Ten Things You May Not Know About COVID-19

An unmistakable optimism has returned to countries like Australia as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. Even the news cycle has begun to focus on issues other than the coronavirus, to our collective relief.

For several months there was blanket news coverage of the pandemic. Media outlets kept feeding our insatiable appetite to know more about a crisis that so directly impacts our health, our livelihoods, and our loved ones.

“Optimism has returned to countries like Australia.”

I remember seeing early reports suggesting that the death toll could approach 68 million. It is a relief, then, that as infection rates flatten in most countries, the death toll has been only a tiny fraction of what we were warned. My own country of Australia has been especially spared, in what almost seems like a miracle.

It is heartening to see that people the world over have been responsive to warnings about personal hygiene and social distancing—strategies that have clearly helped slow the spread of the virus.

But there’s also the possibility that fear turned out to be a far more contagious virus, and that—as some warned—the cure we’ve applied may ultimately prove worse than the disease.

“Early reports suggested that the death toll could approach 68 million.”

Many have made the mistake of stating their case about COVID-19 with too much certainty, and this has been true of scientific modellers and conspiracy theorists alike. So everything I’ve written below comes with a caveat: check my sources, and do your own research and thinking, too.

But also be encouraged that we can reopen with confidence, so long as we stay vigilant. If you still need convincing—or if you’ve been suspicious of a mass overreaction these last few months—consider these ten things you might not have heard about COVID-19.

1. The virus poses a very small risk to young people

I shouldn’t have to state this, but I know the accusations will fly, so here it is: all people are equally valuable. The elderly deserve our care and concern as much as the young.

But the data is clear that COVID-19 is far more deadly for the elderly and the already-ill than for the general population. For those who are generally healthy and below the age of 65, death is remarkably uncommon, even in pandemic epicentres. The data suggests that for those below 20, the flu is actually more deadly than the novel coronavirus.

“The elderly deserve our care and concern as much as the young.”

For this reason, governments are now turning to strategies that focus on protecting the elderly rather than treating all people as equally at risk. Over a dozen U.S. states have learned this the hard way, after half of their fatalities took place in nursing homes.

2. The virus is far less deadly than first predicted

Antibody tests have been conducted in various places to detect how many people have previously had the virus. In parts of New York, 15% of those tested had coronavirus antibodies. Studies have yielded similar results in California and Germany.

Given that the actual caseload in these places was far lower than 15%, there are apparently many who are contracting the virus but showing very mild symptoms, or none at all.

“The cure we’ve applied may ultimately prove worse than the disease.”

If these antibody tests are accurate—which is still in question—it would mean that the case fatality rate would be more like 0.5%. Indeed, the CDC’s current “best estimate” of the virus death rate is 0.4%, or even 0.3% if asymptomatic cases are included.

This is far less than the 3.4% global death rate originally reported by the World Heath Organisation. (For comparison, the fatality rate of the flu is around 0.1%).

3. Virus antibodies may provide immunity

Scientists have been warning that having antibodies from the virus doesn’t necessarily guarantee immunity. So even if the antibody tests are accurate, they say, we shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate.

But also this week, two studies were released strongly suggesting that COVID-19 antibodies may indeed provide immunity to the virus. This is an area of research worth watching closely.

4. The virus doesn’t easily spread from surfaces

Early research found that the virus could remain detectable on various surfaces for many hours and even days at a time. This was an important justification for “safer at home” messaging and the shuttering of public facilities and businesses worldwide.

The CDC originally issued guidelines in line with this research, but just over a week ago the institute changed its tone. Based on newer epidemiological data, their website now explains that the the virus spreads mainly through person-to-person contact and that it doesn’t easily spread from surfaces.

5. Sunlight and fresh air can protect against the virus

In recent weeks, a UK chief scientific advisor told MPs that sunlight and good ventilation are both “highly protective against transmission of the virus.” Since then, restrictions have been relaxed to allow Brits to exercise outdoors as much as they like.

This aligns with what we already knew about influenza and similar infections. And it suggests that closing beaches and national parks and restricting people’s movement outdoors may not have been wise policy in the first place.

6. Lockdowns may actually be ineffective

The debate over extended lockdowns versus reopening the economy has become highly politicised in the United States especially. Many have been at pains to warn states eager to reopen that if they do so too quickly, an appalling surge of deaths may follow.

But a fascinating study comparing various US states showed that, in fact, there is no relationship between COVID-19 deaths and lockdown policies.

“The debate over lockdowns has become highly politicised.”

Adjusting for variables, the study found that states with strict lockdown policies actually had almost twice as many infections per capita than those without them, and also more deaths per million—the exact opposite of what might be expected. Similar results were seen by comparing European countries with one another.

7. Lockdowns may lead to global famine

It’s widely acknowledged that the lockdowns will have a devastating impact on the world economy. Some have trivialised the desire to reopen as a lust for stock market gains at the cost of lives. But it’s no secret that many who promote the ongoing closures have the luxury of working from home, while countless small businesses permanently close and families go hungry.

“More people could potentially die from the economic impact than from the virus itself.”

What the debate in western countries has largely missed, however, is how lockdowns here will affect food supply chains elsewhere. Many families in developing nations rely heavily on international tourism for survival. Others depend on family members in the West—who are now out of work—sending regular financial support.

All of this has led David Beasley, director of the United Nations World Food Program, to warn that the world could face “multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.” In his assessment, there is “a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.”

8. Lockdowns are causing a spike in suicides

Another story only now beginning to make the news is the adverse affects of lockdowns on mental health and suicide. Following Boris Johnson’s announcement of a lockdown, numbers of people in the UK reporting significant depression and anxiety more than doubled. 

“Doctors report seeing more deaths from suicide than coronavirus since the lockdowns began.”

Studies in the US reveal similar trends there, even suggesting that more lives will ultimately be lost than were saved through lockdowns. Here in Australia, modelling conducted at Sydney University warns that an additional 1,500 suicides may result from the impact of the coronavirus restrictions.

Doctors in California report seeing more deaths from suicide than coronavirus since the lockdowns began. Similar stories are emerging from countries as diverse as India, the UK and Thailand.

9. Reactions to the virus have triggered a health crisis

There is also a broader health crisis developing. 600 American physicians recently sent a letter to the White House warning of patients avoiding routine medical tests and emergency care due to excessive fear of the virus. The cancelling of elective and routine procedures has likewise contributed to the crisis.

“These include 150,000 Americans per month who would have had a new cancer detected through a routine screening that hasn’t happened, millions who have missed routine dental care to fix problems strongly linked to heart disease/death, and preventable cases of stroke, heart attack, and child abuse,” the letter says.

10. People are praying like never before

There is no doubt that we are still facing a global health emergency. Almost 400,000 people have lost their lives to the virus. And while many western nations are experiencing a reprieve, our attention must shift to countries like Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico whose death rates continue to rise. These aren’t mere numbers—they are people with families now grieving.

Without the intervention of governments, this pandemic could have been much more dire. And we must be careful not to expect perfect foresight from our leaders, or judge them using data that is only now emerging.

“We are still facing a global health emergency.”

But we can continue to make our voices heard if we believe they are making misjudgments. As the US Declaration of Independence so simply states, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Our political leaders govern us, but they do so as our representatives, not our masters.

Most importantly, we can continue making our voices heard to God. There has been a global movement of prayer these last few months that has no comparison in recent memory. Considering even the tamest predictions made back in February, it’s clear to me that God is hearing these prayers and has so far spared us from a much greater catastrophe.

In a time when we too often look to the State for help or for someone to blame, God has shown himself strong and mighty. People may make all sorts of mistakes, but as Psalm 46 declares: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble… Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be brave, don’t self-censor and give into the mob. If you think this article will help others, please hit share. Also, scroll down if you’d like to subscribe. Thanks for reading!

The Battle is Not Yours But God’s

What’s the battle that you’re facing right now?

Three thousand years ago, God’s people faced their own battle. Victory came, but only after struggle. And it came in the most unlikely of ways. The lesson they first had to learn was this:

“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf.”

It’s the story of Jehoshaphat, found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.

The setting for the story is this: the tiny kingdom of Judah find themselves surrounded by not one, but three invading armies. From a human point of view, they’re about to get decimated.

Judah’s king at the time is Jehoshaphat. He’s in the middle of a 25-year reign. He’s a good king—a man of integrity, and a skilled diplomat. Most importantly, he is deeply committed to the ways of the Lord.

With armies about to wipe Judah off the map—in the face of great discouragement and defeat, Jehoshaphat does five things that change the game for God’s people.

These are five things we can do when nothing else is working, when we need our own But God moment.

1. Own Your Problem | v1-4

The first is own your problem. It’s possible for weeks or even years to pass before we’re honest about our need for help. Human cultures reward performance and encourage us to hide our battles behind an “I’ve-got-it-together” facade.

Jehoshaphat dropped the facade. In verses 1-4, we read that:

“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.”

He owned his problem. He didn’t hide his fear and pretend everything was okay. He begged God for guidance, and wore his weakness in public.

If only you and I allowed ourselves to be that vulnerable. When’s the last time you shared your deepest fears with a friend? Or cried in public? Or healed a broken relationship with the word sorry? Or asked someone to pray for you?

You’re not weak if you admit weakness. Admitting weakness is actually what makes you strong. That’s what takes courage. That’s how you live from the heart. So own your problem, and be vulnerable, like Jehoshaphat was.

2. Lean Into God | v5-12

The second is lean into God. Notice that Jehoshaphat doesn’t go to the pantry and binge. He doesn’t medicate himself with Netflix, a night out on the town, or a sinkhole of self pity.

He goes to God. Read his prayer in verses 5-12. He begins by reflecting on how good God has been in the past, helping Israel take the promised land, and fight off their enemies, and build the temple.

What are the good deeds God has done in your life that you can recount? If you’ve grown up in Australia, you’ve probably got thousands you could list.

When we refocus our vision on the character and faithfulness of God, as Jehoshaphat did, it actually changes the way we view our circumstances. Our circumstances themselves may not change, but we can always choose to wipe our tears and lean into God for another day.

3. Trust His Promises | v13-17

The third is trust his promises. The Bible is full of promises. Some have counted 8000 of them. That’s a lot of promises (and a lot of counting).

Here, in verses 13-17, God gives a promise through one of his people. He doesn’t use someone famous like Isaiah or Ezekiel. Instead, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man called Jahaziel, who we know almost nothing else about. This is what he says:

“Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

“Tomorrow, march out against them… But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

The timeless truths of Scripture, so full of God’s promises, are our sure foundation. But we also must be ready to trust his promises when they come as a word for the present moment. We even need to be ready to be the prophetic voice he uses.

Just think. Those powerful words, the battle is not yours but God’s, weren’t uttered by anyone famous. They came through a little person—Jahaziel—someone like you or me.

4. Choose To Worship | v18-21

The fourth is choose to worship. A prophet has given a rousing speech, but Judah is still on the brink of annihilation. Peasants have taken refuge inside Jerusalem’s walls. Invading armies close in. The people are terrified.

What do they do? In verses 18-21, they worship. Jehoshaphat bows low with his face to the ground. Then the whole nation joins him. Imagine the scene: hundreds of thousands prostrating themselves together before God.

Then three groups of worship leaders, who are probably scattered around, stand up and begin singing with a loud voice, praising God.

And as the story fast-forwards to the next day, King Jehoshaphat gives a Braveheart-like speech.

“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.”

They don’t sharpen their swords or conduct last-minute training for battle. Instead:

“The king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendour, singing: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!’”

Remember that still, nothing has changed. They’re putting on their armour. The enemy draws near. Besides a prophecy, they have no reason to believe they’ll be alive by sundown. Yet they choose to worship. “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever.”

If Judah could worship God in the face of all this, will you worship God in the face of your battle?  Will you stubbornly give God glory and declare his goodness over your life?

That’s what Judah did. And if you peek ahead, it says God came to their rescue “the very moment they began to sing and give praise”. Worship, in other words, was the key to their triumph.

5. Wait for Victory | v22-30

That leads to the final point, wait for victory. Judah’s victory was incredible. Verses 22-30 tell us that:

“The Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves…

“So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.”

Not only did Judah survive an imminent invasion. Not only did they survive it without swinging a sword. But we also read that it took them three days to collect the booty. They went home with more showbags than they could carry.

And the story ends with these words:

“So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”

You might be staring down a big army at the moment. But take heart, because victory is on the way. It might not feel like it right now, but as we see in the story of Jehoshaphat, God sometimes lets the odds get stacked against his people so that he gets even more glory in the end.

When you’ve owned your problem, leaned into God, trusted his promises, and chosen to worship, there’s only one thing left to do. You need to wait for victory.

This is the hardest thing to do, because it doesn’t involve you at all. But that’s the point.

“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”