The COVID Conundrum

By Lloyd Graff

Norm and I were born on the same day. We grew up together. We did Cub Scouts in his basement. His mom, Miriam, was the den mother. Norm died from COVID-19 last Friday.

I was stunned when I received the news, even though I had not had any contact with Norm for over seven years, and didn’t know of his Alzheimer’s. He was the first of my high school classmates to die from it. I heard this from the internet listserv our class maintains. It brought the COVID plague off the CNBC news streamer into my heart.

The cold brutal fact is that most of the people who are dying from this terrible plague are like Norm. They are over 70 with other complicating health issues like Alzheimer’s, kidney dysfunction, lung disease, cancer, and diabetes. Their defenses are very weak and COVID-19 devastates them quickly. 

* * * 

In the past week the narrative in the country has rapidly shifted from desperate New York City and shortages of respirators, to what do we do when we loosen up the nation’s economic strait jacket. Many of the vital facts needed in the national and individual decision-making process are gradually emerging from the fog, and the MSNBCization of the news media. 

Most of the people who are dying are people like Norm. He is “the norm.” It kills mostly the weak who can’t fight back. It kills old people on cruise ships, but not sailors on aircraft carriers.

We know this because it hit the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and virtually every one of the 4860 crewmembers was exposed. Only one person, 41-year old Chief Petty Officer Robert Thacker, died.

Old people on cruise ships got infected and several succumbed. One person out of nearly 5,000 was the unlucky one on the carrier. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but also very important for the country to make its decision on going back to work. Opening up the economy is not just President Trump’s call, or Andrew Cuomo’s call, or Gavin Newsom’s or Jim Cramer’s on CNBC.

The decision will ultimately rise up from the people in a democracy because the politicians will be polling incessantly. Real people are gradually going to start coming out of their homes, meeting their friends, going into grocery stores, and returning to their barbers and hair salons. 

Temporarily closed barber shop in Bucktown, Chicago

The shutdown will begin to collapse because people will gradually, very gradually, start to shed their fear and their masks. They will quietly start asking Starbucks about when it will open its stores, and then they will ask to go back to work. Soon after that they will demand that they go back to work.

When the news trickles out that the number of people who have been exposed to Covid-19 but did not get really sick is 50 to 100 times higher than the published statistics, which is what the data coming out of Santa Clara County, home of Stanford, Google, and Apple indicates, the decision for the fearful politicians will almost be made for them. The people will decide.

More folks like my Cub Scout buddy Norm will die. The statistics in Italy are about as blunt and awful as it gets—55% of those who have died were 80 or older. People age 70 or older have accounted for 80% of deaths.

COVID-19 is the Grim Reaper for the old, infirm, and defenseless. For everybody else it is the flu. 

We had to shut down the country to save the hospitals in the big urban areas from being overwhelmed. That moment has passed. 

If we open up the country gradually, more of the old and weak will die, but the vast majority of people will be okay. People like me, born on the same day as my childhood buddy Norm, but hopefully in better shape, will ultimately have to decide for themselves when to get back in the fray.

Question: Do you feel safe enough to go back to work?


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25 thoughts on “The COVID Conundrum

  1. al

    i think this sentence in your last paragraph was dangerous

    “If we open up the country gradually, more of the old and weak will die, but the vast majority of people will be okay.”

    what about some of the hospital staff that died. they were young and healthy. what about the original doctor in china that passed away from it.

    the question people need to ask is, are you willing to gamble with your life to go out and do something.

    the other question to ask is, who should you be listening to. for me, i am going to listen to someone with an MD after their name.


  2. Joe

    “COVID-19 is the Grim Reaper for the old, infirm, and defenseless. For everybody else it is the flu.”

    Tell that to the family of the 16 year old that died of Covid19 in Wheeling.

    1. Charles Elton

      Should we all stay home for the rest of our lives (safe alternative to car accidents, violent crime, other communicable diseases and the ilk)? We are more likely to lose our lives to these than COVID-19. And if you are in the at-risk group (I am), you have a decision to make (stay home, go out but be careful and use PPE, some other alternative?

  3. Joey

    I fear that many states may open too early, this shutdown is hard on everyone but the fact is if we go back to business as usual too soon we will most likely see a new surge in cases and many more deaths that can be avoided. I agree with Al, I put my faith in the science and the scientist’s, not in politicians. I was very disheartened to see Trump try to stoke anger with his “liberate” tweets, I had hoped he would put petty politics and childish name calling aside during this but alas he chose not to. I believe VP Pence is doing a decent job through all this by bridging the gap between the science and the economy but the state governors are the real lead people on this and from what I see most of them are taking this very seriously and not rushing to do things that may further harm their residents. We are all hurting through this shutdown but this is temporary the deaths that will happen if we pull back too soon are permanent.

    1. Ron

      Joey, you say “the state governors are the real lead people”. Real leaders alright, they blame Trump and the federal government for lack of everything but they don’t take any blame for their own equipment short comings. Take the lead of govenor pritzker ordering $16 million in inadequate KN95 masks for the front line workers. If they are such great leaders and want to make the decision to open up their states no matter what Trump says, why the hell didn’t they close down their states when Trump mentioned the Wuhan virus during the Feb 4 sotu address? Seems like the governors are real leaders when using hindsight….

      1. Joey

        The governors are the real leaders through all this, they are the ones working and making decisions to protect their residents. That’s the way it’s been from the start of this, however they do need help from the federal government, that is the United part of the United States of America, and they have the right and duty to call the federal government out when it fails to provide the support they need. The Illinois governor ordered substandard mask that were being recalled in other states, that is a true statement, but as you can see in the quote below from WGN, the CDC had approved those masks and Illinois wasn’t the only state to get them.

        “Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has been scouring the world for gowns, gloves and masks to protect medical workers and first responders across the state from COVID-19.

        “That includes many KN95 masks bought from China, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month was an acceptable alternative to the United States approved N95 masks. State spending records reveal Illinois has already spent nearly $17 million buying the KN95 masks.

        But now, officials in Missouri are recalling thousands of KN95 masks after testing by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services over the weekend found some did not meet their standards, according to director Sandy Kartsen.”

        Here’s a link to the entire article if you are so inclined to read it.

  4. Lloyd Graff

    Al, I think it would be relatively simple to just leave it to doctors. They would say to young people in good health that your chance of dying is around 1 out of 5000, like on the Roosevelt. If you like those odds, go for it. If you have kidney issues, breathing problems, cancer diagnosis stay home. If you are 50, feeling decent, can keep your distance most of time, probably worth the risk. And then there is the question of your livelihood. Now add in the devastation of a Depression, economic and psychological, and the potential of riots in the streets and the rise of fascism or communism or another ism. Ultimately the economic decision has a lot to do with potential years of good living. Society needs to bet on the future. At 75, I need to assess today.

  5. Todd

    I’m conflicted about this topic. Our shop has continued to work during the shut down due to a number of our current jobs being labeled “essential”. We are a very small shop and have embraced the safety guidelines we have been given. I DO NOT want to spread this virus to the people around me with weakened immune systems. My wife and I are really missing contact with our grandkids!


    We have to figure out a way to continue to live in the danger we face without shutting the economy down. I really don’t think we can go another 30 days on this level of lock-down without seeing the really ugly side of desperate people. I don’t know what that process looks like, but I’m sure we will be finding out in the days ahead here in Ohio.

    Speaking of grand kids: I believe they will be paying for the government spending that is being done to try to mitigate the impact of this large scale shutdown. I’m not saying the steps shouldn’t have been taken or that I have a better plan, I’m just giving an observation.

    One last thing: everyone has an opinion: I do, you do. We both think our opinions are right because, after all, we’re always (maybe usually or sometimes) right. Odds are we are not necessarily right. I think the one thing we can give each other a little more of right now is some grace.

  6. Jeffrey

    I’m petrified of opening up too soon. My daughter is a nurse at a large hospital in Chicago and is on a Covid-19 floor. The news is chilling. She has three nurses that tested positive on her floor. We really need to get this under control before we experience a large uptick when we reopen.

  7. Doug

    We must go back to work or the Virus will look like nothing in comparision to the fall out from a collapsed economy and possible a world wide collapse. How many people will die from that? Every day we leave our house we accept risk. How many people die in car accidents every day, industrial accidents, crimes, and just plain stupid stuff. The risk has to put into perspective, if you are at a high risk to die from the virus, by all means, continue to isolate yourself as much as possible. Let the government help those who need the help the most and let stop running up trillions of dollars of debt to try and isolate everyone. We need some common sense going forward and proceed with caution but let’s get back to work or the virus will pale in comparison to the damaged caused in so many other ways

  8. chuck snow

    As much as I cannot wait to get back into my office and get our lives back to some degree of normal once more I think that it would be just a tragedy to have everyone return to work and resume life right now. All that we would do is create a much larger second wave of this virus that might not be quite as selective next time at just picking off those with compromised immune systems. It could be the 20 year old College Freshman or the 30 year old new Mom or the 40 year old father of 3 just looking after his family.
    Yes we all want the economy back on track but if you think that this is messed up now just allow another wave to hit us even harder in 90 days! The result will be beyond repairable.

  9. Lloyd Graff

    But Chuck, what if there is no second wave? What if the second wave is a ripple? How much have we lost by giving into fear? I am on my 6th week of personal quarantine. I can go on for months more without feeling much pain. But what about, barber, the physical therapist, the gardener, the waitress?

  10. Cleetus Pattyson

    I live in a area that would be considered a rural area by most so we do not see a lot of cases here but to look at the real populated area of the country it is a really scary situation. My biggest concern going forward is how are we going to safely resume air travel which is a major industry in our country, we make parts for the aviation industry. I would presume that we are all going to have to wear masks and are we going to have to pass a test before boarding??? What are the airlines going to do to somewhat insure the safety of its customers to be able to get people to feel comfortable to board their aircraft. Too get this country going again people are going to have to get a reasonable comfortable feeling about boarding an aircraft.


  11. Joe

    Interesting facts are coming out, although anything China gets served with a grain of salt. One study warns of 30 some different mutations of this strain; may explain variation of mortality rates between US coasts? The USC study revealing 300-400k southern Californians have had it, when the “experts” thought it was 8,000? Yowza. Not a doctor but if I was I’d prescribe no more than 30 minutes per week of MainStreamMedia. For example one short dose of Rachel Maddow showed video of a “secret” flight landing in Chicago full of PPE from China, and “heavily guarded” by local or state five oh so that Federal officials would not swoop in and take it! After incredulously digesting this drivel I remembered I already knew about it, but it was indeed part of an “Air Bridge” operation by FEMA. VP Pence had described direct sourcing by hot spot cities, in detail. The thought of nimrods licking this crap up on CNN is comical.

  12. JH

    Check out this interview with Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He puts a lot into perspective, including that each of us must make decisions.
    There was a follow up interview with Lt Gov. Patrick on 4/20.

  13. Mark

    People are getting afraid to even go to the Hospital. If they even think you have Covid 19, they isolate you, induce a coma, stick you on a breathing machine, lay you on your belly, and check back in 5 days to see if your alive. Lets see, the Hospital gets $15000. to diagnose you with Covid 19, then 35000. to stick you on a vent. If you live they may get more. It’s the greatest scam perpetrated on the American people. Lets go back to work. The flu and pneumonia kill the week and infirm anyway. How many are being misdiagnosed? / Murdered. Trust what system?

  14. s

    Not the flu, and I wish people would quit making that comparison. It is much more contagious and sadly if affects people in so many different ways, there is NO way for anyone to predict who will or will not become dreadfully ill or die. I own a machine shop that is not only hit by this issue, and we are oil and gas suppliers so are losing that business and don’t know when it will come back. We work everyday as much as we can and try to support as many employees as I can. However, I know that every day I am here, I am taking a risk, not just for me but for anyone I come in contact with who is at even more risk at home, my in-laws and older neighbor for instance. I don’t understand how people who are nowhere close to being experts in the medical field can act like they have more of an idea of what will happen than others who are experts, that can’t get a handle on this thing. So you may want to take those risks but remember whatever risk you want to take for economic reasons that may and probably are significant, you are also taking that risk for someone else who may or may not be important to you.

  15. Bill Badura

    I work by myself, and my customers are considered essential, so my life has changed less than most. My business, like many, makes full use of e-mail; so human interaction as a necessity is minimized already.
    First change was to force myself to get a good night’s sleep every night. I don’t usually make that a concern.
    Also avoiding stores unless necessary. Haven’t hugged my Grand-kids in a month or so; Snap-chat helps, but I miss them.
    I agree that we the people will set the pace for recovery.

    Isn’t it odd that the big crisis’ of 2019 aren’t even mentioned now. No reporting on the opiate crisis or the vaping crisis. Those things went away, I guess.

    Be safe, everyone!

  16. Craig St John

    Yes. As a matter of fact I am already “back to work”. Frankly, never stopped going to work. I’m in my sixties but overall healthy. This virus isn’t going to magically disappear on May 1st or any other date in the future our politicians establish. It’s here and it’s not going away – ever.
    It will take a year plus or minus a few months to have a proven vaccine against the virus and/or medicine to cure someone with Covid19. Are we going to remain shut down until then? People reading this blog are employed and either working remotely or working with added protections and precautions. It’s easy for this group to say wait longer before we turn things back on. How about the millions working in industries, generally low paying industries, that haven’t had a paycheck or a tip for 6 weeks?
    We need to open up the service and entertainment industries. No one has to go if they are uncomfortable doing so but let the people that want to go back to work get back to work and the people that want to take their chances at restaurants, bars, churches, ball games, etc. get back to a more normal lifestyle.

  17. Walter

    I’d like to think no one would knowingly behave irresponsibly if they knew they were infected with a deadly disease. But with this we don’t know if we’re infected. We don’t know if recovery from infection brings immunity at any level. What is fairly certain and has been proven many times in this country is if you have skills and gumption you can recover from financial problems. But you can’t recover from dead.

    Let’s follow the real scientists recommendations not the pseudo doctors on TV or politicians. Many of whom don’t appear to have a firm grasp on what suffering this virus brings to the ones that survive time on a ventilator or what needlessly loosing a relative or friend to this means. Maybe it will take a close loss to snap them to reality and get them to provide the resources needed to test as new hot spots arise, treat those infected promptly and protect the healthcare workers who will bear the brunt of the work if we get this wrong.

  18. Joey

    I agree with Joe on one point he made, those who get their news from MSNBC or Fox News aren’t getting the true stories usually. Both networks coverage of everything including COVID 19 is colored by their far left and far right tilts. I truly believe the best place to get information is from your local news source and the information your state’s governor is putting out. Our governor here in Indiana is doing a wonderful job of relying on science and making thoughtful, informed decisions. I do watch the national network news to get an overview of the national scene, but definitely steer clear of the biased info on MSNBC and Fox News.

  19. Mark

    Greetings all, we’re still going strong here in Utah with 40 employees still machining parts day and night.
    The answer to this mess is two tests – 1) do you have the virus and 2) if not, do you have the antibodies indicating you had it in the past. Until America is able to administer those two tests to large swaths of the population, this virus will continue to spread and both the health of Americans and the American economy will continue to suffer. It’s all about the testing!
    Taking temperatures does not give me any comfort at all – it only identifies those that are possibly symptomatic, not those that are asymptomatic. This is a nasty bug!

  20. Bryan

    Great comment Mark. One thing many responding to this post miss, we cannot shut down and wait this out. If our meat packing plants and food processing companies shut down we starve and have anarchy. We have to get back to work with much increased distancing. Restaurants, Bars, and travel industry will forever be different with many going out of business. I am lucky to still be working, but those who are not are willing to take the risk in order to survive should have the freedom to do so. Yes some of my personal family members will probably die. We have NO choice.


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