also arose from the fact that we have vaccines and treatments for a score of diseases that once killed millions, and most Americans still can’t grasp the idea that this disease is a large-scale killer, because that goes against the societal expectations, even though those expectations have only been in place for little more than a generation.

While the effects and the mortality from Covid-19 generally increase with the age of those infected, its manifestations in those infected vary, seemingly from being symptomatically undetectable to being lethal, and lethal effects strike every age range, with the result that even young adults and even a few children have died.

Initially, the virus seemed to target the respiratory system almost exclusively and appeared to propagate primarily by contact. It now appears that, depending on the victim, it can affect a much wider range of bodily functions and systems, and a wide range of factors can affect how susceptible an individual is, regardless of age.

Recent research now appears to confirm that airborne droplets and aerosols are also a significant source of infection, something that the World Health Organization largely dismissed as a possibility until recent studies indicated the contrary.

Once the virus has a large presence in a population, it becomes exceedingly difficult to trace because so many of those infected are asymptomatic, and even those who do eventually show symptoms are contagious for days before symptoms appear.

All of the early misconceptions and the uncertainty and variability of infection basically created a feeling that Covid-19 was essentially an “old people’s” disease and that it would pass quickly. Even when it didn’t, and the data indicated that the virus was still a problem, states relaxed precautions, and opened up early. Almost immediately, younger adults started back to a “normal” life and became much more casual about taking precautions. And most states, and certainly the White House, ignored the possibility of silent contagion…and now the numbers of cases across the south and west have skyrocketed… and higher death rates will follow.

Which is another reason why it’s a good idea to follow the data… especially when that data indicates that “the rules” and expectations aren’t working.

8 thoughts on “The Danger of Expectations”

  1. Matt M says:

    I’m up in Canada, and the differences in policy are striking. We still have our idiots unwilling to follow the rules, but the response across all levels of government has been much more consistent and science driven. As sad as it seems, personally I’d like that border closed as long as possible..

  2. Rural Defender says:

    I’m of the generation that only barely remembers survivors of polio, forever scarred from the disease. Younger Americans don’t even remember that the first part of the twentieth century was full of deadly diseases. We were spoiled during that later half of the 20th, when people thought we could wipe out all human disease.

  3. John Mai says:

    It doesn’t matter sir, people will prefer to believe what they choose to believe regardless of the evidence or facts, and they are especially good at ignoring any data that challenges what they’ve already chosen to believe. It’s not that they are stupid, or haven’t heard the latest science on this topic, it’s simply that it is opposed to what they already wish to believe. Much to my astonishment, there’s actually a term for this type of thinking; ‘confirmation bias’.
    In it’s essence, it simply means that one is predisposed to accept information that confirms what one already wishes to believe, and to reject anything that challenges that viewpoint. Personally, I find that concept to be disturbingly close to an insanity diagnoses, but then…perhaps I biased.

  4. Rosemarie McDowall says:

    I found this article very interesting in that it explains why the numbers are growing. I would be interested to hear your take on it.

    1. My gut reaction is that the article is a sensationalized and gross overstatement. There have been scattered reports of deaths from multiple causes being listed as Covid-caused, but let’s say someone has been diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer which will likely be fatal sometime in the next year, but catches Covid and dies. The immediate cause of death is in fact Covid. There have been several statistical analyses that show that even older people who died from Covid otherwise would have had a life-expectancy of an additional 5-11 years [as I recall]. As was discussed earlier on this blog, and has been suggested by a number of experts world-wide, the initial figures on epidemics and pandemics are always lower — not higher — than the actual death and infection tolls.

    2. Derek says:

      Just a quick skim of that person’s site and the rest of the content they share should tell you more than enough about how credible they are (hint, they’re not in the slightest bit credible).

      Meanwhile, here’s an actual study pointing out how the number of deaths is likely being undercounted.

      Along with an article explaining the study in a more parseable way.

      1. Tom says:

        Which brings up just who’s data and which data should one follow.

        We have been mind washed out of the WHO and the UN.

        Now we have the suggestion that our National Guard (and not the CDC) should get all the data from the hospitals so that can be washed/mined appropriately by the White House.

        Chaos is so interesting.

  5. JakeB says:

    Something implicit in what you discuss is that it’s difficult to comprehend the effects of the virus given its lengthy incubation period combined with the odd way in which some people become very dangerously ill while others are barely affected. It is as “binary” a virus in its effects as any I’ve ever heard of. If people who had exposed themselves started falling sick the same day or the next morning, I suspect that the aversion to mask-wearing we see in the US would be much less, as it would be that much harder to pretend there was no connection between action and result.
    I’ll give a shout-out to some very old science fiction, Philip Wylie’s _The Disappearance_. This is one of those cases where I do sort of wish we could see the world split in two, but here those who take COVID-19 seriously vs. those who don’t. I know which world I’d rather live in over the long term . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *