We Have No Idea How Many People the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Kill

Jack Kurtz/ZUMA

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It’s worth a quick note to point out that we no longer have any real idea of how deadly the coronavirus pandemic is going to be in the US. We’ve long since passed the point where the key to understanding the likely spread of the pandemic was a better understanding of the virus itself. What matters going forward is the countermeasures we put in place to stop its transmission routes.

Somebody should feel free to stop me if I’m wrong here, but we’re in terra incognita on that score. We’ve never had a widespread pandemic where we’ve put in place strict and widespread countermeasures, and that means we’re just guessing at how effective they are. The guess of an epidemiologist might be better than the guess of a blogger, but it’s still just a guess. We simply have no experience to draw on.

When this is all over we’ll spend years trying to assess which measures worked well and which ones didn’t. But even with time it will be difficult to untangle all the various threads and make sense of them. We don’t have that time now, so we’re flying blind.

This is the main reason you see estimates ranging wildly from 80,000 deaths to half a million. These size of the estimates all depend on which countermeasures you think we’ll adopt; how well they’ll work; how long we’ll keep them in place; and how seriously people will take them. Unfortunately, even the smartest epidemiologist in the world has a limited insight into things like that. So we just don’t know.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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