What’s being sold is that “Pandemics” are bad, bad, bad. I don’t want to get too lawyerly, but a pandemic is defined as an “infectious disease that has crossed national boundaries”, not really mentioning whether it is particularly severe, or even deadly. The word alone is meant to conjure up that image.
The same is true about “epidemics”, which are “pandemics within a single country”. You have to get deep in the weeds before you understand why the “flu”, which shows up almost every year, only a different strain (aka “variant”…same meaning as we now see with Covid… but treated differently in the world of political medicine) every season, is only rarely treated as a pandemic. Much of that is because we never really developed the scientific capability to produce vaccines until the 1930s.
Some comparative numbers:
In 1918-1919 America was stricken with what was called the Spanish flu. It killed approx 675,000 Americans, when America’s population was 103 million. 25% of the US was affected. That flu virus was not isolated until 1933. Medicine was still in its infancy. Treatment: A combination of fresh air, sunlight, scrupulous standards of hygiene, and reusable face masks appears to have substantially reduced deaths among some patients and infections among medical staff. Age also mattered.
Other flus came in 1957-58, (the Asian flu) killing 110 thousand, and the Hong Kong flu in 1968, killing 100 thousand, most of them over 65 (which in 1968 was very old.)
Covid-19, of 2020-2021 has reportedly killed 648,000, but of a population of 331 million, over three times America’s population in 1918, so on a per capita basis, about a third as virulent, especially since the folks in 1919 (Donald Trump’s grandfather was one) had no clear medical treatment for the disease. Just isolation, and care.
All, and I mean ALL the reported numbers are dicey, for the simple reason that the ability of government(s) to accurately test/ lab-diagnose and count those deaths were extremely difficult simply due to professional resources, even into the 1960s, and today, exacerbated because they are extremely political, involving all sorts of professional vanities, left-right politics. And treating Covid has become big business.
So, compare how much less intrusive government was in 1918-1919 over a disease that was provably more virulent than Covid is today, and ask yourself, “maybe if government had done little or nothing other than provide care for the sick, would the death tolls be smaller, and the drama non-existent?” (I don’t recall mask mandates or mask-marches…for or against…in 1919, and any mention of health care professionals being threatened with their jobs if they didn’t get vaccinated.
For a greater example,
Better still, compare with the gran’pappy of all pandemics, the Black Death, bubonic plague, when “government” was totally unable to do anything about the epidemic, except haul off the dead and burn or bury them. Nature had the run of the every house, because no one knew what caused it, how to prevent it or treat it. So we can get a good feel for what the maximum limits of a disease likely is.
The Black Death was best recorded in Europe, 1346-1353. Coming out of Mongolia, it came from fleas on rodents, who hitched rides on boats in the Black Sea and Mediterranean, which scampered ashore at dozens of ports, and infested all the little creatures, from cats, dogs, to wild animals and like Covid, left their droppings in every mudpile and open sewer, which in 1346, included most streets, alleys, to be picked up by every barefoot kid and carried into the hut, or castle, or even prince’s kitchen…only no one knew to cover their dang feet or wash their dang hands, yadda yadda.
The plague killed, it’s estimated, one half of the entire population of Europe, 75-200 million people worldwide. Just as New York medical examiners had a difficult time deciding whether a 78 year old man with a high fever had died of Covid or asthma inasmuch as only a swab could differentiate between the two, (often applied post mortem) it was almost as impossible for latter-day historians to be able to guess the causes of death during the Black Plague except that people were dying so rapidly.
And at a period when the average age of people who survived childhood for dozens of other reasons having to do with hygiene, nourishment, and childbirth was under 50 anyway, the Plague set the whole royal system back horribly, actually killing it, because, even though more royals survived simply because they had staff to keep their castles a little cleaner than villagers, they had lost almost all their work force, and would, over the next decades after The Plague departed, have to rethink management-worker relations, which, since their farmers were serfs, which had a peculiar legal meaning, in that they were owned by the lords, and that their only pay for 500 years had been in being able to live in that hut and keep whatever food His Lordship allowed them to keep while selling the rest for profit. (North Korea is set up that way today, and 80 years ago, in Alabama, they called that “share-cropping”.)
In short, the Black Death was largely responsible for ending the Feudal System, which I’ve always looked at as sort of a Good Thing, for the peasants were in revolt much of the next century. (Remember the Jacquerie! a simple study in natural law.)
In the days of the Black Death they had none of the markers modern CDC or Johns Hopkins use today, just guesswork. Follow the nose; village slops, farm slops or castle slops, all the same, plus dung heaps and pig sties. There was age to consider, but not bathing habits, it appears…hell, most Europeans still don’t bathe more than once a week, preferring to douse themselves in toilet water, which I found overpowering on a slow, 4-man elevator down 9 floors in Russia. (Always take the stairs, my first rule!). Washing clothes in creeks that ran brown was no help. And even in the 1990s, in that part of the world you only drank out of sealed bottles.
No one ever had a clue as to what had brought this blight upon them. It was God’s disfavor, more than a few believed, so many took to the streets flagellating themselves, as self-punishments,
but many more decided to blame the Jews, burning many of their villages, which, incidentally, were 1000 times more clean and sanitary, and healthier, so therefore suspect. No one ever counted how many Jews died of the Plague but entire villages disappeared.
Pre-medicine, pre-doctors and nurses, pre-bathing, still half of the European populations survived? So can we say this is Nature’s outer limits?
Below is about where we are today, when one half of the deaths came pre-vaccination, the other half? post-vaccination.
All we know is that cases climb, recede, then climb again, apparently because of a new variant (we’re up to Delta, #4) but cases tell us less and less because of the several levels of politics (and money being passed around), while we now know that even old geezers like me have a 94.6% chance of survival if I otherwise stay healthy and stay out of whore houses managed by Albanians.
We might have been better off on our own. The American economy would be much better off, top-to-bottom. Schools would be better, too…which, if you stop to think about it, was what that whole July 4th, 1776 meeting in Philadelphia was all about.
And in 1919, the people of America still knew it to be so.
They did just fine.