The biggest real news of the day involving the COVID-19 (Chinese) coronavirus is that it might not be as deadly as we were led to believe when we shut down the economy based on computer models that predicted millions of deaths, and have since been adjusted steadily downward. There’s always a temptation when dealing with a disease scare to look back with 20/20 hindsight and say, “It wasn’t that bad! We didn’t need to take all those precautions!” when it’s possible that if we hadn’t taken the precautions, it might’ve been much worse. It was certainly necessary to take drastic action upfront to “flatten the curve” and keep the disease from spreading and overwhelming the medical system.
But we’ve done that. While we don’t want a second wave to bring it roaring back, we can’t keep the economy shut down forever. Due to the shutdown, another 4.4 million Americans just applied for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 26 million. Indeed, there are estimates that keeping it shut much longer will lead to so much despair, depression, drug abuse and suicide that more people will die than would have died of the virus.
We were also told that we needed to take drastic measures until we knew more about the threat. Well, now we know more, and some of it is good news, but the people lobbying to keep the economy shut down don’t want to hear it.
For instance, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who not that long ago was worried about millions of deaths and a shortage of ventilators and hospital beds (none of which came to pass) announced that a test of 3,000 people across 19 New York counties found that 13.9% of them had coronavirus antibodies. Extrapolated to the entire state population, that would be 2.7 million people who contracted the virus but had no symptoms or sickness too mild to go to the hospital. That would mean the death rate per infection isn’t 6%, as previously stated, but 0.5%. We still don’t know if antibodies provide long-lasting immunity, but it is proof that many people can catch the virus and not even get sick enough to need a doctor.
We also now know that 94% of coronavirus patients who were hospitalized in New York City had another underlying condition, and 88% had two or more. The most common was hypertension, followed by obesity, diabetes, morbid obesity, and coronary artery disease.
But the most important MUST-READ article of the day is by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center. It’s titled, “The Data is In; Stop the Panic and End the Total Isolation.”
Dr. Atlas lists five facts that all point to the need to end the economic lockdown while continuing to proceed with reasonable caution. These facts, which he explains in much more detail, are:
The overwhelming majority of people have little risk of dying from COVID-19 (those over 75 are at greatest risk; the current death rate for those 18 and under is zero)…Protecting older, high-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding…Our total isolation policy is prolonging the problem by preventing the development of “herd immunity”…People are dying because hypothetical projections of the need for care for COVID-19 patients caused states to cancel other medical procedures, from cancer screenings and biopsies to chemotherapy and brain surgeries…We now have a clearly-defined at-risk population who can be protected with targeted measures, so we don’t have to shut down the entire country.
This isn’t to say that we can immediately go back to life as it was two months ago. We’ll still need to follow reasonable precautions. Even if you’re not at greatest risk, why take unnecessary chances? But we now know a lot more about how dangerous the disease is, and about how damaging the response has been. We now have to consider whether the cure is on the verge of becoming worse than the disease.