Gauging Covid-19: It’s dangerous and we should be careful but the risk is greatly exaggerated

Apr 13, 2021 | 21 comments

By Bruce Wilson

This is just my experience and my opinions so take them as that. Just read and contemplate it.

I’ve had a feeling for a long time that the pandemic had mostly petered out. In September 2020 in Machala, I asked the front door guards at the mall and a big grocery store how many people each day had a high temperature and they all said none. So if anybody was sick they were definitely in bed, not out spreading the virus.

Then I went to the main hospital and asked how many people in Machala were hospitalized with Covid and the person said about a total of 50. So 50 divided by 600,000 (El Oro Province population) gives .000083 which is almost 1 person for every 10,000. Not much at all. It’s always the percentages you go by to gauge an infectious disease and 008% is almost nothing.

About a week ago I asked my doctor friend in Cuenca how many in Cuenca were hospitalized with Covid and he said about 100. So 100 divided by 900,000 (Azuay Province population) gives .00011 which is 10% over 1 in 10,000, pretty close to what Machala had 7 months ago. Again, very little.

Yes, I know Covid-19 can be very deadly for a few people with compromised health but there are available methods to prevent death — they just need to be used. I’m not arguing about if it is deadly or not. I am just looking at percentages to gauge how severe it is now.

What about the recent uptick in cases? Well, interestingly enough, this has also happened in other countries right after administering thousands of vaccine doses. Exactly why, I can only guess. I think it is because vaccinated people have less symptoms when they get the virus so instead of staying home in bed they just continue as normal and wind up inadvertently spreading the virus.

Am I suggesting people be carefree just because the percentages are small? Not at all, we should all continue to be careful but realize your risks are much smaller than what you would think they are if you read or listen to the news, which never gives percentages. The media reports always say that “the hospitals are full”. When I repeated that to an American doctor friend of mine in Cuenca she laughed and said hospitals here are normally full or almost full, pandemic or not.

Here’s another tidbit to lessen the fear factor: In Europe they did a large study to try to figure out the main difference between people who survived Covid and those who didn’t. They found out that those who survived had higher levels of vitamin D in their bodies. In Cuenca and Quito the weather is generally cold and so people wear more clothes and inadvertently deprive themselves the ability to make vitamin D from the sunlight on their skin. I think everybody should be taking vitamin D pills no matter where they live unless they live on the beach and visit it often. Here’s a good article on the subject: Study finds Vitamin D reduces Covid deaths by 60%.

Bruce Wilson is a Cuenca expat. He can be reached at