Eye-opening article on COVID stresses caution, puts fear in perspective

Protective masks CDC by Debora Cartagena

My family members have spent a great deal of time discussing the COVID pandemic. We’ve limited our contacts, donned masks when we are in public, and have largely altered our lives to avoid those outside our circle. One thing I told my husband in early March as we learned about the virus remains true. I’m not looking to the government to save me—I never have. (Article continues after photo.)

Coronaviruses illustration/CDC/James Gathany
An illustration of the morphology exhibited by Coronaviruses. (Image Credit CDC, James Gathany)

I’ve read hundreds of articles about this virus, and I just got around to reading an article published in October. I’d recommend anyone discussing COVID read this piece.

The article is written by Jay Bhattacharya. Here’s his bio:

“Jay Bhattacharya is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, where he received both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and director of the Stanford Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging. A co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, his research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals.”

Dr. Bhattacharya referenced The Great Barrington Declaration, a document recommending a “focused approach” to dealing with the pandemic. Here’s a key takeaway:

“Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e.  the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.”

This aligns with my own approach. Early on I noted I was glad this didn’t threaten the young, as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic did. Most of us remember the famous Sebelius “sneeze” demonstration when then-president Barack Obama’s top health official showed us how to sneeze into our elbow. Rather than get into a political dustup—the political  angle isn’t important to what I have to say—we should acknowledge we don’t know how many people died from H1N1 because testing was  not widespread as it is with COVID.

It’s important to point out H1N1’s most vulnerable victims were young. It’s the opposite with COVID, and considering the age factor, especially if the patient has significant underlying health issues, it’s a given that more people will die with COVID. My point is there were no lockdowns for healthy people and there was little panic. Consider CDC’s statement on deaths:

“CDC estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.** Globally, 80 percent of (H1N1)pdm09 virus-related deaths were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age. “

If panic was due, it was due then—the young were dying.

Dr. Bhattacharya thinks like I do in some ways. Yes, we should protect the vulnerable when it comes to COVID, or any illness.

However, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen an economy shut down in order to quarantine healthy people. Bhattacharya also notes an important fact about COVID. The death rate is not what officials claimed early on. As testing increased, experts came to realize the death rate is about 0.2 percent, based on more than 80 studies conducted globally.

editor wearing mask
Image: Indie Art South

As COVID progressed, bopping around from human to human to find a new home as viruses always do looking for a host, physicians learned what to do and what not to do. They’re still working on that.

I’d urge anyone interested in COVID read Dr. Bhattacharya’s article. Note it is published in a conservative publication, but it isn’t political and it makes sense.

Those of us who are vulnerable because of age should limit our contacts and be cautious. If we want to be around the elderly, the same applies. Officials in states with large nursing home populations have learned a great deal about contagion and vulnerability, at high cost.

It is most unfortunate that politics clouded policy on this illness. The current administration’s approach of deferring to governors on policy is appropriate.

Above all, if you’re sick or think you’re sick or if you’ve been around someone who has COVID, stay home.

Eventually vaccines will be effective and herd immunity will kick in. If herd immunity wasn’t a real thing, we’d all be dead of plague by now.

As the holidays approach, common sense will go a long way in protecting ourselves and our families. We should look to ourselves to save ourselves first. To do otherwise is folly.

Featured Photo: Images of protective masks by Debora Cartagena, CDC

(Kay B. Day/Dec. 4, 2020)


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