I've never lived an all-or-nothing life.
I don't think anything is completely perfect or totally worthless. That's not sexy and it doesn't get a lot of clicks but I've lived long enough to have been fooled by both wild overreaction and all-out apathy.
So I find myself somewhere in the middle right now on the Coronavirus. I'm willing to go along with these extreme measures but I can't shake the feeling that this is being moderately overblown.
What makes me hang in there on the "go along" side is the people who lead my city, state, and country.
The first time I talked to Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney about the virus and cancelling all NCAA events he said what's the point if you cancel a stadium gathering but then everyone goes to local bars or homes to gather and watch? He's changed course on that and says what we're doing now is the right thing to do. I've interviewed him several times and like most of us, his persepctive has evolved. I've found the Mayor to be very common sense, even though I understand he leans liberal. I've not really ever seen him get extreme in his positions or adversarial toward conservatives. When many of Fargo's liberal factions were pulling their hair out about Dave Piepkorn's statement that we should know what refugee resettlement costs the city, he agreed. I've always respected him for that. So when he says this pseudo-lockdown is in order, I trust him. I don't think he has an agenda here.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has tackled this head on with the passion and commitment of a general going off to war. He's a business guy and his DNA is to protect the economy, it's businesses, and it's workers. Thank goodness we have a governor who is not asleep at the wheel. I know Doug to be ruthless on the metrics and demanding of information. If he says it's right to shut down businesses and cost people their employees, revenue, and possibly their livelihood, he's only doing it because he honestly feels it's necessary and that there is a danger here that will create a higher level of damage that the one he's creating with his edicts. I know a couple of businesspeople who believe they will lose their businesses through this, and many others who think they might. At a time like this, it gives me comfort that my governor understands how hard it is to build a business, and how much blood, sweat, and tears are given in the process.
President Trump is the same kind of leader. He was cruising to re-election before this happened, and this is the worst possible thing that could have happened to his chances. You can't argue against doing "everything we possibly can" because when human lives are at stake you can always say - "if we can save just one life...." So he really has no choice other than to do what he's doing and recommend what he's recommending. But if you think that he likes the self-inflicted wounds he's giving his economy, you're just not paying attention. When President Trump says Italy is basically imploding because they didn't do anything, that makes sense to me. And I shrug my shoulders and say....well...all right then.
None of us should ever have blind faith in our leaders .... it leads to making all kinds of excuses for what we know is obviously wrong, and allows those leaders to self define their limits. But these 3 are hardly the type to say "Yeah let's make government run our lives and get people used to state rule! Yeah!!! Let's try to make the public think government is our best mother and father, and we need them to save us!" Not these guys.
Bottom line is this. If these 3 are telling me that overreacting a bit is the right play. I'll go along with it.
But I still believe that we're going to get to the end of this thing and say that we did, in fact, go a little too far. It just feels to me that if this was the flesh-eating virus it's been made out to be that we'd be seeing far faster spread and far higher mortality. I guess only time will tell.
I leave you with this:
- 2 years ago 61,000 people in the USA died of the standard flu virus.
- Last year it was 34,000
- So lets just say 40,000 will die this year to find a conservative round number.
- Do the math and that gives you a mortality rate of .0001212
- So if there are 800,000 people in North Dakota
- that means, using that mortality rate, that we can expect about 96 North Dakotans to die of the flu this year. Not C-19, the garden variety flu.
- And it also means that if we have about 200,000 people in Fargo/West Fargo/Moorhead
- Then statistically we should see 24 people die of the flu in the metro this season.
- What will the reaction be here if 24 people die of the Coronavirus?
You think we're playing it safe NOW? Just wait till we have 1 person die of Covid-19 and wait to see the panic.
And next November when we see our first flu death, will we react this same way?
I'm not saying we should do nothing about Covid- 19. I'm just making sure we understand that we're setting a new bar for how we react to these viruses, and I just think we need to have some perspective on how unhorrified we've been with the flu bug in the past.
Steve Hallstrom is President and Managing Partner of Flag Family Media/Fieldstone Group. He hosts the Need To Know Morning Show, on AM1100 The Flag in Fargo. He can be reached at steveflagfamily [dot] com.