Berryhill: COVID-19 not ‘Doomsday Virus’ but Poses Risk and Consequences

MADISON — Addressing the elephant in the room at the recent meeting of the Tennessee Valley Republican Club,  Madison County Coroner Dr. Tyler Berryhill offered an assessment of the global coronavirus outbreak.

“The biggest thing I want people to know is yes, this virus does pose risks and consequences, absolutely … everyone is pulling together to fight the spread, but this is not the doomsday virus,” Berryhill said. “Everything is going to be OK.”

Berryhill said that right now, the mortality rate is probably going to be between one and two percent, but not likely to be above two.

“A lot of people are going to have symptoms no more serious than a cough or a cold, and a couple of days later, they’ll be fine,” he said. “There are some people that will never have the symptoms at all.

“But if we stay between one and two percent, out of 100 people, that’s one or two people – that’s still people’s lives … so the most important thing people need to know is yes, it’s something that needs to be dealt with. If the coronavirus has the same exposure that influenza does, which it doesn’t right now, it does have a higher mortality rate.”

He went on to say that in the past 60 to 90 days, he has had six people die of influenza here in Madison County. However, the great measures being taken across the country to reduce the transmission means that in the end, it is nowhere near as lethal as the initial SARS in 2003 or even the MERS virus of 2015.

Berryhill also said there are repercussions to shutting down schools.

“It’s not so much that children have been getting the virus because they haven’t, but children will shed the virus, causing a lot of hardship for working people and the healthcare community,” he said. “I’ve seen some reports where 30 to 40 percent of the nurses in this country have children, and all of a sudden, they have to come home, which creates a window of sick leave in which there are going to be shortages.”

He said parents should also be careful about sending their kids to stay with grandparents, especially those who are older and who have underlying health conditions, because they are the most vulnerable.

“The biggest piece to remember is that everything is going to be OK,” he concluded. “Some people have implied that had Ebola spread like this … COVID-19 is nothing like that, but it is something of concern.”