Every day in the US 8,000 people die (on average) due to normal everyday life – having nothing to do with the Coronavirus. It’s just a fact of 300 million population and an 80-year life span. This means that during the past two months of economic shutdown nearly 500,000 people have died.
This dwarfs the 57,000 people who have been counted as dying with the virus. At its peak COVID-19 isn’t even the number 1 killer in the US, cardiovascular disease still holds that unfortunate claim.
In New Hampshire, 41 people die every day (on average) as part of the normal progression of life. During the past two months, there have been 60 people identified as dying with COVID-19 versus 2500 due to other causes.
This SARS-CoV2 is indeed a nasty virus. Just three months ago the projections were that 150 million people would be infected in the US and 10 million would die. It’s fair to claim that our containment efforts have been successful but it’s hard to say what the real toll would have been. I have not seen a single epidemiological model that has been accurate. They all have overestimated the outbreak. Even days before the peak of the outbreak the models were being adjusted, unable to predict things just a week in advance – indeed uncertain times.
It’s an accurate statement that “of those infected with the coronavirus with symptoms bad enough to seek help more than 90% of them have symptoms bad enough to seek help.” Our perception of this virus and public policy seems to be driven largely by this effect. It’s also fair to say “of those infected with the virus with no symptoms more than 90% of them will not have symptoms.”
The virus has traveled across the entire world. There are 6 BILLION people on the planet and after 6 months of the coronavirus spreading around the globe, only 3 million have been tallied as having the virus. Tens of thousands have died with the virus; but, it hasn’t been tens of millions. Is it realistic to think that every single country in the world has been exceptionally effective at containment? Or is there something about the virus itself that the epidemiologists and their models are missing?
Recent reports of blood serum antibody tests show that 21% of NY City residents have already had the virus without even knowing it. Even NY Governor Cuomo has gone on record to correctly conclude that the resulting mortality rate is thus 10 times less than thought: 0.5% not 5%. Up to now, we have believed that 1 out of 7 people infected has to go to the hospital. Now we learn it’s actually only 1 in 70. This new data suggests that the coronavirus is one-tenth as aggressive as we thought.
Before any of this happened we weren’t sure how bad it would get. There were fears that our hospitals would be over-run and people would die in the streets. The decision was made by our leaders to use “an abundance of caution” and risk devastating our economy.
We flattened the curve. Our hospitals were not over-run. In reality, we have plenty of hospital capacity. Nationwide, on average, there are 2.4 hospital beds per 1000 people. That’s 2000 beds in NH not counting the VA or private practices. This also does not count excess capacity built temporarily for this crisis. If just 1/4th of those are available – 500- and if 1 out of 7 of those infected has to stay in the hospital (old statistics) this means the NH medical system can handle 3500 simultaneously infected (with symptoms) compared to the 1800 who are actually infected in NH to date. It’s worth knowing that the people in charge in NH have done a good job, or we have gotten lucky, or both; but, our state’s mortality rate is about half the national average. Finally, if we take into account the latest good news from the NY blood serum tests then we can conclude NH is a long way from being in a crisis.
Our caution (and lack of widespread testing of antibodies) has carried a huge economic toll. For every person in the US who has died with the virus, 1000 people have lost their jobs. We don’t know how bad it might have been if we had done nothing. At this point, we should ask if we are willing to put another 30 million people out of work in the US when we could justifiably focus on reducing death due to heart disease or other infectious diseases. Also, consider that this virus is not going away – ever. As long as there is life on earth so will be this virus. It would be nonsense to think we can socially isolate our way to zero infections. Instead of forcing society to hide from it, we need to learn to live with it within reason.
Our national policy for this matter was created with good intentions and recognizing legitimate risks. We knew very little about the virus and what might happen. That’s not the case now. The curve is flat. Our hospitals are not overwhelmed. The mortality rate is 1/10th what we thought. At this point, there is not enough uncertainty to justify continuing to destroy the economy and the government intrusion of our liberties. The burden of proof for lifting the restrictions should no longer be on us. Instead of forcing us to prove the infection rates will drop, the government should be obligated to do widespread testing of antibodies in NH and prove that it is still a problem.
This coronavirus is still 10 times worse than the flu so I’m not suggesting we drop all caution. The data does suggest that we should be able to resume most of our activities with a cautious approach while not being sloppy. By now everyone has learned the basics of proper hygiene and many people will be slow to recover from the intense media blitz. Those at risk should take extra caution, just as with any other infectious disease. The other 98% of the population should be able to move forward and rebuild from this disaster. Before we know it we will find that the new normal is the same as the old normal.
Dan Moriarty has a doctorate from MIT in Applied Physics, a former Alderman-at-Large in Nashua, currently an engineer at specializing in electronic warfare, laser communications, and military protection systems.