[An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Medium, an online magazine, under the title “The Price Tag.”]
The influenza epidemic of 1918 — as most of us are remembering or discovering right about now — killed about 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. At that time, the world population was perhaps about 1.8 billion people (as opposed to today’s approximately 7.8 billion people). So to achieve the same statistical impact, a pandemic today would have to kill about 200 million people (or approximately 2/3 the population of the US). Spread of the disease was greatly aided by military deployment at the end of WWI, and by the poor physical condition and abysmal living conditions of troops in the trenches. So far, Covid-19 is not even remotely in the league and hardly merits comparison. However, that could change. Like the old Carpenters song, it’s only just begun.
My second reaction to Covid-19 was one of puzzlement or frustration (I’ve written about the first reaction elsewhere). All around me, people were not only scared or appalled, but bewildered, outraged, shocked. What a freakish thing to happen, how unfair, how incredible, how surreal! A pandemic? A Plague? How mediaeval! Who woulda thunkit? How could that happen here?Continue reading Shocked, Shocked?