The problem with coronavirus is that it's not scary enough

If this were some disease akin to Ebola, or had frightening symptoms like visible bleeding out of all of one’s skin pores, or some scary-sounding name, Americans would take it a lot more seriously.

But the name “coronavirus” is awfully bland. It sounds like something akin to flu, which may be exactly why presidents like Trump and Bolsonaro were prone to comparing it to flu.

Americans are plenty capable of panicking in response to a disease threat (for instance, the 2014 Ebola fear even though Ebola is far more difficult to transmit than Covid), so this seems to be a case of a disease having too-tame symptoms and characteristics, and a too-tame name.

Or maybe it legitimately isn’t worthy of mass panic. The death count is bad and every death’s a tragedy, but we’re still talking .00037% of the US population dying here so far. This isn’t the bubonic plague or even the Spanish Flu. Not saying it can’t get there, but it doesn’t look to.

But there’s a lot more to it than just death. Among many survivors, there is serious organ damage. To me that’s a bigger concern than the death probability itself.

So I take it that calling it “the 'rona” is right out? :grin:

No, the problem is that it’s political, like AIDS was and still is to some extent: We don’t need to worry about it, because we don’t listen to the people who say we should. We know better, and if some people die, well, they did something to deserve it, right? Right.

I don’t know. The descriptions and pictures I’ve seen of it sound pretty horrifying. They’ve convinced me that it’s not something I want to be cavalier about.

I completely agree with you, @JcWoman. However, despite all of the news stories, and all of the advice from health experts, it seems like there are still a fair number of people who believe (or want to believe) that it’s basically just a cold or the flu, and that it’s not going to affect them (or anyone they know).

Sure, but you (and others who think like you) comprise perhaps only half or even a minority of America. We’ve got 100 million+ people running about who do not seem to worry a bit. That’s the scary part.

As my favorite political forecaster, Rachel Bitecofer, is fond of pointing out, people take their cues from their leaders. And we know that Trump’s been basically dismissive of the whole thing, and that carries a lot of sway with his followers.

Nonetheless, a pretty good proportion of Trump supporters take Covid-19 quite seriously, despite his take on it. Most people find it quite scary. 120,000 dead in three months is nothing to sneeze at - that’s three years of automobile fatalities. And that’s despite everything we’ve done to contain it - all the isolation and social distancing and mask-wearing and hand-washing.

ETA: A Fox News poll:

80% of American voters have a favorable view of wearing masks, including:
• 89% of Democrats
• 68% of Republicans
• 61% of people who strongly approve of President Trump’s job performance

Also reports from survivors that they were deathly ill for 2 weeks or longer.

This ^

Let’s start with the fact that survivors potentially face a range of complications. A lot of people may have permanent damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver; others may have immunological problems, including a delayed cytokine storm that only emerges after someone’s been released from a healthcare facility.

Let’s not forget that health insurance is tied to one’s employment and employment isn’t easy to find these days. And if you become disabled for too long, you, too, will soon join the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured.

I keep saying this. We needed a big public relations blast. Like AIDS, or MADD, or WW2, or Just Say No. We are good at this. We have a playbook for it. “Wash your hands! Wear a mask!” should have been–should be–plastered across every bus, inserted into every Facebook feed. There should have been a pop song by a popular singing titled: “Don’t go see mom (this mother’s day)” on Spotify. Photoshoots of attractive celebrities in masks. Tons of people are just really low-information.They need to be reminded every day. As a culture, we know how to do this. We’ve done it.

But clearly the decision was made that that sort of thing would freak people out too much. But you know what will really freak people out? Watching mom die in a waiting room because the ER is full. So no, the problem isn’t that it’s not scary. It’s that we actively concealed how scary it was.

When you have electronic cottages in which people actively resist information, more information isn’t necessarily going to cure anything.

It’s still pretty damn noteworthy that we didn’t even try. Look, on March 11th I was at the grocery store. This was just the start of the panic–they were out of TP, but there were no long lines or anything. I said something about “It may get crazy” to the cashier, and she had no idea that anything was even going on. Lots of people don’t live in political “cottages” at all. They are apolitical. Those are the people that could have been–that still could be–reached. But there was no systemic attempt to even distribute information. It was just press conferences and news and closures.

I get what you’re saying, but even apolitical people are influenced by mixed messages. There was a lot of misinformation that was competing with information.

I’m scared!

Right here in SDMB, I’ve read opinions that the ones who die from COVID are merely the old and sick who are a burden on society anyway, so good riddance!

Young people are dying too, but we’ll disregard that fact.

Children are sometimes developing a rare complication that makes them suffer horribly. Sometimes they die. There’s no magic that spares kids from COVID as first impressions assumed.

Ah, well, modern medicine has greatly reduced infant mortality, and COVID is just nature’s way of thinning the herd.

Get rid of the old, the very young, the sick, and the defective, and mankind can only be improved, right?

Except I’m not ready to die. At 67, I’m considered old. I’m certainly defective in many ways. And I’ve got an interesting set of co-morbidities. But I don’t want to die yet.

And I definitely don’t want some bean counter making that decision for me!


I see ads like this all the time in California. One, from a health organization, says that remember that every hug you gave up saved a life. And people around here are listening. At the grocery store, 100% of the shoppers and workers were in masks. And they’ve stopped checking when you enter, but we still do it.
Now we’d have the PR if we had the leadership. Just Say No was stupid, but at least Nancy Reagan wasn’t toking while she said it.

I understand that the lack of a PR campaign is a failure of leadership. I think sometimes people don’t understand what a “lack of leadership” really means. This is a place it would have made a difference.

Yep. I find this callousness with other people’s lives to be heinous and unforgivable.

You shouldn’t be. You’re more than capable of contributing to society, and not just with your accumulated savings. You could be looking after grandchildren while millennial children work. You could be volunteering as an educator or community activist, doing valuable work that others aren’t interested in or don’t feel they get paid enough to do but provides value. You could be a financial or business consultant, providing valuable leadership and insights to entrepreneurs.

But even if you’re not, you could be just a good neighbor. There’s value in human life, no matter the age.