- - Sunday, March 15, 2020

As of the writing of this column, 1,600 people have contracted the coronavirus in the United States. There have been 49 deaths in a nation of more than 300 million people. 

As a percentage of the total population, that is statistically, about zero. 

So far, this season, there have been 19 million cases of flu in the United States and well over 10,000 deaths. Of the 80,796 total cases of COVID-19 in China, 62,826 have fully recovered. Of the remaining cases, only 4,257 remain critical.

Even in the case of the now-infamous quarantined cruise ship, only about 20 percent contracted the illness, and the mortality rate for those was about 2 percent.  

This past week, I posted a message similar to what I cite above on my social media with this simple addendum. “I’m not a medical doctor, and I am not suggesting we should be cavalier about COVID-19, but context people, context! Stop the hysteria! Context! Cowboy up! We’ll see far worse than this in our lives!”



The reaction?

Well, all hell broke loose.  

“You have the wrong context,” wrote one Facebook friend. “You’re right; you are not a medical doctor,” wrote another. “The mortality rate for the flu is 0.1%. The mortality rate for the coronavirus is five percent or fifty times higher!” 

My response: “Your reaction is a perfect example of my point! Why are you using the inflated mortality rate when multiple other official sources suggest it is half that? Why the hyperbolic estimate? Why exaggerate the scenario to the absolute worst while ignoring all other tragedies such as war, drought, famine, and other diseases like the flu, emphysema, and AIDS, for example?

“Why not focus on the mortality rate of Christians living in countries plagued by radical Islam? Why not focus on the 100 million people who have suffered and died at the hands of the socialist regimes of China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, and Venezuela? Why the myopic focus on this one virus, that is, by all accounts, minuscule in comparison? Why the exaggerations and the panic?”

Response? Silence for a moment, but then more posts of panic, gloom and doom.  

Matt Smethurst of the Gospel Coalition recently challenged his readers to consider the words of C.S. Lewis’ essay titled “On Living in an Atomic Age” that was written some 72 years ago at the end of World War II. In referring to the following excerpt from Lewis, Mr. Smethurst takes the liberty of replacing “coronavirus” where Lewis instead referenced the “atomic bomb” throughout the quote: 

“In one way, we think a great deal too much of the coronavirus. ‘How are we to live in a coronavirus age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the coronavirus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways … It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the coronavirus, let that virus, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds.” — C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948). 

These may be times that will try men’s souls, but they are also times that will show us who is the true man.  

Cowboy up people! Context!  

“Do not be anxious about anything … Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things. Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” — St. Paul

• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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