TL;DR bullet points:
- We are in the middle of a global virus epidemic unlike anything we have ever seen.
- This is something we at FTP are taking seriously, and we sincerely hope you do too.
- Protect yourself and others by maintaining social distancing (6 feet/2 meters) and clean hands. Quarantine yourself if you have ANY suspicion that you’re sick. Stay home whenever you possibly can.
- FTP has implemented heightened safety precautions in accordance with CDC recommendations and local ordinance, and will continue servicing our customers for as long as circumstances permit. Any interruptions, should they occur, will be temporary.
JT here – I’m known as the “science guy” and resident health expert around these parts. Maybe you’ve seen me in our X3 battery video.
Anyway, in light of recent developments concerning the COVID-19 outbreak that has taken the world by storm, we would like to pass along the information that we have gleaned. We have been watching the situation closely ever since it caused severe disruptions in China’s manufacturing sector months ago. Things have not gotten better since then, to say the least.
“What is COVID-19?”
Well, sir/madam, I trust the rock under which you have been living for the past several weeks was quite comfortable. Allow me to inform you.
COVID-19 is the shorthand codename for a newly discovered strain of coronavirus. It was first transmitted to humans in Wuhan, China around the third week of November 2019 – epidemiologists think it originated in bats, then jumped to pangolins (anteater-armadillo-like things that I honestly didn’t know existed before last week), then to humans. The likely point of transmission was a live-animal meat market common in the region.
“It’s like the flu, right?”
Nope. It’s actually much worse.
Influenza virus, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is bad. It’s quite contagious, it hits you like a ton of bricks and lays you out for a week or two (unless you immediately go to the doctor and they give you an antiviral drug), but generally you get over it and life goes on. Last flu season saw about 35.5 million people get sick and 34,200 people die – this is a death rate of about 0.1%, which is actually pretty typical. Yes, lots of people die from the flu every year…but that’s because LOTS AND LOTS of people come down with it.
From what we can tell so far, COVID-19 is significantly MORE contagious than the flu – more comparable to measles, in fact – and causes a death rate many times higher. What’s worse, it being a coronavirus rather than an influenza virus means it doesn’t care what the weather is doing; all climates and seasons are fair game.
“But wait, it’s not like Ebola or anything – most people don’t even get that sick from it.”
This is true.
Ebola is pretty much a death sentence with 90+% lethality, and it’s just wretched, but it’s not nearly as easy to spread as COVID-19. This infectiousness makes COVID-19 even more dangerous to society at large – people either get mild to moderate symptoms (or none at all) or they get life-threateningly ill with permanent lung damage, and are contagious the entire time. Obviously more severe symptoms increase ease of virus transmission, but there is substantial evidence that infection can be spread simply by breathing the same air as someone with the virus who, let me remind you, may be completely unaware they even have it. This data has not yet been corroborated in the US for the simple reason that we were VERY late to the party in terms of public health response, and we don’t have nearly enough testing kits available to get a true figure of how bad the infection rate actually is. [By the way, that statement has nothing to do with politics, merely simple fact. I shouldn’t even have to say that, but 2020 is a nightmare reality in more ways than one, so here we are.]
We have NO idea how many people really have this, but whatever the official number is, it’s probably a dire understatement.
It is true that the younger and healthier you are, the more likely you are to avoid catastrophic illness with COVID-19. However, this also increases the chances that you are an unwitting carrier who could be infecting everyone you touch. Additionally, if you have ANY circumstances that may compromise your ability to fight infection – respiratory insufficiency, smoking, heart disease, immunodeficiency or autoimmunity, obesity, diabetes, cancer – your risk of a poor outcome from COVID-19 increases. The more risk factors you have, the worse your chances. Given that nearly half of American adults are obese and/or diabetic, it doesn’t look good for us if this goes wide.
“Okay, so how bad is it NOW?”
It’s pretty bad, but so far it’s only REALLY bad in a few hotspots throughout the country and the world at large.
It is currently Thursday afternoon, and by the end of the day worldwide infections will likely top 240,000 with over 10,000 deaths (which is a 4% death rate). Even if ¾ of infections are undiagnosed – meaning a million people were actually infected with COVID-19 but most were never tested for it – that still puts the death rate at 1%.
We’re dealing with a virus that is AT LEAST ten times deadlier than the typical flu. This is comparable in severity to the infamous Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 that infected half a billion people and killed 50 million. Possibly worse.
This is the first time in history that a global pandemic originated from a coronavirus, especially from a city in the middle of eastern China and within a four-month span. We’re all in uncharted waters here, folks.
“Why don’t we just let it run its course? It’ll be over a lot quicker, right?”
It absolutely would be over quicker.
However, literally millions of people would die in the US alone.
If we did nothing, we could expect 80% of adults to become infected within weeks – that’s about 200 million cases just in the US.
Roughly 1 in 20 people who come down with COVID-19 develop serious illness, many of which will require a ventilator for weeks on end, so that gives us 10 million very sick people in a very short time span. The main problem is we don’t even have 1 million ventilators in this country, let alone 10 million.
It’s more like 175,000…and that’s not even talking about the number of available personnel with sufficiently advanced training to administer the treatment. ICU-quality ventilators cost upwards of 25 grand apiece – not exactly something you can cobble together out of spare parts unless you’re a cardiopulmonary specialist and also a mechanical engineer. If you need one of these things, YOU NEED ONE.
This means that if half of the seriously ill patients require ventilators, that’s well over 4 million Americans who have no chance. That’s the entire population of Los Angeles, gone.
…what, are you a psychopath or something?
Okay, intrinsic value of human life notwithstanding, EVERYONE who may not statistically be vulnerable knows someone who is. Parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues…not only that, there have been a disturbing number of severe cases among adults under age 50 in other countries. Youth may be protective against COVID-19, but it does NOT grant immunity.
If we do nothing to mitigate this, society will endure a cataclysmic shock that will be forever burned into our cultural consciousness on a level far worse than 9/11. We will ALL lose loved ones.
“Okay fine, what can I do?”
First off, we won’t have a vaccine for this for at least a year, probably two years.
The best shot we have is slowing transmission of the virus to give our healthcare system the best possible chance at treating critically ill patients and minimizing the death toll.
It’s akin to spotting a stampeding herd of elephants running directly at your house. You don’t have an elephant gun (vaccine), so you can’t stop them. If you do nothing, the house will get ripped to shreds and the foundation crushed, so rebuilding will take a very, very long time. However, if you throw out a whole slew of obstacles – water barrels, discarded automobiles, giant sheets of fly paper – you can at least slow down the elephants so that they only take out a non-load-bearing wall or two and you can rebuild relatively quickly. It’s in everyone’s interests to slow down the stampede; that’s seriously the best we can do here until we can overhaul our medical system’s ability to respond to crisis.
The main tools we have in our anti-elephant arsenal are simple: Social distancing, quarantining, and frequent handwashing.
Social distancing: Maintaining 6 feet (2 meters) between you and any other humans when you’re out in public will reduce the likelihood that anyone infects you or that you unwittingly infect anyone else. This also means don’t go out in public unless you ABSOLUTELY have to. Work from home if you can – I’m actually writing this while sitting on my couch – and I understand that not everyone can do this, so please just be extra careful and maintain a large personal bubble. No more hugs, no more handshakes, no more sketchy Tinder dates. This is not going to be a fun time. Besides, bars are closed in most places anyway.
Quarantining: If you think you might possibly have the virus, STAY. HOME.
We live in a world of Instacart, Grubhub, Amazon, and Facetime. Don’t go to work, don’t go to the grocery store, just stay home. Your avoiding minor inconvenience is not worth other people’s lives. If you’re sick and you leave the house for any reason other than going to the doctor, you are a monster.
Additionally, if you’re over age 60 you should SERIOUSLY consider staying home in general until the worst has passed and hospitals aren’t imminently worried about ventilator shortages.
Handwashing: This virus can survive on hard surfaces for an astonishingly long time – two weeks or longer, in fact. Any time you touch something (or someone) that might conceivably be contaminated, WASH YOUR HANDS, especially before touching your face or any mucous membranes. This will kill and/or remove any viruses that might be present.
Hand sanitizer is hard to come by these days, so good ol’ soap and water will do just fine if you’re extremely thorough.
“What is FTP doing about this? Are you still able to make my [insert item here]?”
We have been largely unaffected by this…for now.
Our local jurisdiction of Orange County, California has not implemented a shelter-in-place order; as such, FTP is taking appropriate safety precautions like social distancing and borderline obsessive cleanliness while continuing to fulfill orders. So far everyone is still healthy (knock on wood), and we’re doing everything possible to keep it that way.
If our situation changes and we are forced to suspend operations, we will immediately update our customers and wholesalers with a timeframe as to when we expect to be back online.
This is an unpredictable and constantly changing situation, but we are a resilient company hell-bent on providing our customers the best possible service. If that means no service at all for the sake of safety then so be it, but we’ll let you know if that’s necessary.
In the meantime:
And remember…we’re all in this unfortunate mess together.
I’ll post an article soon about natural ways to boost immunity (backed by actual science).
Sneak peek: Megadoses of vitamin C do not help you do anything other than rapidly deplete your now-precious toilet paper supply.
- World Health Organization – COVID-19
- Centers for Disease Control – COVID-19
- YouTube – Coronavirus Explained And What You Should Do
- Joe Rogan Experience – Michael Osterholm (infectious disease expert)