Monday, May 25, 2020

A broad, reality-based COVID-19 perspective is desperately needed

Stipulated: COVID-19 is a serious disease. If you get it, you may be in for a few horrible weeks of fighting it. And, you may lose your life.

This coronavirus sneaked out of China, and caught the world by surprise. Very little was known about it, and dealing with it was difficult.

The warnings from scientists about becoming infected were horrifying. Which explains why such drastic actions by federal, state and local officials were so readily obeyed. At first.

As of Sunday, nearly 90,000 Americans had died from it, and about 1.5 million Americans were known to have been infected with the disease. But there are some problems with these numbers.

We really don’t know how many have actually been infected, because many infected people don’t have symptoms, or have mild symptoms, and are not tested. If they aren’t tested, nobody knows they have the virus. An article in Forbes magazine cited a study by a team at Kyoto University estimating that nearly 18 percent of those with the virus had no symptoms. We have learned the percentage of persons tested that have a positive result is about 13 percent.

If testing shows that 1.5 million Americans have the active virus, applying the Kyoto study’s data to that figure means that approximately 1.8 million actually have been infected. Two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand people were going about their business, never knowing they were infected, and could have been infecting others.

The number of people who actually die from it is also uncertain. That’s because if a person passes away and has been infected, the mandated conclusion often is that they died of COVID-19. There is no distinction between whether someone died “because of” the virus, or merely “with” the virus. noted in an analysis that “The CDC guidance says that officials should report deaths in which the patient tested positive for COVID-19 — or, if a test isn’t available, ‘if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.’ It further indicates that if a ‘definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as probable or presumed.'”

So, if someone has pneumonia or is run over by a beer truck and dies, and they test positive for the virus, they may be recorded as having died of the virus, whether that was the primary cause of death or not.

In dire situations like this pandemic, a reasoned perspective is needed, but is very difficult to develop. We certainly do not want to make too little of the coronavirus, putting Americans needlessly at risk. But we also must not make too much of it by needlessly continuing the heavy economic and social restrictions, and the damage they produce. It is a narrow line to walk.

On May 17 there were 1,507,829 active cases. Of those, 89,589 had died and 275,560 had recovered. For active cases, death occurred for 6 percent, while 18 percent recovered. No information is provided about the other million-plus who tested positive.

USA Today reported earlier this month, “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to Congress in March that the mortality rate may be as low as 1.0 percent when accounting for people who are infected but don’t develop symptoms severe enough to be tested.”

Some perspective on causes of death in 2018, from the CDC:
Heart disease: 647,457; Cancer: 599,108; Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936; Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201; Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383; Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404; Diabetes: 83,564; Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672; Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633; Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173.

Available information indicates that unless you are elderly or have some sort of pre-existing health issue, you have a very good chance of surviving COVID-19.

Fauci, who is President Donald Trump's coronavirus expert, stated at a coronavirus task force meeting, “I've looked at all the models, I've spent a lot of time on the models. They don't tell you anything. You can't really rely upon models," according to The Washington Post.

Yet inaccurate models were utilized in developing the measures that health officials said should be implemented to limit the impact of the virus, and a one-size-fits-all list of restrictions was imposed on the nation.

As time passed, while New York, New Jersey and a few other states were hit hard, several states were barely affected. Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Wyoming and Vermont had fewer than 1,000 cases and fewer than 100 deaths. Eight other states reported more than 1,000 cases, but also fewer than 100 deaths. The harsh restrictions in these states may have done more harm than good.

As more time has passed, some states have relaxed restrictions, allowing a slow, careful reopening to occur. Georgia and Florida have drawn criticism for their re-opening actions, but have shown declining cases, so far.

Abandoning the one-size-fits-all approach and treating areas according to their actual disease level is a sensible way to start getting the economy re-started. That is a very important step.

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