Asian flu pandemic of 1957-1958 in perspective

From the CDC website:

The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.

The US population in 1958 was 175 million. The US population in 2020 is estimated at 330 million.

So, that would be the equivalent of roughly 219,000 deaths in 2020, based on the larger population. 

In and of itself, this is just one number. My point here is that when we look at raw numbers, projected across hundreds of millions of people, it is often difficult to draw meaningful conclusions. 

I wasn’t alive in 1957-1958. (My parents hadn’t even started high school yet.) But I don’t recall ever reading or hearing about massive interruptions to American life in 1957~1958, even in the face of such a large pandemic.

No, the Asian flu (H2N2) wasn’t COVID-19, either. The coronavirus seems to be far more contagious.

Still, we have to think critically about what is really going on, as our leaders keep insisting that a full lockdown quarantine is the only possible way to deal with this. 

Inside the Anthony Fauci personality cult

Dr. Fauci is admired for more than just his intellect.

I’m going to open here with an important disclaimer: “personality cult” is often a negative term. When you hear the word “personality cult”, Kim Jong-un is usually the first person who comes to mind. The Anthony Fauci personality cult is certainly nothing like that.

Nevertheless, to describe Dr. Fauci as “popular” nowadays doesn’t quite cover it. Poke around the Internet, and you’ll find Anthony Fauci-themed socks, cupcakes, and candles that you can buy, and which many people apparently are buying.

(Here’s a proposal for a rule on the “personality cult” thing: If your face is on a pair of socks that other people are actually buying and putting on their feet, then you’re the subject of a personality cult—albeit a benign one, in this instance.)

And now there is a movement afoot to have Dr. Fauci named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”.  Not bad for a man who will turn 80 later this year. (If this is a cause that moves you, you can even sign the online petition .)

Surely Dr. Fauci is admired for his intellect, but there’s more to his appeal than just that. If your personal physician was more like Dr. Fauci, you wouldn’t dread that annual checkup so much. Fauci is the science teacher and academic mentor that you’d always wished you’d had back in school. He is incredibly smart; but he is also good-humored and humble—-almost to the point of being self-effacing.  He never loses his cool. In this regard, Dr. Fauci is a welcome contrast to the shrill, hyperbolic, snarky, and blustering personality types that dominate the ranks of our public figures today.

There aren’t many upsides to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to think of any at all. But if we must look for silver linings, one may be that millions of children will take Dr. Anthony Fauci as their hero. Some of them may even immerse themselves in science, as Fauci did at a young age.

That would be a welcome change from the widespread youthful adoration of ding-dong celebrities like LeBron James and Taylor Swift. It may also mean that decades down the road, we’ll have many more rock-star scientists, on that day when we’ll inevitably need a few. 

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