Pandemic response should avoid both extremes (April 9): Consider this a shoutout of empathy for all of you desperate for a “happy medium” in response to the coronavirus.

On one side, we keep hearing from what might be called the “deniers,” who still insist this pandemic is barely worse than the flu. Some of them bombard us with charts and graphs of cherry-picked and misleading numbers — for example, failing to acknowledge that they are comparing five weeks of COVID-19 statistics with a full year of flu stats. Others act as if “total deaths” is the only number that counts, completely ignoring the greater prevalence of hospitalizations and the far greater extent of suffering, even agony, that many COVID-19 victims experience — some of whom come far closer to death before recovering than most flu victims do.

On the other hand, even among many of us who understand that this is a horrendous pandemic unprecedented in the Information Age, there is a feeling — I hear it all over — that perhaps authorities are overreacting. The sky-has-fallen/shut-down-everything response seems to do too little to account for the deleterious effects, including on health and perhaps even life, that near-universal shutdowns can cause. We wonder why, at least after the first two or three weeks, the responses can’t be more specifically targeted, with more attention to managing the effects without keeping healthy people from being productive in ways that make the situation worse for everybody….

What The Andromeda Strain can teach us (April 9): Because sometimes works of fiction can provide lessons useful in real-life situations, it’s worth looking back at perhaps the first great bestseller about a possible pandemic, Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

In doing so, allow me to further elaborate a point I made in my most recent column, namely that we should be wary both of underreacting and overreacting to the current contagion. Sometimes overreacting, in particular, can turn a tragedy into a full-fledged catastrophe….


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