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Besieged

We are in a siege. The enemy has invested us, and then besieged us.

Wikipedia defines besieged in these terms:

“A siege is a militaryblockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latinsederelit. ‘to sit’.[1]Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static, defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy. The art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siege warfare, siegecraft, or poliorcetics.”

We are in day 30, say, of the siege. Food is still plentiful and booze and drugs are available. Disease or resistance to disease may wipe out the besiegers (the communicability of the virus) just as well it the virus may kill some of us. At first we thought this was a bit of a lark. Now we are starting to realize that, no, this could be the shape of our lives for months – even years – to come.

Compared to what?

It is a rare day that I disagree with the courageous, and particularly with Heather MacDonald. Today is one of them. Miss MacDonald published an article in the New Criterion, entitled “Compared to What?” which argues that the response to the coronavirus is overdone by far.

She writes:

“Even if my odds of dying from coronavirus should suddenly jump ten-thousand-fold, from the current rate of .000012 percent across the U.S. population all the way up to .12 percent, I’d happily take those odds over the destruction being wrought on the U.S. and global economy from this unbridled panic.”

She then compares Covid19 deaths to the 38,000 traffic deaths across the United States in 2019 to the slightly over 5,000 deaths from the virus worldwide, and makes other reasonable arguments that the reaction to the virus has been overdone by far. She then says

“Rather than indiscriminately shutting down public events and travel, we should target prevention where it is most needed: in nursing homes and hospitals.”

This attitude is really quite foolish, for a number of reasons.

Covid19 is highly infectious, and is transmitted by breathing the same air as an infected person. The virus hangs about in suspension. One is infected for days before one shows symptoms. Some people will never experience any negative symptoms whatever, just as there were a few people who buried their families at the time of the Black Death in 1348 and went on to live long after the bubonic plague. Those people unaffected by Covid 19 are still infectious. So whether a person has symptoms or not, they can be transmitters.

Second, washing of hands may reduce the infection rate, but has no effect on the main transmission path, which is airborne. Increased vigilance about cleaning surfaces is welcome, for many reasons, because it gives people a sense of agency, but it will not do that much to prevent infection. This point was made clear in an interview by Joe Rogan with an epidemiologist, Michael Osterholm. (around minute 6 of the interview).

Third, you will have heard by now of the idea of “flattening the curve”, which means slowing the incidence at which the infection burns through society so that hospital facilities are not overwhelmed. I found this graph at Steve Sailer’s post in Taki Mag.

The dreadful assumption behind this graph is that eventually everyone, or sixty, or eighty percent of the population will get Covid19. The purpose of isolation measures is to slow the rate of infection so that medical resources are not overwhelmed.

Here is Stave Sailer on the topic:

“Fortunately, a new idea has emerged from the data released last Friday on new coronavirus cases in Wuhan up through Feb. 18. Back in January, each person with the disease was passing it on to an average of 3.86 other people. An R0 (the “basic reproduction number,” which is pronounced “R-nought”) of 3.86 represents exponential growth nearly to the power of four, a catastrophic rate.

“Mathematically, as long as R0 is greater than 1, the epidemic spreads. When R0 falls below 1, however, it starts to die out.

“Via heroic shutdown measures (basically, confining most of the population of this huge city to their apartments), the Chinese cut the R0 in Wuhan by more than an order of magnitude down to 0.32. New infections fell by almost 95%.”

As Michael Osterholm said in the interview with Joe Rogan, this is not a Coronavirus blizzard, this is a Coronavirus winter. Expect months of this. Whether the measures of isolation that have been ordained will work, and will be sustained, is a matter of social discipline.

So far every social and religious organization to which I belong has shut down. There are no church services in my denomination, no Masonic Lodge meetings, no fraternal or voluntary gatherings. Meetings of the condominium have been cancelled. More will follow.

The response in North America has been fully compliant. We have evinced a great measure of social cohesion in obeying what will be seen in a short while to be a significant burden.

Just as Canadians were climbing out of our burrows and sniffing the spring air, we have been sent back for more winter. It is enough to try the souls of men, and more such trials are coming.

Heather MacDonald has never written anything so silly, but until you come to grips with the mathematics of airborne plague – the doubling time of infection – it seems plausible that we have over-reacted. We have scarcely reacted enough, according to the epidemiologists, and maybe we are in time.

Do we do more harm than good by closing schools? Discuss.

At the moment the only appropriate response to slowing the rate of infection is to slow the rate of human interactions. Thank God for the Internet, because you will be spending a lot of alone time in the coming months. PornHub’s offer of reduced rates to Italians was actually insightful and wise. Italy is our future. Empty shopping malls will be the new normal.