A few words from Michael P. Ramirez on his position regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
UNDERSTANDING MY POSITIONS ON COVID-19
By Michael P. Ramirez
Some people have asked me what I thought about Coronavirus. I’m just a lowly editorial cartoonist, so what do I know?
I know many of you disagree with some of my positions on this virus, and that is understandable. This is a new disease and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. What is true and what isn’t true? Which is worse, the danger from this disease, or the danger from shutting down the economy? Many of you want to know how I arrived at my conclusions.
First, let me say, I am not an expert but I am paid to read, and this is what I have gleaned from my reading. WARNING: THIS IS LONG BUT IT COVERS A LOT OF THE ISSUES WE FACE TODAY.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
The virus originated in China. The initial epicenter is most likely Wuhan.
The virus pathology is incomplete because China refuses to be transparent and since the outbreak, has refused to allow international inspectors access to the Wuhan labs or access to some important primary information when the virus was first exposed to the general public.
China is responsible for this global pandemic.
WUHAN INSTITUTE FOR VIROLOGY
As far as we know, the lab in Wuhan works much in the same manner as research facilities here, investigating, researching and cataloging coronaviruses, pathogens and biological components that may harm the public. American scientists and researchers are doing the same kind of research in laboratories in America. International scientists have been collaborating with Chinese scientists at the WIV for decades. The first biosafety level 4 lab at the WIV was opened in 2015. It was built in collaboration with the French Government CIRI (International Center for Research in Infectious Diseases) and partially funded by the United States. US embassy officials visited the facility two years ago, and while they were shocked at lax safety procedures at the lab, they found nothing sinister about it.
Because of the lax security procedures, there is some speculation that someone working at the lab may have accidentally unleashed it on the general public. Most scientists doubt that. There is no conclusive evidence proving this… yet. Leading scientists have said the mutations in the virus are completely consistent with natural evolution and the animal origin is most likely a bat.
China should advise people to STOP EATING BATS. I’ve heard they taste just like chicken, so, eat chicken.
A BIOLOGICAL WEAPON OR DIABOLICAL PLAN
One of the big conspiracy theories out there is, this virus was created as a biological weapon and was unleashed on the world by China. Scientists have said the WIV was not suitable for bioweapon research, and genomic imprinting reveals a natural evolution of this coronavirus strain. The virus is available for all labs to research. The majority of scientists say, artificially created viruses can be detected by their genome sequence. That was one of the things SynBio scientists used to justify synthetic DNA modifications. If you alter the DNA sequence it can be found simply by comparing the original sequence from the modified pathogen. I have read this Genome sequencing cannot be faked and the difference between an artificially created virus and a naturally evolving virus would be apparent.
A French Nobel Laureate claimed that SARS-CoV-2 was created by inserting DNA sequences from HIV and Malaria to create a vaccine. His peers and most scientists have dismissed it. He has a history of outlandish theories.
Other theories are that China discovered human to human transmission of this virus and decided it would let it get out to the world for economic advantage. Since China is the largest export economy in the world and it depends on a healthy global economy to sell goods, how exactly does that make sense?
It would be crazy for any country to knowingly release a contagion into the public without a vaccine. Even with a vaccine, a virus is a living organism which evolves and mutates. A vaccine would only offer limited protection for a little while. They have traced two strains of this virus, the original S strain and the more aggressive L strain. There is speculation that there might be a new strain evolving right now. There have also been reports of other mutations but those are outliers.
THIS VIRUS WAS THOUGHT TO BE FAR MORE CONTAGIOUS THAN THE FLU AND MORE DEADLY.
If you included associated flu deaths, the number of deaths for the 2018-2019 season was 34,200. The cases of test confirmed flu deaths from Oct 2019 – March 2020, excluding people who died from Pneumonia, was a little over 11,199. These numbers come from the CDC.
According to the CDC, flu seasons usually last from fall through winter. Most of the time they peak between Dec-February. We are not yet at the peak of COVID-19 virus and the death rate in the United States is over 54,000, WITH stay at home orders.
THE STANFORD STUDY
The Stanford study concludes this virus is much more widespread than initially reported. This study is important because it redefines the extent of the spread of the disease and significantly lowers the mortality rate. According to this study, the mortality numbers go down to a rate of between .12% to .2%. That rate is comparable to the flu.
The question is the validity of the study. It has been heavily criticized. Many doctors and scientists have raised concerns about the accuracy of their serology testing kits and have said the study is far outside the numbers of most other research.
One of the big criticisms of the study was estimating the whole county population based on only 50 positives out of 3300 samples using non-FDA approved serology tests that acknowledge recording false positives. According to a UCSF epidemiologist, the study “used test performance weights to scale results…” and it is probably “more accurate to look at the raw antibody prevalence percentage of 1.5%.”
However, it seems reasonable to assume there are many people with no symptoms or mild symptoms who are not seeing their doctors. There are additional studies being done that may indicate the mortality rates are much less than the W.H.O.’s estimate of 3.4% in March.
Even if we assumed that the Stanford tests are accurate, it would mean that people with mild symptoms or those who are asymptomatic but still contagious, are walking around in higher numbers, therefore increasing the frequency of infection. That just means, it is even more contagious than we thought…. Either way, over 54,000 deaths is a significant number for a virus that has not yet run its course.
For those who simply want herd immunity, frankly speaking, if that study or subsequent studies demonstrate that level of widespread exposure, I think you got what you’ve asked for…. but we're still just at the tip of exposure in many states. The good news is, most states don’t have the same population density as New York or California.
COVID-19 IS NOT THE FLU OR THE SPANISH FLU.
This is not the flu. The last time I checked, the flu didn’t damage your lungs so they looked like “shards of glass,” or smothered you to death or caused massive organ failure.
To put this in perspective, some of the top doctors, here and abroad, experts in their respective fields, have treated patients knowing how lethal it is, and have taken extreme precautions to protect themselves. Even with all those preventative measures, they still contracted the disease. These highly valued experts and doctors, I suspect, have received the best medical care available today... and they died.
And I don’t remember the flu killing off the medical staff. I don’t remember Italy running out of ventilators during the worst flu season. When was the last time you saw a flu season where they stacked bodies in the back of pickup trucks?
The Spanish flu reached about a third of the global population. That H1N1 virus was derived from birds and targeted adults between the ages of 20-40. Back then, they comprised the largest segment of the population. There are disagreements about SF mortality rates, but most experts put the figure around 2%. It was called the Spanish flu because Spain was one of the few countries not engaged in WWI and could report on the severity of the pandemic. Recent research suggests the Spanish flu actually originated in New York.
COVID-19 seems to target a much narrower segment of the population. Older people and those with health issues and preexisting conditions seem to be most vulnerable to this pathogen, but it has killed younger people, perfectly healthy people and children… and doctors.
A NEW VIRUS
The problem with this virus is we know very little about it. There is so much unknown. Because of the lack of testing, the inaccuracy of some of our testing, and the fact this is a new disease with no history of human immunity and no vaccination, we are unsure of which path it will take.
There is no cure. We keep people oxygenated hoping their immune system will survive long enough to defeat the virus. There is no “flu vaccine” to treat it. Vaccines have been fast-tracked but they are still months or even a year away.
EXPERTS VS PUNDITS
I would rely on the advice of medical experts rather than the opinion of political pundits who think this “may not be as bad as they are making it out to be.” In retrospect, even if this turns out to be less than what is anticipated, I will be glad we took precautions to insure it was not worse. I think that is common sense.
Take politics out of the equation. Covid-19 doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, whether you’re a Never Trumper or an Always Trumper, a liberal or a conservative, Chinese or American. If your immune system is not up to the task, it will kill you.
STARTING UP THE ECONOMY
I know people are suffering and they need to get back to work. Everyone wants this. Better serology tests may hold the key. Finding a treatment that works would help. People need to get back to work. Our economy depends on it. The global economy depends on it.
We will find the right balance. Taiwan and South Korea, both offer good solutions and a good economic balance.
But since people who are asymptomatic and seem completely healthy but may still be contagious, we need to be careful. Wearing masks, checking for temperature, social distancing, working shifts, all may mitigate some of the chaos, but it also comes down to the lowest common denominator, the guy who refuses to take precautions, who acts recklessly and exposes everyone to risk. This virus grows exponentially.
We should navigate with caution, protect first responders and the vulnerable and listen to the medical experts and not politicians, pundits or talking heads.
LOSING OUR LIBERTY
Our liberty is not in jeopardy. That is just nonsense. Are some politicians going too far? Absolutely. But our constitution is still very much intact. Can they be reined it? That’s what elections are for. Aside from that, we have an independent judiciary with a 5-4 constitutionalist majority in the Supreme Court. There are remedies.
Now if people want to gather together in protest without masks and in close proximity to each other and think it is within the framework of our constitution, to expose themselves and ultimately expose others... well, they are correct. It is within the framework of the constitution. But is it the right thing to do? Is it the intelligent thing to do? Give me liberty so I can give the vulnerable death? I think our founding fathers expected us to use a little common sense.
We don’t know who has the virus.
Take the story in Washington of the people who insisted on large choir practices... 60 people, 45 were infected, 3 hospitalized, and 2 dead. That is significantly higher than a .2% mortality rate. The story of the Bishop in Virginia who insisted on church gatherings, saying God would protect him. He died. Four of his family members are battling the virus right now.
God gives us enlightenment and compassion for others but I suspect, He also expects us not to go out of our way to put ourselves or others in jeopardy.
These stories go on and on. This is not media hype. This is the reality of this virus.
Close Friends of a friend of mine just lost their 24-year-old son, an athlete with no preexisting conditions. One of my older friends just lost one of his best friends in England a few nights ago. A close family friend who went to medical school with my sister just lost her mother, two days ago.
This virus is indiscriminate. An 18-month-old, a five-year-old and an 8-year-old were reported as casualties of this virus. Researchers believe the first woman who died from this virus, on Feb. 6th, was a healthy 56-year-old woman in San Jose. I have lost friends and people I know. Most of them were older but are they any less worthy?
CARING FOR OTHERS
People want to protest irresponsibly? Normally, I would say, PLEASE, GO AHEAD!... and chalk it up to Darwinian theory. But these are the same people who go to grocery stores where people shop, they use gas pumps without washing their hands, they don’t wear masks because it doesn’t look cool, they are the same ones who are filling up ICUs and putting their elderly friends and relatives in the morgue. They are the irresponsible who are spreading the virus to the innocent, to those caring for them, the medical staff trying to save their lives and those trying to be responsible.
Unfortunately, my job requires reading about the horrible stories coming out of ICUs around the country. There have been countless stories of husband and wives, grandparents, sons and daughters, who had to die alone while doctors and nursing staff held a lonely vigil holding a phone to comfort them because their loved ones could not be there.
Perhaps those protesters ought to read some of these stories.
There is nothing about liberty in the selfishness of sacrificing others in the name of the perceived greater good. I would never have sacrificed my mother to any one of these fools.
Why does everything have to be about politics anyway? Pundits grab on to every little tidbit of information, without evaluating its credibility to shore up their political position. That’s fine, but accept it for what it is... their opinion. There is too much at stake.
WE SHOULD NOT OVERREACT BUT NEITHER SHOULD WE LIVE IN DENIAL.
I’ve posted before that I have brothers and sisters on the front lines. My older brother, a MD and a Colonel, and my brother-in-law, a MD and a Lt. Colonel, have been called up for duty and sent to New York because there is a shortage of doctors. They have been outfitted with PPE: double gloved, double masked, double gowned with head and shoe covers. One was working in a makeshift ICU dedicated solely to patients on ventilators, the other treating hospital employees with COVID. They had a 60% infection rate among hospital employees.
I don’t remember a call up for the flu or hospitals having to import doctors and medical staff because of shortages, or those doctors and nurses being suited up for combat, even in the worst flu season. Doctors have described their hospitals as a war zone.
My sister, my brother, his wife, their colleagues and friends from school, all doctors, are all fighting this war. We all have friends who are front line workers. Keep all of them in your prayers but more importantly, keep them in mind and help and protect them.
We are close to flattening the curve, whose sole purpose is to mitigate the spread of the virus, ensure our medical facilities and healthcare workers are not overwhelmed, and to control the outcome as best as we can.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. America is strong. We will survive this and come out stronger from the experience.
OPEN UP THE ECONOMY
I know people are suffering. I understand we’re at the precipice of disaster. There are many who want and need to get the economy going. We are not in disagreement. I think we should.
I am for opening segments of the economy ASAP, in a way that makes sense and still protects the public, but accurate testing is needed, then you can figure out what path to take and accelerate towards it. This virus needs to be taken seriously, and reopening the economy should be done judiciously and responsibly.
It is premature to lift ALL RESTRICTIONS right now.
Singapore, which used its experience with SARS from a decade ago, initiated a far stricter regimen than what we have in place here and had great success. In fact, it was doing so well they opened up their economy a little and lessened some of the restrictions... and they had a significant rebound of the virus, and now, they are reconstituting even stricter measures. The same is happening in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. We can learn from them.
The beauty of our federal system is that we have 50 states which can figure out what is in the best interest for their geographic and demographic areas. Open sectors carefully and safely. Keep people masked, continue washing their hands and keep distances as much as possible.
This virus is getting closer and closer to plateauing and will trend downward.
A NEW GREAT DEPRESSION
The economic numbers are getting bad. Some are saying we are closing in on Great Depression statistics, but we have a strong economic foundation, the market has not crashed, and we don’t have Smoot-Hawley tariffs to cause destruction…. (but we do have Peter Navarro.)
We should unleash the free market.
Huge deficits worry me and affect our dollar valuation, but what is the world going to use? The Yuan? I don’t think so, it’s too unreliable. The Euro? In this economic climate? Not a chance. We’re still the only game in town.
I have been concerned about the market, valuations and because of the unbalanced P/E ratios for some of these giant companies, but the market seems to be holding on, new technology is developing and growing every day, and all indications are still towards a significant V shaped recovery. If that happens, it takes out the primary catalyst for the Great Depression and it will restore confidence in the economy and prevent a downward spiral.... all in time for an upward trend for the election.
All of this relies on a health recovery. Let us all pray for that.
JUST AN EDITORIAL CARTOONIST
This is all just my opinion. Take it for what is it. This is a “novel” or new virus and there is a lot we don’t know. We’ll make mistakes, but we should error on the side of our best judgement, with compassion for others and embracing our shared humanity.
If we get through this and people want to call me a fool because the numbers end up within the “this is just the flu” framework of their argument then, so be it. I’ve been called much worst, many times before. My conscience will be clear, knowing that it could have been far worse if we had not interceded, and I did everything in my power to make people understand the challenges we face.
I’m just a lowly editorial cartoonist. This is just my opinion. What do I know?
I know this…. Wash your hands. Be responsible for yourself and for others… and be safe…. Oh, and put back that fifth economy sized package of toilet paper. They will make more.