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Ed Brodow: A Study in Mass Hysteria: Coronavirus and the Run on Toilet Paper

My Facebook feed has been inundated with photos of people lined up in droves outside Costco hoping to stock up on toilet paper. As of an hour ago, the toilet paper shelves at both of my local supermarkets were empty. It reminds me of Venezuela. What has gotten into these folks? They are infected, not with a virus, but with an irresistible form of mass hysteria. And here’s a question: How does toilet paper protect you from getting the flu? No one has been able to explain that to me satisfactorily. Something loony has happened to the world since word of coronavirus leaked out from China.

What really pushed my buttons was the alarming “news” from Ohio. The media are eagerly spreading the story that a single government official, Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio State Health Department, "estimates" that 100,000 people in Ohio have been infected with the coronavirus. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine supports her claim. They are advising Ohioans to stay home. Okay, what’s wrong with that, you ask? What’s wrong is that Ohio has only five confirmed cases. FIVE. Not 100,000 but five! And how many responsible individuals are behind this prognosis? ONE. When asked by TV reporters how she arrived at her estimate, Dr. Acton mumbled some doubletalk about “baselines” and other statistical nonsense but did not give a cogent reason why we should believe her. "I am not saying there are absolutely for certain 100,000 people,” Acton attempted to backtrack. “I'm saying I'm guesstimating." She also acknowledged that the lack of widespread testing means that officials do not know for sure.

Tara Smith, professor of public health at Kent State University, thinks Acton's number is excessive. Smith believes there could be 1,000 undetected cases in Ohio right now. How do the media react? Do they opt for Smith’s restrained estimate? Hell no. The media want to spread panic so of course they go with Acton’s inflated number. This is how we become infected, not with a virus, but with hysteria.

The media are having a field day. All other news items have been pre-empted by coronavirus stories. As a result, the hysteria is not limited to a run on toilet paper. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted from 29,398.02 on February 14 to 21,200.62 on March 12. That is a drop of 8,197.40 or nearly 30 percent in less than a month. Stores are closing, sporting and other entertainment events are being cancelled, flights are way down, entire communities (even entire nations) are being quarantined. According to OpenTable, diners are down approximately 45 percent in Seattle, 40 percent in San Francisco, 30 percent in New York, and 25 percent in London, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Let me say it clearly: The world is going batshit.

Needless to say, the Democrats are all for the hysteria. As soon as I heard about the coronavirus, I knew the Left would blame it on President Trump. He is accused of inadequate response to the “crisis.” Is that accurate? Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, adviser to six presidents on HIV/AIDS and many other domestic and global health issues, said on March 13 that the US is "ahead of the curve" on containing the coronavirus because of President Trump's unprecedented travel restrictions and other steps taken by the administration.

The real issue is whether the panic is justified. Does coronavirus qualify as an unprecedented threat to the human race? Is it necessary for us to wash our hands every 15 minutes, stay home from work, and maintain a six-foot distance from our neighbors? For me, the answer is no. We have faced similar viral outbreaks every few years and we have survived without shutting down the entire planet. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calculates that since 2010, between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths in the US annually can be blamed on the flu. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. Coronavirus, in case the media forgot to tell you, is a flu.

It is noteworthy to observe that during the Obama presidency, the US suffered from more than 60 million cases of Swine Flu resulting in 12,469 deaths. Was the nation subjected to mass hysteria? Nothing of the sort. The media was quiet and Obama was never called to account for mishandling this outbreak. For strictly political reasons, we are not so lucky. The Democrats are doing everything possible to politicize the current epidemic, including but not limited to a call for universal basic income in response to people being out of work due to coronavirus.

Taking it one step further, Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, an MIT scientist and researcher on the human immune system, tweeted this: “The coronavirus fear mongering by the Deep State will go down in history as one of the biggest frauds to manipulate economies, suppress dissent, & push MANDATED Medicine!” Dr. Shiva believes that the media and the Deep State are doing the world a disservice by exaggerating the impact of COVID-19. He said it’s time to stop scaring people.

Earlier this week, someone thought they were being very clever by posting on Facebook that the Trump administration should learn a lesson from Singapore. While the US had 1,010 cases reported, Singapore had a mere 178. What does Singapore know that we don’t? The population of Singapore is 5 million; the US population is 320 million, 64 times that of Singapore. If you multiply 178 by 64, you get 11,392. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

The lunatic fringe is not missing the call to action. We are being reminded by noted infectious disease expert Kim Kardashian that the late psychic Sylvia Brown predicted we would experience a pneumonia-like illness in 2020. Other conspiracy theorists have argued that author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus in his 1981 book, The Eyes of Darkness. Koontz refers to his virus as “Wuhan-400,” an alleged reference to the city of Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. Gee. Why didn’t we pay attention? Why did we wait so long to panic?

Hell, you won’t catch me panicking … but I have to stop writing now so I can wash my hands.

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Ed Brodow

Ed Brodow is a conservative political commentator, negotiation expert, and regular contributor to Newsmax, Daily Caller, American Thinker, Townhall, LifeZette, Media EqualizerReactionary Times, and other online news magazines. He is the author of eight books including his latest blockbuster, Trump’s Turn: Winning the New Civil War.

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