Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Reducing the Fear

By Wyatt Emmerich

As Our State, and many others, begins to open back up for business, it’s scary as COVID-19 cases begin to rise.

But let’s not panic. There’s no way back, only forward. The economic disaster of closing down will cause far more death and destruction than punching through.

A couple of things to take to heart: First of all, although cases are increasing, deaths are not. In fact, for the U.S. as a whole, daily deaths have dropped to a fifth of the peak. In Europe, which got hit before the U.S., deaths are a 15th of what they were. All good news.

It also appears that the virus is becoming less deadly, which is what viruses typically do. Russia, Brazil and India now have the second, third and fourth most cases. All three  countries were months behind Europe in catching the disease.

The deaths per million in India is 9, compared to 568 in Italy and 357 in the U.S. Deaths per million in Russia is 49. Brazil is 20. All three countries are experiencing much lower death rates despite inferior health care systes. And these death rates seem stable. So it appears that COVID-19 is much less deadly now than in the early stages of the epidemic. 

Google “Muller’s Rachet” to understand this phenomenon. Muller’s Ratchet describes how  asexual reproduction results in the accumulation of deleterious mutations in an irreversible manner. COVID-19 weakens over time.

In conjunction with Muller’s Ratchet, natural selection promotes a less deadly virus. Dead people in the ground can’t transmit disease. Asymptomatic people at a party can.

We are getting a front row seat on how a virus jumps species and then adapts to become endemic, relatively benign, like the other four human coronaviruses. It’s a well known biological process called symbiosis.

You’ve heard about herd immunity. Most news accounts report that 70 percent of a population must acquire the disease to reach herd immunity. But this isn’t true. It’s more like 10 percent.

Antibody tests have shown over 20 percent of New York City’s population has acquired the virus. They have already reached herd immunity and cases and deaths have dropped like a rock. Same with Europe.

In the U.S. heartland, such as Mississippi, we are probably around 4 to 5 percent. A recent study showed Florida is at 4.4 percent. So we have a ways to go, especially being a spacious state with little mass transit. The virus probably has another month or two before running its course in Mississippi. The good news is that hospitalizations are relatively stable and our health care system is far from being overloaded.

For the herd immunity research study, Google “Individual variation of susceptibility  or exposure to SARS-CoV-2 lowers the herd immunity threshold.” You can download a PDF of the study, which is co-authored by eight top epidemiologists from around the world.

The study reports: “As the coefficient of variation increases from 0 to 4, the herd immunity thresholds decline from over 60 percent to less than 10 percent.”

In other words, if the virus affects everyone the same, then you have a high herd immunity threshold. But if the virus affects people differently, then you have a low herd immunity threshold.

Studies are now coming in reporting a lot of variation in how people react to SARS-CoV-2. Some people are sick for a few days. Some don’t get sick at all. Some die. This large degree of variation supports a low herd immunity threshold.

Why is this not being reported? Well, for one thing, Google and Facebook have wiped out the news staffs of most traditional news organizations, leaving superficial reporting chasing digital hits through terrifying headlines. All that free online news doesn’t seem so free anymore now that COVID-19 is costing our nation about three trillion dollars.

Sheltering at home until a vaccine is invented would be disastrous. We are still waiting for a vaccine for the common cold (four of which are caused by coronaviruses.)

We have no viable option but to open up and punch on through until the virus weakens and our immune systems learn how to protect us against this new threat.

For people under 65, the virus is no more of a threat than driving 15 miles in a car every day. The risk is similar to the flu. The elderly and ill are in danger and caution is advised. This is largely a nursing home disease.

It is impractical to think you won’t contract the virus. Eventually, it will be everywhere. It’s already on ATMs, in grocery stores, on fuel pumps. There is no way to stop it.

The key is to reduce your initial viral load so it doesn’t kill you. That means using hand sanitizer after touching any public object such as a door knob. It means constantly washing your hands. Wearing a mask in public protects others. Avoid sick people like the plague. And if you are sick, get tested. And if you test positive, self quarantine.

One very easy thing you can do is go get the Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. It’s cheap, safe and convenient.

Children get the MMR vaccine which is one reason younger people may be protected from SARS-CoV-2. Places where adults get the MMR vaccine, such as Africa, seem to do better against COVID-19.

Google “Dr. Yorgo Modis, Robin Franklin, Cambridge, MMR” for a study on how the MMR virus may provide protection against COVID-19.

The study shows that the rubella virus and SARS-CoV-2 are 29 percent similar. Molecules found on SARS-CoV-2 have been found to bind onto rubella antibodies in previous studies. The study concludes: “Taken together our preliminary data would support the hypothesis that rubella vaccination could provide protection against a poor outcome in COVID-19 infection.”

COVID-19 is real. And the ultimate death toll will be significant. But it’s manageable. We need to defeat this using the common sense of a free people, not by government fiat. It is the American way of life, and we surely don’t need to abandon it during a time of crisis.