Yesterday, I wrote about the pressing need for data --- not the long-term data some medical researchers insist on seeing before they advise us to start returning to some semblance of normal, but what we can learn NOW to help us know how to respond. Today, we have more of that.
Of course, we have this piece of data to consider: 6.6 million unemployment claims. In a flash, we’ve gone from virtually full employment in the last year of Trump’s first term to this staggering statistic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, coming from the point of view of a researcher, has said the fight will continue until there is absolutely no new case of COVID-19; of course, he’s looking ahead to a vaccine. Well, a vaccine will be just super, but a proven-safe and effective vaccine for the population at large could be 12 to 18 months away –- though one trial with mice at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is already looking promising –- and we cannot shut America down that long. We can’t shut America down for 12 to 18 more WEEKS. So let’s look at what we can reasonably do in the meantime.
Alex Berenson, a former NEW YORK TIMES reporter who has been looking hard at available numbers, said as a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show Thursday that the computer models predicting apocalyptic effects of this virus in terms of serious illness and death are turning out to be wildly wrong. “In some cases,” Berenson said, “these epidemiological models are extremely new. They’ve gone extremely ‘south’ in a matter of days." He’s daring to ask if there might be some other strategy that would do just as well and might be less damaging to the economy. “We’ve done it [put millions out of work] on the basis of models that don’t seem to line up with reality in real time.”
He cited the University of Washington model, “which was created and released only a week ago.” In other words, its accuracy has never been tested. It predicted that as of now, about 50,000 people in the state of New York would be hospitalized with COVID-19. The real number is about 12-13,000. It’s as I said yesterday, these models really have no predictive value. Garbage in, garbage out.
Berenson contrasted this with the prediction of another model, from the Oregon state government, that was revised on Monday to show that “if Oregon did nothing, ended the lockdown...there would be 90 people in ICU beds at the beginning of May...If the lockdown continued, there would be 30 people.” And so the question becomes, are we going to lock the state of Oregon down, with all the societal disruption that will cause? He’s concerned about other serious problems such as escalating domestic abuse and other deaths, by suicide.
"Do these massive lockdowns make sense,” he asks, “when we can’t even necessarily figure out how they’re working?”
For a case study in how a less-strict approach to containing the virus would work, we can look at Sweden. (Surprising, isn’t it, that a safety-net country like Sweden would decide to take their chances?) People are being trusted to take basic precautions –- keep a distance, wash hands, etc. –- and use their own judgment on the rest. They didn’t take what they consider drastic measures such as closing all schools (they did close high schools and universities) and restaurants. Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, but many are choosing to avoid crowds and work from home if they can. Only people over age 70 are specifically being asked to stay isolated.
Sweden’s death rate from coronavirus has been compared to that caused by “a bad winter flu.” Out of a population of 10 million, 308 have died according to Johns Hopkins University. Of course, Swedish society has some differences that might contribute to the relatively low number; for example, many more people in Sweden live alone, so it’s easier to isolate. Still, this gives us something to think about as we contemplate months of a shut-down economy.
It seems to me that the only way a “lockdown” is even feasible for more than a few more weeks is if there could just be a “pause” button everyone could hit. No one pays anyone. Your business doesn’t pay the rent, say, and the mortgage-holder on the building doesn’t pay the bank, either. It would be like a “holiday” for everyone up and down the line. (This might leave the huge financial institutions holding the bag, but considering how they cleaned up during the bailouts of 2008-2009, it’s hard to cry too much.) Of course, this sort of cooperative effort has never happened; Melissa Francis of FOX BUSINESS NEWS actually brought up the possibility of doing it but noted that it would take “the best financial minds” to figure out exactly how it could be achieved.
Barring something like that, it’s hard to imagine how we can keep so much activity shut down. And some of the rules are getting downright crazy. As I reported yesterday, the state of Vermont has put in place new rules that “non-essential” items can’t be bought in big-box stories, even by people who are already there to buy essentials. This is reportedly happening in some other states as well, such as Massachusetts. (If social media reports are correct, even vegetable seeds can’t be sold --- at a time when people are trying to stay home and be more self-sufficient --- because the garden section is considered “non-essential.”)
The idea is to discourage “wandering” in the store. This is idiocy. It’s definitely the leftist mindset at work: the reflexive micromanaging of every aspect of life.
Some other bureaucratic restrictions absolutely defy common sense. For example, in New York, at least at this writing, a patient can’t be prescribed hydroxychloroquine without being admitted to a hospital. Again, insanity. I understand that the intention is to make sure patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can still get their medication. But New York hospitals are reportedly overwhelmed; if a coronavirus patient can be helped without going to one, it needs to happen. (Plus, it's better to get the treatment before becoming that sick.) Doctors around the world are increasingly using the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin combination drug therapy with good results.
It’s downright criminal that people might be denied such a promising treatment, for whatever reason. One reason, of course, is shameless politics, with some like the WASHINGTON POST accusing the President of offering “false hope” and peddling “snake oil.” But the President has been right. Some in the anti-Trump media have finally, reluctantly, had to admit that there’s something to it.
If we’re going to survive this mess and get back on track, it won’t be through months of government-imposed quarantine but through identifying those who have immunity --- the definitive antibody test is reportedly 1-2 weeks away --- and the quick, effective treatment of those who contract the virus. This drug therapy, if given early enough, seems to be doing a very effective job of keeping people off ventilators (and only about half of patients, once they’re put on a ventilator, will recover). As has been said, you go to war with the army you have. So praise the Lord and pass the hydroxychloroquine.