Rewind the clock to March, when the novel coronavirus came to the forefront in the United States. The initial question that had to be answered was what made COVID-19 different enough from previous threats, such as Zika, Swine Flu, and even the yearly seasonal Flu, to warrant a drastic shift in response to it. After all, it had years ago become a popular trend in the media to talk about unique viruses and their potential impact, but the public reaction remained measured. On March 3rd, multiple news outlets reported the World Health Organization's claim that the COVID-19 death (mortality) rate was 3.4%, alarming considering that the death rate for seasonal fl u hovers annually around 0.1% by comparison. Granted, so little was known about the virus at that point, but the numbers warranted attention. The gravity of mortality set in rather harshly and the ensuing projection models escalated the fear of what might happen when the number of cases predictably rose.

Uncertainty can be as scary as risk evaluation on limited data is challenging. Decision-making is at its best when the decision- maker is at his/her best. Fear, meanwhile, clouds judgment, and though decisive action must at times be taken in the face of it, fear tends to spur on the increasingly common “ready-FIRE-aim” mentality that permeates American culture by disrupting the pathways in the brain that lead to sound judgment.

Epidemiological predictions certainly begged the question as to whether there was enough knowledge to allow the reaction to the actual data to match the fear about the hypothetical numbers. The initial fear was justifi able, but it was not as if COVID-19 was happening in a bubble, isolated from the recent history of disease and health. The developed world has not dealt with an infectious disease death rate as high as 3% in modern times, since before sanitation curbed in humanity’s favor the ratio of immune system integrity to infections capable of overwhelming the immune system. It was perhaps a bold assumption that the baseline strength of present-day immune systems among the vast major- ity of the population was not up to the task against an opponent like COVID-19. Confi dence in the immune system’s adaptabil- ity was justifi able too, as demonstrated throughout the industri- alized world repeatedly, to the point that infectious disease has ranked well behind its peers atop the leading causes of death list for decades. Would patience have been more prudent? Only time and contextualization via further data would tell.

It was an unenviable position to be the ones responsible for weighing the options for how to initially respond, the ultimate test between fear of the virus and faith in the immune system.

Amplifying the fear during the early weeks of spring was a con- cept as novel as the 2019 coronavirus: that people without symptoms – who do not feel ill – were spreading COVID-19 to others. White House Coronavirus Task Force leader Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that there was "no doubt" about asymptomatic trans- mission occurring. That assertion, much like the reported mortal- ity rate, was eye-opening. Precedents had been set for notewor- thy statistical spikes in infectious disease, but the suggestion of the silent spreader hypothesis completely changed the game, introducing the idea that anyone at any time could infect some- one else with a potentially deadly disease, regardless of wheth-

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