Watch this. Watch it now.
Watch it again. Take it in to your heart.
Then go out and do something about it.
Watch this. Watch it now.
Watch it again. Take it in to your heart.
Then go out and do something about it.
As I see the traffic on the highway increasing every day, I think: “Would that it were so.”
Years ago my father told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “The secret to happiness in life is to find out what doesn’t work for you, and don’t do that.”
In recent months, we’ve learned a big lesson on what doesn’t work. Looking at statistics for the incidence of Covid-19 around the world, two conclusions leap out with crystal clarity:
These are two things that obviously don’t work well for humans, so according to Dad’s aphorism, we shouldn’t do dense human populations and poor health.
So, why is it then, in our local community of Santa Cruz County (as well as most of the rest of the world), local government encourages increased population density, and our culture encourages poor public health?
The County of Santa Cruz and the incorporated municipalities in our county: Santa Cruz, Capitola, Scotts Valley and Watsonville, all have Economic Development Departments (EDDs), Planning Departments (PDs) and Public Works Departments (PWs), all of which are busily engaged in increasing population densities in our county and communities.
… we’re passionate about supporting a flourishing and expansive local economy. Santa Cruz City EDD
One of the greatest challenges of living in Santa Cruz County is the cost of housing, one of the highest in the nation. Because Santa Cruz is a desirable coastal destination, our economy is based on tourism, and our housing stock is largely dedicated to second homes, vacation rentals, B&Bs, hotels and motels. During the Covid-19 shelter in place, many of our homes stand empty, while many of our residents lack sufficient housing. There is no lack of housing in the county, but there is a lack of affordable homes for the people who live here.
Local government responds to this condition by falling back on the age-old economic principle of supply & demand, that is, build more housing to lower the per unit cost. But in a tourist destination, this principle doesn’t work. There are millions of people just over the hill who want a house here to either come to on vacations or to use as an investment to make more money so they can afford to vacation in exotic places.
Since Santa Cruz is largely built out, there is little undeveloped space available to build more single family housing, so the answer is always to build up. This, of course, greatly increases population density in developed areas, thus creating an ideal breeding ground for the transmission of viruses.
In the face of what we’ve learned about spreading viruses, after months of (ineptly named) “social distancing” and mask-wearing, do the people of Santa County really want to risk our health by creating even more high population density? What would it take to not do that?
Global Covid-19 statistics clearly show that humans with existing health problems have compromised immune systems that make them more susceptible to the virus and its resultant disease. The majority of deaths of individuals tested positive for the virus have underlying unhealth conditions, such as cardio-pulmonary disease, obesity, and diabetes all of which add to the lethality of the virus-born disease. Whether or not death is caused by the virus, or by other causes exacerbated by the virus, underlying ill health has contributed to the Covid-19 death rate throughout the world.
It obviously doesn’t work to have a large percentage of the population at risk due to general ill health. So, what would it take to not do that?
Lessons to be Learned
As we begin to contemplate an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, and lifting of government edicts on how we live our lives, now would be a good time to pause, contemplate the lessons to be learned from the pandemic, and think about how we want to live from here on out.
Wouldn’t it be wiser to learn what doesn’t work and don’t do that?
An article this morning (4/10/20) in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, titled “Virus Curve ‘among the best in state‘”, by Nicholas Iberra, contained grave errors in presenting Santa Cruz County’s current COVID-19 statistics.
The article contained the following text box:
Even though the text of the article contained some of the correct numbers, the highlighted statistics are incorrectly labeled, producing garbled and misleading information.
Someone apparently caught the error after the paper was printed, because the online edition of this article contains the following corrected layout of these data:
BY THE NUMBERS
Santa Cruz County coronavirus outbreak
Negative tests: 1,673
Source: Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency data, as of Thursday afternoon.
During a global Panic-demic such as COVID-19, it is vitally important that news sources are scrupulously accurate in the presentation of information to the public. There are far too many rumors, sources of misinformation and disinformation, innuendos and outright lies floating about as it is.
It’s an economic problem, of course, as local newspapers, driven by investor owned communications conglomerates, shed experienced writers, editors, proof-readers and production staff. Responsible journalism lays victim to the “Oh well, we can correct it online” attitude.
Whatever happens in cyberspace, this incorrect information is permanently inscribed in black and white on newspapers available throughout the region, at least until it becomes bird cage liner, fish wrap and fire starter.
As purveyors of vital information to a public on the verge of panic, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, as with all print publications, has a responsibility to its community to make every effort to insure that they present accurate, timely and fact-checked information.
The bottom line in journalism is accuracy and therefore, credibility.
Percentage breakdown (Percent of total tested):
Total tested = 856
Tested positive = 7.2%
Hospitalized = 1%
Deaths = .12% (Man in his 70s with an underlying health condition)
While the sample size of these data is too small to be statistically significant, they do show how limited the Covid-19 incidence is in Santa Cruz County, and they reflect growing concerns about how these data are recorded, analyzed and reported.
In a March 28 article in The Spectator, Dr. John Lee questions why death rates vary from country to country over the course of the disease spread. Most countries report any death of a person tested positive for the virus as a Covid-19 death, regardless of whether or not that person had underlying health conditions that may have contributed to or even caused the person’s death. Some countries may even report as a Covid-19 death a person who was not tested but was presumed to have contracted the disease.
Very few countries distinguish between death from Covid-19 and deaths with Covid-19.
This is the case with the single Covid-19 reported death in Santa Cruz County. We do not know, and County pathologists may not know, if this person’s death was caused by the virus or the underlying health condition.
None of this is to say that we should not take prudent steps to protect ourselves from getting sick, whether it be from Covid-19 or “normal” yearly influenza.
Unfortunately, we will never know if the Draconian social distancing measures imposed by governments have had any positive effect in slowing the spread of this disease and reducing the death rate. There’s no control, no group exposed to the virus in the absence of such restrictions.
Without such definitive information, how can we decide when to loosen and end the current restrictions? How can we decide whether or not to resume social distancing and closing of businesses during the upcoming 2020-2021 flu season?
We are riding the tiger to an unknown destination. When and how can we safely dismount and resume our journey?
There are numerous articles appearing in professional literature and other reliable sources questioning the global panic response to the supposed Covid-19 pandemic.
The crux of their concern centers around the statistics of the current coronavirus epidemic, how those statistics are compiled and by whom, and how those statistics are reported in government reports and the popular press.
This graphic is often cited as a source for Covid-19 stats:
Notice the use of lurid red circles to indicate the areas of “accumulative confirmed cases,” with no indication of the number of asymptomatic cases, the number of tests performed, nor the percentage relationship of confirmed cases to the number of tests performed. (Hint: this percentage has remained constant through out this epidemic, indicating that the number cited is tracking tests, not increases in transmission of the virus).
The Total Deaths column does not distinguish between those who died OF the virus from those who died WITH the virus, nor those whose deaths were due to underlying and preexisting conditions. A significant percentage of confirmation of the SARS-CoV-19 virus comes from postmortem positive test results of those who have died of other causes, yet are included in the Covid-19 results.
My concern is that government and industry responses to Covid-19 are way out of scale with the documented threat to human health, that appears to be be no more than yearly flu and cold viruses that we have survived without draconian measures restricting human activities. People are being lured into unquestioned acceptance of government restrictions that are not based on sound epidemiological data and conclusions.
This too, shall pass, of course, but as we learned with the aftermath of 9/11, it will not totally disappear down the memory hole. Policies, procedures and power shifts implemented to counter the perceived threat of a pandemic disease will not all be removed, and we have yet to see the end of official responses.
The results are not all bad news though. The world we are living in now is much quieter, cleaner, slower and convivial. Wildlife and their habitats are experiencing a break from overweening human domination. As the panicdemic subsides and a degree of sanity returns, we can, if we will, learn from this experience and work toward preserving and maintaining these positive changes, into the post-Covid-19 world to come.
This year’s SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has generated enormous negative impacts on the lives of millions of people. Hundreds of thousands are sick and thousands have died. More will be sick and more will die before it has run its course. World economies have been curtailed, local businesses and jobs have disappeared, some permanently. The stock market is fluctuating wildly as public fears wax and wane.
The downsides of the pandemic are obvious. Are there upsides to such a globally traumatic experience? How will the downsides and the upsides settle out as the pandemic subsides?
Positive impacts of the response to the pandemic are clear to see. Just walk outside your home and look at the traffic on local streets. Your dog could take a nap in the middle of the street without severely blocking traffic. The air is cleaner and clearer, greenhouse gas emissions are down 25% (though the global atmospheric CO2 percentage has not dropped). Many people have publicly offered to help their neighbors, friends and families cope with restrictions on travel. We are all learning that life goes on even when we can’t go to bars, sports events, parties and other gatherings. Even though we can’t gather physically, we can run businesses, keep in contact with others and find myriad ways to live a full and satisfying life without driving in our cars to remote locations.
These restrictions on human activities have benefited the natural world as well. Though there has been a flurry of park visitation in some places, in general wildlife and the natural world are breathing easier and enjoying less disruption of their homes, dining rooms and shopping centers. When human profligacy decreases, non-human well-being increases.
Since we live in an inextricably connected world, as we have learned from the origin and course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, an increase in the well-being of the non-human world will ultimately support an increase in the well-being of the human world as well.
What will happen when the virus has run its course and humans are free to restore our communities and economies back to what was considered normal? Will we learn something from this experience that will translate into a positive direction for human societies and civilization in general?
My practical (pessimistic) side says, no, everything will return to the way it was, maybe even stronger and more virulent to make up for lost time and opportunities. The extreme central control measures exercised to confront the pandemic will remain and become part of the status quo. Central government will become more centralized, citizens will become more accustomed to letting government pull the heavy weight and less accustomed to doing for ourselves. Impacts on the natural world will continue to increase.
My idealistic (optimistic) side says yes, when the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, some people will have learned that they can take care of themselves, that they can take part in the day to day process of government, that there is more to life than the daily commute to jobs far away from home, that family, friends and community are more important than million dollar mansions, garages chucky-jammed full of stuff, designer jeans and semi-automated electric cars.
One might realistically expect that the outcome will be somewhere between those two extremes. I just hope that at least some of the upsides are retained when the downsides are resolved and removed.