Readers comments 12-18-20

Keeping things in perspective

Dear editor:

Famous physicist and chemist Marie Curie once stated, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Amen to that!

Fear is a very dangerous emotion to cater to. Therefore, let us rather pursue greater understanding.

In this present age of coronavirus fear and hysteria, what we need first, before any rational discussion can proceed, is perspective. Perspective that I have not seen coming from the federal government or from the state government or from the national media or even from the so-called medical community.

We hear incessant references to a “pandemic.”  But what is a pandemic? Exactly. Webster’s dictionary actually prefers the term ‘epidemic.’ But perhaps history could help inform us.

The 1918-19 Spanish Flu, for example, is estimated to have caused the deaths of somewhere between 30 and 50 million people worldwide—and an estimated 675,000 in the United States. Those deaths, out of a world population of roughly 1.9 billion, adjusted for population growth, would equal 120 to 200 million deaths today. Just to keep things in perspective. 

During the Middle Ages, bubonic plague, the “Black Death,” is estimated to have killed from 30 percent to 60 percent of Europe’s ENTIRE population. Now those are pandemics (epidemics)!  Whereas today’s coronavirus outbreak is orders of magnitude below either of those two scourges.

Then there’s the annual flu-season flu, which comes around every single year and causes over 600,000 deaths worldwide, and roughly 50,000 deaths in the United States.

As of this writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports worldwide “cumulative COVID-19 deaths” of 1.64 million. Our own Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports “Total COVID-19 deaths, as of 12/16/2020,” in the United States, as 302,992.

So to pause and summarize: adjusted for population size, in the case of the Spanish Flu it is 120 to 200 million deaths—versus coronavirus 1.5 million. A factor of 100 to 1. In the case of the Black Death, the factor is more like 1,000 to 1. (Remember, we’re looking for perspective.)

But we haven’t yet even gotten to problems with the CDC’s own numbers. The CDC’s own report states, in relation to comorbidities, “For six percent of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.  For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.9 additional conditions or causes per death.”  (Comorbidities are other diseases or aliments simultaneously present in a particular person—those “additional conditions or causes.”)

The important part for our perspective-seeking is, “For six percent of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.” Therefore, of the above 302,992 U.S. deaths reported by the CDC as “COVID-19 deaths,” in reality, only six percent of those people, 15,330, actually died of the coronavirus.  The remaining 287,662 died of “2.9 additional” more primary, underlying medical conditions, that may or may not have been exacerbated by the presence of the coronavirus, we just don’t know.  Medical science and the record keeping are just not that precise.

For even broader perspective, let us also consider the experience of some of our own ancestors. How about those pioneers who trekked from Missouri to the west coast in covered wagons during the mid-1800’s? During those trips it was not unusual for a quarter to a half of the travelers to die or be killed en route. Or how about our more recent ancestors who endured that Spanish Flu death rate of 100 to 1 versus today’s coronavirus. I suspect they would be horrified if they were to witness the hysterical overreactions of some people today.

As disturbing and distressing as they may be, disease and death are, simply put, facts of nature. Our governments cannot protect everyone from everything, it’s an impossibility. And nor should they try. If through hubris or vanity we delude ourselves into thinking we can protect everyone with over-controlling over-reactions, then we may just end up destroying civilized society.

Along about now, thoughtful observers should be asking themselves two questions. Why now? Why this?

Why now, for this coronavirus? Why these massive over-reactions? With reference to all of the above (and more), based on what real-world, empirical threat evidence are we slamming our societies and our economies?   For the first time in modern history. Why now? Why this?

Rudyard Kipling famously wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs … you’ll be a Man, my son!”

We must be the ones keeping our heads. We must review and understand all of the evidence. We must think things through rationally and realistically. And most of all, we must keep things in perspective.

Douglas Lyon




Dear editor:

In last week’s letters Hao Huang pointed out the very high cost of a college education. That fact is a societal choice. It is a very unfortunate, shortsighted choice. To provide a bit of historical perspective, I’d like to use my own experience as an example. I attended Chaffey Community College for three years in the late 1950s, transferred to Cal State Univ, Fullerton and earned both an BA and, in 1965, an MA. In today’s dollars that entire experience cost me $3720…books, fees, everything for two degrees! In that ancient era the state of California chose to provide enough support to its system of higher education that people of modest means could start a professional or technical career in a free college. I would never have gone to college otherwise. As Huang points out, that’s much harder to do today because California’s voters made, what I think, was a very poor choice about the value of higher education.

I taught biology at Chaffey for 34 years and can claim some personal familiarity with the performance, tenor and tone of Chaffey and a number of other local Community Colleges. These colleges are the best educational investment that a student could possibly make. The range of programs is enormous – investigate more than one college. If, as Huang suggests, the colleges are “depressing”, it is only because the student was unable to find the resources needed. There are vibrant programs, charming colleagues, highly competent faculty and an enormous array of support services that are actively promoted for anybody who wants them. Of course, there are also some duds; but that’s true in every institution. Shop around and be rather skeptical of what you hear “on the street.” Avoid the duds.

Chaffey, Citrus and Mt. SAC offer hundreds of technical programs that lead directly into the working world. There are dozens of transfer programs for those who plan to earn a bachelor’s degree. When those transfer students move to the university they perform at par, or better, with the “native” students. If you choose to attend a community college, you will be very well prepared at a very modest cost. At Chaffey this year there is no tuition and a three-unit course costs $138. That’s much more than I paid in 1958 but it is a BARGAIN.  

Jim des Lauriers 



Houses not townhomes

Dear editor:

This concerns the former La Puerta school site. Travel Baseline Rd. east from Towne Ave. to Indian Hill Blvd. where there are several townhome developments and it’s plain to see that such residences are not appropriate for the former school site. The area is settled and zoned for houses, not townhomes. PERIOD.

Developers are profit-driven, not neighborhood enhancers.  Local concerns are local government responsibility. While school district needs are for money just now, it’s also true that since more families are here there will be need for more schools and parks so selling this site may be a major mistake. 

Early on, it was suggested that the city seek ways to acquire this open space for more sports use or for park use, but there has been no response from the city.

So city council should not be deciding zoning matters in favor of profit-driven builders. Please keep Claremont unique and tell this developer NO.

Ted Nall



Submit a Comment

Share This