Tuesday, October 13, 2020



Trump got better - which is not unexpected, given the probabilities.

Since this virus thing started, it has been a matter of probability.  I got a lot of flack from some readers when I mentioned that the survival rate of this virus was over 90%, and in fact over 95% and perhaps even higher, as most people haven't been tested, and many have had the virus without knowing it.

No, no, they insisted, this virus was going to kill everyone, and you were going to catch it, again and again, until your're dead, dead, dead!   I am not sure where these happy thoughts came from or the science behind them.   Maybe they are right - but more than nine months into this mess, we are not hearing about the legions of re-infected people just yet - and there should be millions of them.

Whether you get sick or die from the Corona Virus depends on a lot of probabilities and factors which affect those probabilities - your general health, your specific health problems, your age, weight, race, and most importantly, level of health care.

Some folks on the right are calling Trump a super-man for defeating the virus.   After all, the odds were stacked against him, right?   He's an obese white guy with existing health problems - a poster-boy for a virus victim.   But even with those health issues, his odds are surviving were 90% or more, even if he was just some plebe like you and me.

But he wasn't.

Catching the virus early-on ups the odds of survival significantly.  So, for example, if you are tested regularly and your temperature and health monitored constantly, it is likely the virus could be caught within days of infection, which means earlier treatment and less chance of organ damage due to blood clots.

And of course, if you have state-of-the-art health care and access to experimental treatments, well, your odds improve even more.   In fact, your odds of survival increase to well over 99%

So, it is not surprising that Trump survived, in fact, it would have been odd if he had died.   But that doesn't mean the virus is beat.   If you are an ordinary Joe, who doesn't have ready access to testing (like most of America) and testing on a daily basis, then the only way you'll know if you have the virus is if you start feeling awful.  Most people aren't aware they have it, until they are in the Emergency Room, and by then, it may be too late - or at least harder to cure.

On the flip side, it is not unexpected that in a nursing home, where everyone has one foot in the grave and mere months or even days left to live, that such a virus would push them over the edge - much as the common cold or a flu does to many nursing home residents during cold and flu season.  It's not like Grandma would live forever, but for the virus.   She was one hiccup away from the grim reaper as it was.  Her probability of surviving the Corona Virus was near zero - as was her probability of surviving flu season.

Yes, it is tragic when someone dies - but everyone does die eventually.   What I have a problem with is our culture - and our media - which posit that death is something that happens to "other people" and "but for" some causation, we would all live forever.   It just isn't true, and moreover, denying death as a part of life isn't healthy, and in fact, is very mentally unhealthy.

Death denial is behind a lot of bad decision-making.   "I'll just work until I'm 70!" one person chirps, because they'd rather have a new leased Acura and daily designer coffee-drinks (which are not coffee) rather than fund their 401(k).   But as the recent death of both my neighbors (one only weeks shy of retirement) illustrates, there is no guarantee you'll live that long.

Or take the couple in their 70's who are still trying to decide where to retire.   They've both had major health scares and no longer have the ability to keep up, but feel they have a few more decades to "think about it" before they make their move.   Their kids will have to clean up the mess.

No, no.  Death is part of life, which is why your retirement plans are like a roller-coaster.  There is the laborious and tedious first part, where the train goes clack-clack-clickity-clack up the track, and then the "whee!" where you ride it all the way down again.   There are no second rides, though.   

But I digress.

Even with a death toll of 200,000 - which seems like a lot - in a nation of 330 Million people, that comes out to a death rate of 0.06% so far and we are nearly a year into this mess.  Now consider the odds of dying in a motor vehicle, or from heart disease, or from an opioid overdose.  Oh, but we don't use opioids, right?   So we feel we have some control over that.   And we drive carefully, right?  So we have control over that as well.  Control, of course, is often an illusion.

We can't control outcomes, necessarily, but we can affect probabilities.  And if you are President of the United States, well, your probability of survival increases substantially.

The rest of us just have to wear a mask and hope for the best.