Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Estoy en casa and the Precautionary Principle

Last night we flew from LAX to BJX and arrived in San Miguel very late at night.  It is a sign of my continuing positive results.  No-one who knows me would be surprised by this trip.  On February 24th, I saw my Stanford team and they offered a high five.  (And before the Coronavirus panic the lead doctor shook my hand).  We then went back to Sacramento and last Thursday had a check with my Sacramento team who pronounced the same result. My main doctor  shook hands and then reminded me to wash mine and he would wash his. The redundancy of having two concurrent opinions is one which I like.

We spent a couple of delightful days with our Daughter and her family.  On Sunday she ran the LA Marathon and took 38 minutes off her former time!  I must admit I am not surprised at her performance - proud yes, but amazed no.  Before we left we had the chance to see our younger grandson do an exhibition game in Little League.  Needless to say Buffalo Consulting would have preferred to sponsor the Dodgers but the Cubbies are a good second choice. Quinlan was thrilled.  Our oldest granddaughter is starting Softball in a rec league.  So in many ways the weekend was filled with contests.

I have been struck over the last week at the responses of all of us have had to Corona19.  I am in no way seeking to diminish the nature of the disease.  Like other viruses it can be deadly and it may prove worse than the initial data suggests.  But the reactions from the media on this problem have been just plain horrid.   A week ago I was with a friend who is the former dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and he, like a good doctor that he is, was trying to assess the potential impact of this new strain of a virus.  This is a new strain of a virus and we should work to better understand it.  But PLEASE!  Let's put this in a more realistic construct.

There is some pretty clear evidence that the Chinese screwed this up royally - would you expect any less of a totalitarian regime?  And the cautions offered by the saner public health officials are appropriate - WASH YOUR HANDS (Fortunately that was something that I learnt in my recent medical adventures).  For people like me, avoid crowds and sneezy kids.  But the Main Stream Media has presented this without setting any context.  There is also some evidence that the reproducibility of this virus is higher than other viruses where a Corona infected person may infect 2-2.5 people while a flu victim potentially infects 1.3 people.  But we should not go overboard.

It is odd flying at this time.  A week ago I flew with our oldest grandson to look at a college in Oregon.  In the first row was the UCD Davis Women's Lacrosse coach handing out wipes.  The Southwest flight attendants said their planes were the cleanest they have ever been.  Mason turned out to not like the place he went - which is a selective liberal arts college - and he ended up choosing Western Oregon - which I hope will be a good fit.  Football is part of the equation, but so is need. The College was Division III and Western Oregon is Division II.  The coach for Western Oregon, surprisingly to me, seemed more interested in Mason's academic focus than the head coach for the liberal arts college.  The college we visited offered him a package which left $16,000 per year (for a kid who is rated as full need) to cover through loans.  That seemed a bit extreme.  Western Oregon, which can offer athletic scholarships, offered him a full ride.

But getting back to the Corona virus - our reactions have been over the top.  “In the U.S., it’s really a fear based on media and this being something new,” Dr. Jennifer Lighter, hospital epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, said of the new coronavirus. “When in reality, people can take measures to protect themselves against the flu, which is here and prevalent and has already killed 10,000 people.”

The chart on the right shows the impact of the ordinary flu over the last several years.   You don't see the MSM doing cartwheels on the dangers of flu.  Corona becomes the panic de jour.  I wonder how the Mexican alternative to Coors is doing in sales.

In the last 10 days we have lived through a set of panic related events all related to the murmurs on Corona - in the Stock Markets (with huge swings in the Dow and other averages); in surge buying of hand sanitizers (I need to get my supply before the hoarders) and in a host of closings of major events (some of those might even be good cautions).

For me, this gets back to economics (surprise!).   There is something called the Precautionary Principle which posits in the extreme that we should do nothing unless we can be sure the results will not be bad.   A good deal of life is uncertain but this wonderful notion argues we need to anticipate harm before it occurs (an ounce of prevention) but then the principle is extended to limit our actions unless we can be sure of results.  What tommyrot!

Last night as we were arriving into Leon a public health official pointed a big yellow scanner at each of the arriving passengers.  I wondered what he was doing.  It turns out that it can do a quick check of whether an arriving passenger has a fever.  If they do, they go for secondary screening.  That kind of precaution does not bother me.   

This is probably the last in the series of posts for this blog.  With the successful results there is not much to report.  Thanks for all the support during my ordeal.  As I said in an earlier post, I cannot express how much those expressions meant to me.

I've started on a new project.  For Christmas, my daughter Emily gave me something called Storyworth - which asks you to write from a prompt once a week for 52 weeks.  The topics have been interesting (What were your parents like; What did you read as a kid; Why did you choose the field you did in graduate study; What did you do for family vacations?).  If you have interest in reading any of them I can send them to you.   Just send me an email.  Her motives might be twofold.   First, it might prompt me to get off my hind end and do the book I mentioned earlier.  Second, it will present a lot of information about me.   At the end of the year - Storyworth publishes these in a book form.   So far the editing software they use is primitive.  But the project has allowed me to think about a lot of issues I had not thought about in a long time.


  1. Terrific to see you today here at "home," and looking fit and fancy-free. You'll have to put up with my anxiety-easing and proactive contra COVID-19 methods at St. Paul's! Just a "great-news-blog-post" amigo!
    Canon Woodward