Be prepared for numbers much worse than those of influenza. I didn’t believe at first that coronavirus was all that big a deal, but the latest statistics are terrifying. It is much more infectious than influenza, so the spread is more rapid and more people get infected. Not only that, but those who get more than a mild case get really sick. The good news is that effective treatment can pull patients through; the problem is that if coronavirus were to spread unchecked, the medical system is inadequate to handle the case load. The whole point of these precautions is to slow the rate of new infections to a manageable level.
My sister is a nurse with a degree in public health, and she works for an international aid organization. The information coming in from all over the world is getting pretty scary.
My family lost quite a few people to the big influenza epidemic a century ago; they were still remembering it during my childhood, fifty years later. In time, as we and the virus adapt to each other, the effects will moderate; but this is a new virus and requires effort at the moment. As I have learned, the problem isn’t so much learning how to treat an individual case—we can do that quite well—but rather to handle the size of the case load. If we can keep that manageable, we should pull through okay.