In analyzing the savage impact of COVID-19 and its disruption to America’s economy, and peoples’ lives in general, one can’t help making comparisons with previous health disasters and their unexpected shakeup on normality in the United States and abroad.
Most horribly outstanding in this regard is the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919, with a worldwide number of cases — reaching 500,000,000 and estimated deaths of 50 million. While COVID-19's numbers are only a small fraction of that amount at this time, it has already done much more in shaking up U.S. citizens’ lives in the few months of its current generation.
What is more tragic and disconcerting in this country is that the virus has led to the closing of schools, houses of worship, all major sports leagues, Broadway shows and practically all restaurants, for starters. Needless to say, it is in the process of playing havoc with America’s gigantic investment community. Practically all national gatherings of more than just families are suspended, calling to a halt all travel — air, railroad, ships, etc.
At this writing, a recession is likely in full-swing and teetering on the edge of a depression not seen since the early 1930s.
There are several reasons why public health officials have been more worried about the spread of COVID-19 than previous outbursts of flu viruses. With the flu outburst, doctors have a multitude of experience on which to base their anticipation. This coronavirus has a long incubation period of 14 days. It means people can be infected for weeks without knowing it is developing, allowing them to spread it to others.
Further, it is much more fatal than the flu — as much as 10 times deadlier. Our yearly influenza outbreaks have a minute fatality rate of only 0.1 percent.
One thing that has come across from data in China and Italy is the fatality rate goes up significantly once the medical system becomes overwhelmed. Tragically, hospitalization is another area in which evidence indicates that the COVID-19 coronavirus is much worse than the flu.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that America’s conditional hospitalization system is incapable of dealing with the rapid expansion of this dreaded disease. The overcrowded city of New York is an unfortunate example of this increasing shortcoming.
There are 3,000 ICU beds in the entire state, but 80 percent of them are already occupied. It is obvious that the 600 beds left are hardly adequate to handle the more than 12,000 cases already expected in America’s largest cities, more hospital ships are on the way, and this is only the beginning.
The Future of U.S. Professional Sports
For the past two decades, professional U.S. sports (baseball, football and basketball, primarily) have had their greatest and most profitable period ever. At the start of 2020, it looked as if the immediate future would be even more gratuitous as TV coverage, as well as general popularity among young and old, hit a bull’s eye.
Unfortunately, this dream has turned into a nightmare as the sinister coronavirus spread its mantle throughout the world, hitting the monetary “pot of gold” worst of all. The cancellation of the “March Madness” college basketball tournament already had caused the NCAA to reduce its annual payout to member institutions by two-thirds from $600 million to $200 million.
Amateur sports also tried to get a share from the U.S. congressional bailout because their losses from the delay of the Olympics, scheduled for Tokyo, Japan this summer, would be in the range of another $600 million.
Some team owners believe the biggest problem facing national professional sports is as much psychological as financial. It’s the idea that public excitement over sports, in general, is now overcome by the fear of coronavirus enough to frighten away sports enthusiast. The consequences affecting the multi-billion-dollar sports world overall are just beginning to make themselves felt, as this is written.
Every day without new TV basketball games and the professional baseball leagues on radio serve to detract from this all-time interest eventually. National Basketball Association teams have closed their doors to team practice observers. This detaching has impacted both observers and players, who also are stuck in their homes like other mere mortals.
Major League Baseball has agreed to float players a $170 million advance on their salaries as they view the start of the season without fans with grave concern. With the start of the much-awaited MLB season come and gone, owners, players and fans alike view the future with grave concern.
The NFL has mostly been spared for now because of the fortunate accident of timing. If this global disaster still lasts into fall, English soccer, which generates almost $10 billion in the winter season, would undercut this viable key sport of the United Kingdom. The financial effects on teams could be felt throughout the pandemic; global cable television has given the United Kingdom a rare sports association.
With multi-millions of fans around the world, hoping and praying for the best, a looming catastrophe hangs over the heads of all sports fans for now.