The Journal Gazette
Sunday, April 05, 2020 1:00 am

Newspaper feeds irrational hysteria

Robert A. Ragland

I was contacted by The Journal Gazette to write after leaving a message Monday with two JG editors concerning the March 30 front-page Associated Press article, “Death toll rises to 32 in Indiana” and the lack of comparison to deaths in Indiana from other viruses, infections, diseases, etc.

It was a grabber, a bold and alarming front-page article — but it does not put this in perspective and tell the whole story.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, about 100 people (three times the number of Indiana COVID-19 deaths) have died this year (January through March) just from influenza (the flu).

Indiana has already lost more than 180 people this year to suicide, and 125 to pneumonia.

Indiana lost more than 14,000 people to heart disease in 2017 and is estimating 13,630 cancer deaths in 2020. Average yearly Indiana murders are 438, 2,100 to diabetes and 1,800 to drug overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a revised estimate of the flu (one of the seven types of coronaviruses) of up to 57,000 deaths in 2019 and estimates up to 62,000 this flu season so far (Oct. 1, 2019-March 21) with 430,000 to 700,000 flu hospitalizations.

These statistics are even more alarming.

These facts were discussed with Journal Gazette editors. I asked why the JG isn't reporting comparisons instead of jumping on the bandwagon media hysteria machine.

Every life is precious, but we are humans. We live here on earth and we die. We die mostly of old age but also of disease, war, sickness, accidents, murder, suicide, etc. But we all choose to live our lives, except now.

A Hoosier has a higher chance of dying of murder, rape or overdose than COVID-19 — or of the flu or pneumonia.

We can choose to live like Americans or crawl into a hole and never come out. What do we do when another type of coronavirus comes at us? Shut down again?

I understand this is a very contagious virus, but we should all practice common sense with good hygiene. Just because one gets the virus doesn't mean they will die, the same as seasonal flu.

This is not a pandemic. The flu of 1917-18 was a pandemic: 50 million worldwide deaths, 676,000 in the U.S.

As of March 30, COVID-19 worldwide deaths were 37,000, with 2,900 in the U.S. Worldwide, seasonal flu deaths are about 600,000, with 62,000 in the U.S. The U.S. has about 3 million deaths per year for all reasons.

So where has the outrage been concerning the flu, etc. and the push to shut down the economy? Nowhere!

There is no reason for us to shut down the Indiana and U.S. economies for a virus. We have not done that for a bad flu season. U.S. seasonal flu deaths average between 20,000 and 60,000 a year.

Most of the causes of death I've stated cannot be transmitted, but they can be prevented. And we can prevent the spread of this virus as long as everyone takes the necessary precautions: washing hands multiple times daily; staying home when sick — cough, headache, fever, shortness of breath, sniffles, sneezing — or elderly. Places of business could do extra cleaning and disinfecting. But it is ludicrous to shut down the economy.

Many stores and businesses are still open as deemed essential. Airlines are flying. Construction is still taking place. People are still handling items: food, store wares, groceries, equipment.

I'm a captain at a major airline, and I'm still flying. I'm talking directly and closely with gate agents, flight attendants, maintenance workers and passengers. While flying, I'm sitting about 21/2 feet from my copilot. I'm not sick nor are they. We don't shake hands, but we do still work in a close environment. We all practice extra-clean hygiene.

I also ask why The Journal Gazette does not use its reporters to do the job of researching and reporting data. The March 30 article was an AP article the JG pulled off the wire and placed in a prominent place — the front page. That is not good, responsible journalism, but laziness at its best.

I'm sure some will say I'm coldhearted or that I'm not educated in epidemiology or a doctor. Some epidemiologists and doctors have stated this could get much worse, but some have stated that the U.S. is overreacting.

I've researched the above data, which anyone can do through the CDC, state of Indiana and Statista (an online global data company) websites without an agenda. The facts are there to review, but the media are only reporting some of the facts and promoting hysteria. I believe the JG is complicit in this.

It is how we live that makes a difference. Be clean, compassionate, courteous and respectful.

Let's get back to work, America and Indiana!

Robert A. Ragland is a resident of Leesburg.

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