The governor has foolishly painted herself into a corner with the COVID19 shutdown and, unfortunately, we are trapped in her mess. The shutdown will quickly bankrupt most of our small businesses; even the hospital will have to start layoffs. They say it is a pandemic, but why are hospitals around the state laying off workers? There are simply not enough ill people to make up for the shutdown in normal health services. The whole hysteria is based on media coverage from large urban areas and leaders who look at the world with an urban myopia. They then put policies in place that are very harmful to the rest of us.
When is the governor going to reopen the economy? What are the criteria? If she is waiting for the disease to peak, it is moving so slowly in our county that the peak could be months away. If she is waiting for a vaccination, it could be years away. Unlike decisions made a month ago, we now have factual data. In New York City health authorities published an online summary of the disease as of April 16th. 5548 deaths have occurred with patients that had underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immunodeficiency, hypertension, asthma; or diseases of the lung, heart, kidney, liver and GI tract; but only 152 deaths have occurred with patients that had no underlying illnesses. Only 3% of the deaths occurred in people with otherwise good health! There are approximately 10,000 suspected and confirmed COVID19 deaths in New York City, but the underlying health conditions are often not reported. The estimated deaths for people with no underlying conditions would be 3% of the overall total or about 300. In New York City a study involving COVID19 tests given to pregnant women in labor was published on April 13th in The New England Journal of Medicine. This study found that 15% of this relatively healthy group tested positive for COVID19, while only 2% had symptoms. The implication is that 15% of New York City, over a million people, already had the illness. The fatality rate for people without risk factors is then roughly 300/1,000,000 = 0.03%. Compared to Influenza and other illnesses, COVID19 is a far lower threat to otherwise healthy people. This rate would be reduced if the elderly were included as a risk group. Rapid advances in treatment will likely reduce this rate even further in the near future.
The path forward is then clear: We just need to protect high-risk groups with voluntary self-isolation, and the economy can reopen. In fact, that was all we ever needed to do, but the results were not clear until now. Just open everything, stores, recreational facilities, restaurants, and services. Social distancing should still be used, and services that require a personal spacing less than six feet, such as dentists, beauty parlors, and barbers, should require appropriate protective equipment. People with COVID19 should still be quarantined to slow the rate of spread and prevent an overwhelming burden on the health care system. This restart is actually good for the high-risk groups, as ending the shutdown will build up immunity in the lower risk population and speed the end of their self-isolation. The whole shutdown was a mistake and now must be immediately ended. If the governor does not act, then the county council should end it themselves.
David Reagor (Reagor4Council@gmail.com)