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                   Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus: please take it seriously

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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I have been closely following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak since mid-January. Independent journalism sources like Tim Pool and others have done an excellent job covering what is happening with the pandemic in China, Iran, Italy and other countries. They have been continually sounding the alarm about what was inevitably coming for us here, urging people to prepare with modest stocks of food and essential supplies, and readying for significant disruptions to everyday life. This was back in January. We now know that they were 100% correct about every detail - everything that has taken place so far in the countries first impacted by the virus is now playing out here in the United States. Things we once thought impossible here in the US, like large-scale domestic travel restrictions and lockdowns, are now being discussed by top government officials.

I know you have probably started following this story in earnest recently now that the crisis is rapidly accellerating. But there is significant reason to be concerned. International and US official agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and our CDC have consistently been running about 2 weeks behind in their declarations and recommendations for public action. For example, the WHO's official criteria for a "pandemic" was met over 2 weeks ago, when we reached "Level 6" on their own scale. Their delay in making the declaration until a few days ago is puzzling. Likewise, the CDC has been slow to urge total social distancing measures including school closures, no-contact delivery/takeout only at restaurants and the avoiding of *any* close contact with strangers.

Instead, we're seeing restaurants, bars, malls, churches and movie theaters packed with people. We see large groups of children at playgrounds and parks, even where schools have closed. People are still getting on planes and trains to take trips. For many, it's still 'business as usual'.

Italy has been a stark warning of what happens when a population is slow to take the threat seriously. Yet our response to the virus has mirrored theirs in every way - and so has the growth of new cases. In the United States, our case growth is matching Italy's almost identically, with ours lagging theirs by about 10 days.

The point? Complete and total social isolation is needed in our country right now, or in the coming weeks we will find ourselves squarely where Italy is: hospitals many times over capacity, the need for ventilators and ICUs outstripping supply by a factor of 8, doctors having to choose who gets lifesaving care and a fatality rate exceeding 7% (as it was at the time of this post).

Does the media hype things for their benefit? Yes, they always do. But sometimes a big story is real - and this is it. That's why you should disregard the media and listen to those working in the medical field in Italy and here in the US. They all agree that Italy's situation will be repeated in the United States if we do not act accordingly.

Should we be fearful? Absolutely, especially if those around us don't start taking the danger seriously. Many are reassuring themselves that everything is going to be OK, then they go out to dinner or hop on a plane to go on vacation. If fear is what prompts action, then it's necessary.

To drive the point home, read this document straight from the source. It's in Italian, but you can copy and paste into Google translate (I'm not translating it on here for copyright reasons and because I want you to see it from the source). It's official guidance for Italian hospital staff on how to determine who gets treatment and medical equipment (ICU/ventilator) when there is not enough to go around. It's a guide on choosing who gets lifesaving treatment and who is allowed to die: a decision they're having to make dozens or more times a day. It's a sobering wake-up that this is indeed real, and if we allow things to get to that stage here, it will result in the same horrifying suffering and loss of life.

I'll give the WHO credit in declaring last week that "this is not a drill - the time for action is now". But don't wait for the recommendation from the WHO, the CDC or the government: total self-isolation needs to begin now and continue for the long haul. Will it be expensive and disruptive? Yes. But the alternative is too costly and tragic to consider.

25 Years of Storm Chasing
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