The “Rumble in the Jungle” was the 1974 boxing match in Zaire between two of the greats: An aging, slowing Muhammed Ali and the younger, stronger, harder-punching George Foreman.
Ali repeatedly let Foreman back him into the ropes. There, most of Foreman’s blows were deflected or absorbed by Ali’s arms which were bruised black and blue the next day. Ali allowed his body to recoil against the ropes like shock absorbers to absorb much of the rest.
That continued into the seventh round when Foreman landed a knockout punch to Ali. Except it failed knock him out. Ali leaned into Foreman and whispered, “That all you got, George?”
Foreman later said he thought to himself, “Yeah, that’s all I got.” He was exhausted.
Ali floored Foreman in the next round for an eight count. Foreman stumbled to his feet and referee ended the fight on a technical knockout.
Ali and Foreman later became close friends. A documentary film about their fight won an Oscar. Foreman helped a Parkinson’s Disease-stricken Ali up the steps of the stage to receive the award.
Foreman once said Ali was “the greatest man I’ve ever known. Not greatest boxer, that’s too small for him. He had a gift. He’s not pretty, he’s beautiful. Everything America should be, Muhammad Ali is.”
America today is assaulted by a young, strong, hard-punching assailant of a different type. It’s a virus. It has tanked the stock market, killed several hundred Americans and thousands worldwide, and induced panicky hoarding of things wholly irrelevant to the threat it poses, such as toilet paper.
Why toilet paper? This isn’t an intestinal ailment. Are Americans scared shitless? C’mon, we’re better and braver than that.
Our fathers and grandfathers went off to war while our mothers and grandmothers worked in airplane factories. We’re now asked only to stay home on the couch watching TV in a self-imposed quarantine. People seem unable to do that without the satisfaction of denying toilet paper to their fellow Americans.
The stupidity and selfishness of these hysterical toilet paper hoarders makes me sicker than Coronavirus ever will.
Coronavirus is highly unlikely get me at all. It is possible (even likely, is my hunch) that this virus will abate as social-distancing takes hold and warmer spring weather comes around. In addition, innovative biotech companies – a field where America leads the world, notwithstanding the demonization of such companies by some as “Big Pharma” – is working hard to develop treatments.
Bear in mind several facts. First, we won’t have a vaccine for at least half a year. Second, the virus seldom kills young or heathy people. The average victim in America is 77. It has killed only one American under 50, and he was in his 40’s with an underlying condition.
Third, people acquire immunity to this kind of virus by surviving exposure to it. (That’s essentially what a vaccine accomplishes, but with the use of a compromised virus.) Fourth, containment is futile. Some 86% of the people with the virus are walking around undetected and asymptomatic.
In view of all that, the approach being adopted by the Netherlands is to stop quarantining the people who contract the virus. Instead, let it spread – as it is anyway. Nearly everyone to whom it spreads will survive it, and most will do so with mild or nonexistent symptoms. Quarantine will be reserved for the old and infirm, but not sick, whom it is capable of killing. They’re often effectively quarantined anyway in nursing homes. The approach is essentially an inverted quarantine.
By letting the healthy population contract the virus harmlessly, the population at large develops “herd immunity” to the virus.
Enough healthy people in the population with herd immunity, together with a quarantine of the unhealthy population, beats the virus altogether because it cannot find hosts, i.e. susceptible victims. Unlike bacteria which can survive and multiply in a variety of sustaining environments, viruses cannot stay viable for more than a few hours or at most a few days without a host.
I admit that I don’t know if this approach of the Netherlands is the right one or not. It depends on facts beyond my ken and currently unknowable to even experts, such as the exact lethality of the virus in various demographics and various circumstances and the degree to which contracting the virus confers immunity and the duration of that immunity.
But this is worth an active debate by scientists and epidemiologists. It’s possible – just possible – that this approach could work. Let the virus deliver its hardest punch to the healthy who can take it, so that we can build herd immunity for the overall population.
We might be able to rope-a-dope this thing – we might be able to exhaust it. We might be able to say to the virus, “That all you got?”
It would be gutsy and shrewd. It would risk some brave souls to protect the larger population and the most vulnerable. It would be everything America should be.