COVID-19 – I have questions?
I am extremely dismayed and concerned at the turn of events regarding our government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of developing a plan to get people back to work and back to ‘normal’ it seems that the plan is to continue the same measures we have been using for the last 30 days into the future with no end date in view. Given this I decided to put down some of my concerns in writing. I want to begin a discussion with my family and friends about these matters. Hopefully in dialogue with each other we can come up with some insight as to how we should be conducting ourselves in these very challenging days.
Today (Thursday April 16th ), in my state some towns are now getting into the ‘mitigation mandate mode’ and issuing directives regarding what we can and cannot do.
In a quote from the article: “BROCKTON — The mayor and executive health officer have signed an executive order implementing a curfew and restricting nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size in the city beginning Friday night. Mayor Robert Sullivan and Interim Executive Health Officer John McGarry signed the order, which goes into effect at 9 p.m. Friday, on Thursday afternoon. The order does not provide an end date, stating it “shall remain in effect until notice is given” that the public health emergency no longer exists, at the discretion of the mayor and Board of Health. “We signed an executive order to implement a curfew in the city, effective tomorrow night, to further protect the residents of the city,” Sullivan said Thursday afternoon.” (emphasis mine)
Our leaders are saying that they are doing this “to protect the residents of the city”
On March 13th Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker banned gatherings of over 250 people in the state as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 15th Baker ordered a more restrictive public gathering plan. Reduced the number to 25 including churches, gyms, clubs etc. He also closed schools
On March 15th Mayor Robert Sullivan of the City of Brockton declared a state of emergency and directed residents of the city to stay home and avoid group activities.
We were told originally that these measures were needed to prevent the overwhelming of our health systems. The information we were given for shutting down in this matter was about “flattening the curve”. The “flattening the curve” as a policy, was outlined as social distancing, locking down, staying at home, in hopes that we could avoid contracting the virus. This is consistent with the guidelines from the CDC (see link) in section entitled “Personal Protective Measures for Everyday Use” (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/rr/rr6601a1.htm#_blank) Reading this section, you will see that the “mitigation measures” being undertaken by our government is right out of the CDC handbook. Please read the section noted above where it says this “Personal protective measures are preventive actions that can be used daily to slow the spread of respiratory viruses “
Question: What measures are being taken that will protect us from COVID-19?
What measures are being taken that will protect us from COVID-19? The only known measure of protecting us from this virus is a vaccine. Development of a vaccine takes time and even with a vaccine, our ‘protection’ is not guaranteed. We have had the flu vaccine for years, and still thousands of people in the country die from the flu every year. According to one article citing the CDC in the 2017 – 2018 winter flu season about 80,000 died from the flu or flu related conditions in the US.
Yes 80,000 deaths from the flu in one season. I have seen other numbers saying 60,000+ in the US. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2017-2018.htm). Even if we go with the CDC posted ‘estimate’ we are looking at a troubling number of deaths from the flu even with a vaccine available. From these numbers it doesn’t seem likely that we can actually ‘protect’ people from contracting the flu or COVID-19. From these numbers it is clear that some people are going to get the flu and unfortunately despite our best efforts they will succumb to it and die.
In reality the government cannot protect us from getting the virus. They can only slow the rate of infection by these current measures. The truth of the matter is, social distancing, “flattening the curve” was designed for one thing: to prevent overruns at hospitals, by preventing massive numbers of infections it would prevent very sick people from having to go to the hospital. The idea is if too many people get sick at once this would put pressure on hospitals, ICU’s, emergency rooms, staffs that the hospitals couldn’t handle. That’s why we have been doing what we’ve been doing, to avoid stress, to avoid overcrowding, to avoid chaos at the hospitals. These measures were undertaken to protect the resources we will all need if we get COVID-19. Please don’t misunderstand, it is important that we keep in our eyes on the potential to overwhelm this very critical resource.
But is that not what they are telling us now. Now the “flattening the curve” means defeating, stopping, the virus. “Keeping us safe”, “Saving Lives” etc.
Now we are hearing that these measures are needed to “protect’ people from contracting COVID-19. Can anyone in charge tell us how current ‘mitigation measures will defeat, or stop the virus?
Question: Why are we continuing/expanding the same‘mitigation measures’ at this time?
Since these ‘mitigation measures cannot protect us from COVID-19, and only delay the inevitable, what is the justification for expanding the measures further? Now we are being told that we have to keep these things in place until “the public health emergency no longer exists, at the discretion of the mayor and Board of Health”. We are being told that this will ‘save lives’. Shutting people up in their homes, shuttering businesses, throwing society into an economic free fall is an unprecedented and unnecessary reaction to this pandemic. We did not shut down our economy and society over the thousands of flu deaths every year. We did not shut down the society due to the other risks of death we all face every day in our society. Why are we doing that now?
People die every day from many different things. A few numbers to illustrate:
According to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm)
Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
• Heart disease: 647,457
• Cancer: 599,108
• Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
• Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
• Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
• Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
• Diabetes: 83,564
• Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
• Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
• Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
If we just deal with the respiratory related causes on the list, we are looking at a number in the range of 215,873 deaths a year. (keep in mind that these are just estimates) Can anyone recall any time before now that we took such draconian measures in the name of a “public health emergency” ? In my lifetime on this planet the answer is this NEVER. To make matters worse, instead of cutting back on the measures, and getting people back into society we are extending the measures to keep people shut out in an uneasy state of insecurity and anxiety. Unless I am missing something here, why are we continuing/extending the ‘mitigation measures’ at this time? How does this help us to successfully overcome the virus, the pandemic (and panic) which has infected our society physically and mentally. It doesn’t.
Question: Should we be concerned about the amount of power we are conceding to our leaders?
Are we willing to trade an open and free society for some sort of assurance that the government will/can keep us safe? I am beginning to hear from some of our leaders that things will never get back to ‘normal’. If by ‘normal’ they mean none of us will come out of this unaffected, then I agree. If by ‘normal’ they mean we will have to learn to accept some infringements, ‘reductions’, ‘adjustments’ concerning our unalienable rights as citizens in order to ‘ensure’ the safety of everyone, I disagree vehemently. That ‘new normal’ is at odds with the American way of life and the Constitution upon which this great nation was founded. We would do well to remember a statement sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin “ He who would give liberty for the sake of security, will have neither” (paraphrased). For those who would argue that I am being overly pessimistic in this matter I point you to a recent example.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of NY has made it very clear what this ‘new normal’ looks like to him. Keep in mind that NY has more than about a third of all the ‘confirmed’ COVID-19 cases in the country. Because of this and other factors, what NY does will make a big impact on upon what the rest of the nation thinks and does. Let’s examine for a moment what the ‘new normal ‘ looks like according to Governor Cuomo.
If you read the article or watch the video, he is very clear on what he sees is the path to the ‘new normal’. (emphasis mine)
• “Where we’re going, it’s not a reopening in that we’re going to reopen what was. We’re going to a different place,”
• “The economy won’t be able to make a full comeback until there’s a vaccine, which scientists have said will take up to a year and a half, he said.”
• “It’s over when people know I’m 100% safe and I don’t have to worry about this. When does that happen? When we have a vaccine,”
• Cuomo said the state will determine which groups of businesses are essential to the economy and which companies are able to protect employees and the public from further spreading the virus.
• Cuomo said that reopening commerce in his state, and the rest of the country, in the absence of a vaccine for the coronavirus would hinge on testing people for Covid-19 and tracing the contacts of those people who test positive.
• The governor repeatedly said that the federal government needs to help expand the capacity for testing, noting that there are not currently enough tests available to do the level of screening that will be needed.”
• “We cannot do it without federal support, and I’ve been saying it for days,”
• “In addition to increasing test capacity, he said the federal government also would have to help states fund what would be “an army” of tracers to identify people who have had interactions with infected people.
I understand ‘going to a different place’. He then describes the place as being a place where the State determines which businesses are essential to the economy, and what businesses are able (approved) to open. The State needs to be satisfied that the (approved) business can protect employees and the public from further spreading the virus. So, the State is going to direct the economy, (at least for now)? The State is going to approve or disapprove what and how businesses can operate? The State is going to monitor the efficacy of businesses to protect employees and the public from COVD-19. ????
That is a lot of power just usurped by the State and the Governor. The justification for this seizure of power is that this is an ‘emergency’ this is a ‘pandemic’ so therefore we should be OK with the State having this kind of power over us. Governor Cuomo also makes clear that we the taxpayers via the federal government are expected to pay for the implementation of his ‘new normal’ plans. Lastly, he advocates for “an army” of tracers to identify people who have had interactions with infected. (his words not mine!) What are they going to do go house to house, testing and force quarantining individuals who test positive, and individuals who came in contact with the infected?
All this without any ‘due process’? All of this without any legislative or judicial action or review? Based on what he said, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom from random search and seizure, and possibly freedom of speech, all suspended just like that? And for what reason? To protect us from COVID-19? To keep us safe?
Just so you don’t think that this is only Governor Cuomo’s vision on the way forward, check out California Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan.
Newsom laid out a “road map to recovery” with six factors that he said must be met before restrictions on going to school, doing business and gathering in public can be lifted. They include starting widespread testing that would allow the state to isolate people exposed to the virus and trace people with whom they have come in contact.
• The ability for the state to care for older and medically vulnerable Californians, who are most at risk of suffering severe effects from the virus, as they continue to isolate at home.
• The capacity for hospitals to handle a potential surge in patients, plus resume normal preventive and other medical care.
• The identification of promising treatments.
• The development of guidelines for businesses and schools to allow physical distancing even as they reopen.
• The creation of a data-tracking system that provides an early warning if the state needs to reinstate a stay-at-home order.
• “We need to have a clear system in place so we know not only when we are making great progress, but also when we need to take a step back,” said Sonia Angell, director of the state Department of Public Health.
But even when the lock-down measures are modified, Newsom warned, life will be “anything but” normal. People might need to wear face coverings in public for months, he said, and mass gatherings could be canceled for the foreseeable future, until the state reaches “herd immunity” — the point at which enough people have been exposed to the virus to prevent its transmission — and scientists develop a vaccine.
Governor’s Newsom’s roadmap has some elements that make good sense (focus on testing, looking out for older and medical vulnerable citizens, focus on having proper medical resources, working towards herd immunity).
He also has some elements that are highly questionable. Guidelines for businesses and schools to ‘allow’ (mandate?) physical distancing sounds eerily similar to NY’s ‘determining’ what businesses open, and how they operate. He also advocates for a tracking system to trace and track people and infections. I could be wrong about the extent of the ‘guidelines’ but my experience with government shows me that there is a very thin line between ‘guidelines and ‘mandates’. What starts out as ‘guidelines’ eventually become ‘mandates’ with the power of the law and enforcement to ensure ‘compliance’. Should we be concerned about the amount of power we are conceding to our leaders? I say yes! What do you say?
Question: What practical measures should we be implementing to combat COVID-19?
First and foremost, I would like our ‘leaders’ to level with us about their ability to keep us safe. (they can’t). I realized that many of them have good intentions. But given the current crisis it is not enough to ‘mean well’, they have a responsibility to ‘do well’. How we come out of this will be determined on ‘doing the right things’, not about ‘saying the right things’. If they want us to continue to cooperate then it is past time to stop treating us like children and involve us in the conversation and the solution that affects all of our lives.
• Stop with the scare tactics that are being used to mollify the populace!
• Stop with the edicts and mandates that are based on imperfect models and flawed statistics, foisted upon us as ‘science’
• No one expects them to get everything right. But when they get it wrong, they need to acknowledge and change the measures based upon current information.
• They have been wrong about the extent of COVID-19 infection rate, impact upon health systems, death rate, to name a few.
• But the policies that were based on that ‘inaccurate’ information continues?
• We need our national media to do their job also.
• They need to help us hold our leaders accountable for their decisions and become the voice of the people instead of the voice of their own political ideologies.
• Now is the time for the media to step up to the important responsibility they have to be the eyes, ears and the voice of the American people.
Governor Newsom mentioned this thing called ‘herd immunity’. So apparently, he is aware that there comes point in which enough people who have been exposed to the virus greatly reduces or eliminates the impact of the contagion upon the ‘herd’ (us).
I think a case can be made that you actually slow the development of ‘herd immunity’ by the mitigation measures we are currently employing. Perhaps, ‘herd immunity’ holds out a better prospect of saving lives than does continued separation and waiting on a vaccine. If, so why are we not promoting policies that help develop ‘herd immunity’?
We could have used the last 30 days to request those most vulnerable take needed precautions to minimize their exposure to COVID-19. For the rest we would do the same but not lock down the society from functioning. Yes, this approach would involve allowing people to potentially becoming infected ( they may or may not). It would also create an environment in which the body’s immune system could do its job. While doing this we would also ensure that we have measures in place for testing and early detection and treatment. We would need to have drugs, and hospitals in place to care and treat those who do get sick and need help. But we needed to do those things anyway. In fact, this is the very thing we have been doing for all of the other flu related pandemics until now. What is different about this virus that warrants such a different and radical approach?
I believe that Sweden took a similar approach (herd immunity) and did not shut down their economy. Last time I checked they are doing better than many of our States. They certainly are not doing any worse than we are after having implemented social distancing, and a lock-down of our populace.
While there is ‘Science’ behind this approach, apparently for our politicians this measure is not politically feasible. Why? Why push further and further in the opposite direction under the guise of saving lives and protecting us from COVID-19.
These are my questions, and I really would like to get some answers at this point.