By Kevin Roche
Here are some quick summaries of news articles and op-ed type columns, which bring a ray of reality into the discussion. These I generally select because if you want the hell scared out of you about how you are going to sick and die, while ignoring the economic havoc we are wreaking on ourselves, you can get all you want of that on cable and network channels and in the mainstream newspapers. I focus on a different perspective that is more based in fact and logic. So here we go.
This story suggests, which I believe, that the current lockdowns are actually worsening the ultimate outcome of the battle with coronavirus. (Spiked Column) The author is a professor of Medicine at Harvard, need I say more, and he starts from the premise that given the nature of the virus it isn’t going to be eradicated, so population immunity is the only sensible strategy. A vaccine is some time off, if one that works well can be developed at all. And the risk to the general population from becoming infected is miniscule. Meanwhile, people are so frightened that they aren’t seeking health care they need and our health system is withering away. He then makes a key point I am working on in a longer post, that the best protection for the vulnerable–older, infirm people, those living in LTC facilities and those with pre-existing conditions–is for enough of the rest of us to have developed immunity so that the virus isn’t transmissing actively in the population. You can accomplish this by isolating those vulnerable groups, while others go about their business as usual with appropriate hygiene and social distancing tactics. This is the kind of opinion that needs to be heeded by policymakers.
Next up, Thomas Friedman, who we haven’t heard from in a while, has another column in the New York Times. (Friedman Column) Mr. Friedman was an early doubter of the wisdom of extreme shutdowns. In this column, he discusses Sweden’s approach, with more moderate mitigation of spread measures deployed in that country. Well worth a read as he suggests that there has to be a more sustainable approach than the extreme lockdowns we are deploying, which only leave us vulnerable to ongoing waves of infection.
Next up another depressing story about what we are doing to our health care system. (Federalist Column) Health care is almost 20% of our economy and employs tens of millions of people. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that when you shut down business and terrorize the population about their risk that health care providers are suffering as well. This story is written by a physician whose own practice has been severely impacted. The practice was told to stop doing elective procedures and to restrict office visits. He details the harms to the health of the practice’s patients being done by the shutdown. He also expresses the fear many providers have about lawsuits relating to coronavirus.
Notwithstanding the extreme shutdowns that are supposedly saving lives, we are doing a terrible job of protecting the elderly, especially in long-term care facilities. My home state of Minnesota leads the way, but an Atlantic article details how it isn’t alone. (Atlantic Story) The article faults governments for failing to have an early focus on and dedication of extra resources to the long-term care facilities in particular. One problem is that public LTC’s in particular are underfunded in general and tend to have staff who are lowly-paid. The author is far too sensationalist for my taste, but the article does point out the deficiencies in how we have addressed this crisis in LTCs.
Another story focuses on letting students return to school. (Reason Article) As I pointed out in a post earlier this week, the risk of serious illness and death among the 104 million Americans aged 24 and under is almost non-existent. If you had two million of them in a room, maybe one would have died, and that one would have some serious pre-existing health condition. So why are we keeping them from going about their normal lives–why are we depriving them of the educational experiences that are so important to success in life and the all the extracurricular activities that develop strong social and other skills. Distance learning is no substitute and the current approach is decimating college budgets.
One more depressing story about a study in the UK finding that delayed cancer treatment will cause 18,000 additional cancer deaths in a year, thanks to the fearmongering and the shutdowns. (ZeroHedge Story) For anyone who thinks this is made up, but believes epidemic models, you can be assured that at the end of the day, the economic and non-economic harms from the lockdowns will far exceed whatever the toll of the epidemic is. This isn’t the only study warning that many patients are not getting needed care. So if you think that it is “lives” versus “money” in the debate over appropriate mitigation of spread tactics, you are dead wrong.
A column in the New York Post notes that science, if that is supposedly what we are following, would suggest we should ease the lockdowns. (NY Post Article) This story notes the many studies showing how widespread the infection actually is and what a low fatality rate exists, particularly for the general public. The author notes the now familiar statistics, the death rate for those over 75 is 80 times that of people aged 18 to 45. Over 99% of those who died had a pre-existing condition. It also cites the increasing evidence that fear is causing people to skip needed health care. Chemotherapy and transplant patients and heart attack victims are among those most affected. And of course, the shutdowns are preventing broad immunity which would be the best solution to slow virus transmission.
Another New York Post article, this one by an emergency room physician, saying it is time to end the lockdowns, because they are leading people to defer needed health care and because, while coronavirus is serious, people have been misled as to what their risk actually is. (NY Post Article)
And one more article on how bad modeling and a media seeking the greatest hype have caused a draconian over-reaction. (Reno Article)
The author of this article notes how terrified Americans have been made of coronavirus. (Spectator Article) She notes that the public health experts and the media have terrified people into believing they are all going to get sick and die. She quotes the statistics demonstrating that for the average person, the risk of serious illness is almost non-existent. Here is an illustration; the per 100,000 population death rate from flu and pneumonia in 2018 was 14.4. Most states are currently under that number for coronavirus deaths and many are well under it. And the phenomenon that we see most starkly in Minnesota, that the virus is mostly a threat to infirm elderly persons, is seen everywhere. For those under the age of 17, the risk is essentially zero. But the media and some public health experts just keep the fear flowing.
Meanwhile, we have a real epidemic of job loss and and income cuts. (Zero Hedge Story) Almost a third of Americans say they they have already either been laid off, had hours cut, or had income reduced due to the shutdowns and that number is only going to rise. As usual the impact is greater among low-income people.
Finally, think all these severe lockdowns have worked? Think again. An analysis in the Wall Street Journal finds no benefit to a quick shutdown of the economy in terms of deaths. (WSJ Article) The authors analyzed data per population death rates and compared them to when states did, or didn’t in a few cases, go into a lockdown. They found basically no correlation. On the other hand, population density was 44% correlated with per capita death rates. And Sweden comes in for kudos from not going full frontal lockdown, but still having lower per capita death rates than many countries.