As our national lockdown
drags on, Americans seem less and less inclined to move swiftly toward societal
Perhaps that’s due to the
consistent media focus on the risks of reopening. Perhaps that’s also due to
the psychological comfort of the status quo: When we’ve been made to feel safe
in our home, it’s difficult to leave it. Or perhaps we, as a society, have so
fundamentally altered our own perception of risk aversion that we aren’t
willing to leave our houses unless the risk is close to zero.
Whatever the reason, it’s simply untenable to lock Americans down for months more. Calls to do that ignore not only the catastrophic human suffering inflicted on millions—employees who no longer have jobs, children who can no longer attend school, entrepreneurs who have seen their life’s dreams and savings destroyed at the behest of the government—but also the reality of economics, which is that government cannot interminably pay everyone to stay at home.
>>> When can America reopen? The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation, is gathering America’s top thinkers together to figure that out. Learn more here.
lockdowns do not even prevent the virus from eventual second-wave spreading. When
we emerge from our homes, we will pass the virus to one another again.
So, how should we view the risks of reopening our society? Rationally.
That means that we should
stop looking at false case-fatality rates as inevitabilities. We simply don’t
know how many Americans have had COVID-19, or how many have it now. We do know
that the number of confirmed cases is far lower than the number of cases in
society more broadly.
In New York, the supposed case-fatality rate—the number of deaths from the coronavirus over the number of confirmed cases—rests at around 5%.
But between March 22 and April 4, 215, pregnant women were screened for COVID-19 in New York City, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Four women had symptoms of COVID-19, and 29 tested positive despite being asymptomatic.
This means 13.5% of these women had COVID-19 without knowing it. For every symptomatic woman, there were seven others who were asymptomatic but positive.
If applied statewide—a
simplistic model, but certainly one that would be closer to accuracy than mere
confirmed cases—this would drop the case-fatality rate from 5% to 0.7%.
Needless to say, such a statistic would alleviate some worry, particularly
among less vulnerable populations.
We should also stop treating all cohorts of American society as equally vulnerable to the coronavirus.
According to two New York
University studies, the first most predictive condition for hospitalization was
age: Almost half of all coronavirus patients hospitalized in New York City were
over the age of 65. The next most predictive condition was obesity. And over
70% of hospitalized coronavirus patients had a chronic condition.
This should be no surprise:
As of April 12, the New York City Health Department reported 128 fatalities
among people with no underlying conditions and just 26 deaths among people
below age 45 with no underlying conditions.
There were 42,524 diagnosed
cases of COVID-19 for New Yorkers under age 45, meaning that the case-fatality
rate—again, a seriously high-end estimate, given the fact that asymptomatic
people have not been tested—for those with no underlying health conditions
below age 45 is 0.06%.
In other words, 9,994 out of every 10,000 young, healthy people who get the coronavirus will not die—and the number is likely higher than that.
This means that we should be looking to send young, healthy people back to work, and urging social distancing and isolation for those who are elderly or have preexisting conditions that raise coronavirus risks.
We should retain social distancing
for the young and healthy, urge mask-wearing and perform contact tracing when
hot spots arise. We should continue to avoid large-scale gatherings. We should
urge special vigilance in high-density areas. Localism is our friend here.
But there is a path toward reopening. To ignore it isn’t just foolish, it’s counterproductive.
Copyright 2020 Creators.com