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19 February 2020
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That Wasn't So Bad

Q: It is true you had a case of COVID 19?*
A: I think so.
Q: I heard there were only a tiny number of cases in the U.S. Were you just unlucky?
A: Not especially. I'm almost certain it didn't kill me.
Q: How did you contract it? Did you go to Wuhan, China?
A: No. In effect, Wuhan came to me.
Q: ???
A: Do you have any idea how many Chinese people go to CES? I'm guessing it's as many as 12,839.
Q: So you think you got it at CES?
A: Good possibility!

I know that's not much of a blogitem. But in this case, it's all in the asterisk.


* Uncharacteristically, this blog is being published right at the time indicated by its date. If you are reading it weeks or years later, you will probably have forgotten the COVID 19 timeline, and possibly its name. If it's a really serious epidemic, which I believe will not be the case, you might have gotten it yourself and suffered horribly or had friends and family die. I'm guessing, in my capacity as an expert epidemiologist, (which I at best know how to spell), that that won't be the case. But the interesting thing about this blog and the Q and A above is the date of this year's CES: 08 January.

The Time Line (From CNN, which by now will have updated or disappeared this story)

(I have deleted some of the items for brevity and added my own additions in italics. Thank you, CNN, whose innumeracy isn't in question in this item.)

December 31, 2019 - Cases of pneumonia detected in Wuhan, China, are first reported to the WHO. During this reported period, the virus is unknown. The cases occur between December 12 and December 29, according to Wuhan Municipal Health.
January 1, 2020 - Chinese health authorities close the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market after it is discovered that wild animals sold there may be the source of the virus.
January 5, 2020 - China announces that the unknown pneumonia cases in Wuhan are not SARS or MERS. In a statement, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says a retrospective probe into the outbreak has been initiated.
January 7, 2020 - Chinese authorities confirm that they have identified the virus as a novel coronavirus, initially named 2019-nCoV by the WHO.
January 8, 2020 - I, along with 175,211 others, attended the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada. China (not including 2,547 from Taiwan and and 965 from Hong Kong) sported 12,839 attendees, second only to the United States. Although no number is given for Wuhan residents, it is most likely several hundreds.
January 11, 2020 - The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by the coronavirus. A 61-year-old man, exposed to the virus at the seafood market, died on January 9 after respiratory failure caused by severe pneumonia.
January 13, 2020 - After returning home from CES, I go defective with what I have no reason to believe is anything other than a "common cold." I notice an unusual but very minor "shortness of breath" as a symptom. I have fully recovered by 18 January.
January 16, 2020 - Japanese authorities confirm that a Japanese man who traveled to Wuhan is infected with the virus.
January 17, 2020 - Chinese health officials confirm that a second person has died in China. The US responds to the outbreak by implementing screenings for symptoms at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
January 20, 2020 - China reports 139 new cases of the sickness, including a third death.
January 22, 2020 - Wuhan says it will "temporarily" close its airport and railway stations for departing passengers following news that the death toll from the Wuhan Coronavirus has risen to 17. Chinese authorities confirm at least 547 cases in the mainland.
January 23, 2020 - At an emergency committee convened by the World Health Organization, the WHO says that the Wuhan coronavirus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.
January 23, 2020 - The Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau cancels all large-scale Lunar New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of Wuhan coronavirus.
January 28, 2020 - Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom in Beijing. At the meeting, Xi and the WHO agree to send a team of international experts, including US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff, to China to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
January 29, 2020 - The White House announces the formation of a new task force that will help monitor and contain the spread of the virus, and ensure Americans have accurate and up-to-date health and travel information, it said.
January 31, 2020 - The Donald Trump administration announces it will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled in China in the last 14 days.
February 7, 2020 - Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was targeted by police for trying to sound the alarm on a "SARS-like" virus in December, dies of the coronavirus. Following news of Li's death, the topics "Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology," and "We want freedom of speech," trend on China's Twitter-like platform, Weibo, before disappearing from the heavily censored platform.

Most interestingly, note my entry for 13 January compared to the CNN entry for 21 January. Am I a pioneer or what?

My Theory

Trade shows, in addition to being a breeding ground for commerce, are also a convenient venue for exchanging diseases. Hotel elevators and convention halls thrust people into close contact. If some Wuhanese CES attendees had already been infected, it seems inevitable that some—perhaps many—US CES attendees contracted COVID 19 as well. If they were and we were, that's good news of a sort. Despite the world-wide concern about this new virus, we haven't heard about a sudden spike of serious illness or death after the CES.

It has been reported that the elderly (which I think I am) and those with "underlying health conditions" (which I am not) are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. However, if I did contract it, I assumed it was a "common cold," treated it with random OTC remedies, and forgot about it shortly after recovery. It was only a few days ago when I realized that "shortness of breath," albeit just barely noticeable, was one of my symptoms. Which led me to this line of thought. Of course I can't be sure that I'm right; I might well have had just a cold. But look at the numbers above and consider the spread of the virus in Wuhan and how many infected but perhaps symptom-free residents came to the US before the virus was recognized. I think it's inevitable that COVID 19 was present in the United States long before 21 January, and is probably widespread now with no exceptional health consequences for the country.

So, pre-Whew! ("Pre" just in case I'm wrong.)


 
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