Coronavirus Reading List for the Non-Believers: What to send family and friends who aren’t yet sold

It’s March 13th. By now most major universities have closed down for the year. Almost every professional sports league has pre-emptively ended their seasons. An estimated 1266 have died in Italy, up 250 from yesterday.

The virus is spreading at an exponential rate. US Hospitals are starting to get overworked. And yesterday, the stock market had it’s worst day since 1987…yet, a lot of folks still don’t believe that this is a serious situation.

I don’t blame many of them. If the only thing you’ve read about this was a news report calling it a “bad flu”, I could see how you’d still think that was the case. More importantly, a lot of people’s lives depend on tips and wages that they wouldn’t otherwise get in a full quarantine.

There’s a lot of bad information out there so I just wanted to compile some of the articles that have been the most helpful in changing the minds of my friends and family.

  1. Testimony of the Italian Surgeon

This is a good starting point for anyone who might not be easily convinced by numbers alone. It is translated from an Italian facebook post by a surgeon. It outlines how difficult the healthcare situation in Italy is right now. They have run out of protective supplies. They don’t have enough ECMO or ventilators to support all of the patients. Not everyone can get treated so people are dying without treatment. In Italy alone, 10% of cases are requiring hospitalization alongside a recovery time of 3–7 weeks. Can you imagine getting the virus and then going to a hospital where they don’t have supplies or enough doctors? This is where we could end up at if we don’t prepare well. And even if you have a low chance of getting the virus, possible death and hospitalization should be enough to take serious precautions.

2. Coronavirus — Why You Must Act Now

This does an incredible job outlining the importance of social distancing. I think it will be automatically convincing to anyone who is sensitive to the numbers. It is long and takes awhile to get through, but the charts are convincing.

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act NowPoliticians and Business Leaders: What Should You Do and When?

3. Joe Rogan Podcast with Michael Osterholm

Not an article, just a helpful and pretty easy-to-listen-to podcast between Joe and an infectious disease expert. This has been the most helpful with some folks who are more inclined towards conspiracy theories. They discuss why the coronavirus is absolutely not a Chinese bioweapon and they dispell a few more of the conspiracy theories that are floating around.

4. The Predicted Number of Deaths in the United States

I linked to a NYT article that talked about this. The slide tells us enough. The research shows that we could lose as many as 480,000 Americans to Coronavirus.

I have had success in sending people this slide along with the below picture that shows the number of US deaths in each war. Basically this may kill more Americans than WW2. It may kill significantly more than all of the US combat deaths since 1950. That fact shakes a lot of people who haven’t yet considered this fully.

5. Long-term lung damagefrom Coronavirus

I have heard a lot of people suggest that it is not a big deal to get Coronavirus. They hear that a large percentage of people who get it are not hospitalized and have mild symptoms. And so they go about their day without thinking about getting it.

The reason why this is a really bad idea (other than the fact that you put other people at risk), is that coronavirus can lead to severe and long-term permanent lung damage. I linked to a Twitter thread that explore this further as well as a useful article.Here’s what coronavirus does to the bodyMuch remains unknown about the novel coronavirus ripping through China, but one thing is certain. The disease can cast…

6. Vox One Chart

This chart is outlined extensively in the medium article, however I do like this article because it is concise in describing why social distancing is so important, it can be difficult for many people to understand this but it is likely to be convincing to some of the folks who might not have the patience for the entire medium article.

How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chartThe main uncertainty in the coronavirus outbreak in the United States now is how big it will get, and how fast. The…

7. Go-to twitter accounts: Helen Branswell and Joe Norman and Balaji Srinivasan and Naval Ravikant

A large group of people have known the risks of coronavirus since January. These people have been consistent in providing quality information, and, unlike some of the other people who understood this early on, these folks provide a lot of easy to understand content. A 10-minute scroll through their accounts could be very helpful for many people who are unconvinced.

Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell) | TwitterThe latest Tweets from Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell). Sr writer, infectious diseases @statnews. Conspiracy theory…

Joe NormanThe latest Tweets from Joe Norman (@normonics). Applied Complexity Science. Localism. Homesteading. New Hampshire,

Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) | TwitterThe latest Tweets from Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis). Not big on credentialism, need multidisciplinary effort vs…

NavalThe latest Tweets from Naval (@naval): “How to Get Rich (without getting lucky):”

7. Why it isn’t just older people at risk

Excellent essay outlining the risk factors for people based on their underlying health conditions. It includes two of the most impactful charts I’ve seen yet. The first one linked below shows the mortality rate for people given underlying conditions. This bumps up the mortality rate considerably, even for people who aren’t particularly old. Alongside that we also see the bottom chart showing mortality rate compared to the season flu. The flu has a mortality of about .1%. The most conservative estimate for coronavirus death is .5%, 5 times higher than the flu. However, if our healthcare system isn’t prepared it could go up to 4% which would make this 40 times worse than the flu. These two charts are now my go-to for the “oh it’s just a bad flu that’s being overhyped” people.

I’m In The Vulnerable Class for COVID-19. A Plea To Take This Virus Seriously.A friend of mine recently texted me in a fury. “Someone just posted on FB that we’re doing things to stop the virus…

Moving Forward

Eventually everyone will have to come around to this. Either they can figure out why it is important to use social distancing themselves or they may end up having the decision made for them by government officials who will enforce quarantines. The quicker that we can try to help our loved ones understand why social distancing is so important, the quicker deaths can be prevented.

That’s why I think that, ultimately, the most important way to frame this is around the risks you pose to other people. If you go through your normal life (eating out, going to events, having meetings, going to the gym, being sloppy with hygiene in public areas) you will be putting other people at risk. Everyone has a loved one who is old and/or immunocompromised who could be affected by this. Truly caring about their wellbeing means being careful about our own wellbeing.

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