WYATT EMMERICH: COVID-19 hindsight is 20/20

By WYATT EMMERICH / SPECIAL TO THE PRESS REGISTER,

 

It’s now six months since COVID-19 became a household word. Let’s breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t anything as bad as the Spanish Flu of 1918.

The Spanish Flu death rate was 6,300 people per million, mainly young adults in the prime of life.

The Covid-19 death rate is 400 deaths per million, although this could possibly increase to about 600 deaths per million before it’s all over.

So the Spanish Flu was 10 times worse based on number of deaths.

COVID-19, unlike the Spanish Flu, killed mainly the very old and sick. The average age of death has been 80 years old. If you look at total years of life lost, the Spanish Flu, adjusted for population, was 100 times worse.

Herd immunity

Why do I believe deaths will be capped at 600 per million? That’s the number for England, Italy and Spain, the hardest hit nations. They are opening back up without a surge in cases because the virus has run its course. The herd has become immune at a much lower level than many predicted. New scientific research predicts COVID-19 herd immunity is between 10 and 15 percent, a level these nations have already reached.

Meanwhile, the U. S. still has a ways to go. New York and other northeastern states are not seeing a resurgence because, like Europe, they paid the price and reached herd immunity, as random antibody studies have shown.

States like Texas, Florida and California shut down before the virus even got started there. They have a long, painful road ahead.

Now these states are opening back up and guess what? The virus didn’t go away. It was just waiting.

To me, it looks like shutting down our economy to stop the virus was a colossal failure. Viruses do what viruses do regardless of our economic activity.

Perhaps we flattened the curve a little bit. Sweden didn’t lock down and they never overloaded their hospitals.

If you look at the graphs tracking daily deaths, you see three lockdown strategies. Italy had a severe lockdown. Sweden had the least severe lock down. And the United States was somewhere in between. The graphs all look more or less the same.

Mississippi has experienced 374 deaths per million – more than double Florida and California, triple Texas. We are further along, which is why our daily deaths are declining. Intubations and number of patients in ICU have remained relatively flat.

COVID-19 economics

Hospitalizations in Mississippi have increased. The problem here is that hospitals are forbidden to send patients back to the nursing homes for weeks and weeks after they get better. So they stay in the hospital.

The hospitals are happy to follow this cautious policy. The federal government gives hospitals an extra 20 percent payment for all COVID-19 related expenses.

The good news for Texas, Florida and California is that the virus seems to be adapting to the human body, becoming less deadly and more contagious. That should surprise no one. That’s what viruses do, a combination of random deleterious mutations and natural selection. Dead and hospitalized people can’t spread germs. But young active people with a mild infection can.

That’s why four other coronaviruses cause 30 percent of the common colds. We’re still waiting for a cure for the common cold so I wouldn’t hold your breath for a vaccine.

I would, however, trust our God-given immune system. It’s been fighting this war for millions of years. Seven billion human beings are proof of its success.

I can tell you this: I sure don’t want a big dose of the virus. I’m washing my hands. I use hand sanitizer. I use paper towels when pumping gas. I am on the watch and avoiding anyone with a hacking cough. I am social distancing within reason.

These are personal decisions. The government shouldn’t be making them for me. The virus is bad enough without the nanny rules.

Wyatt Emmerich is the publisher of the Northside Sun in Jackson. He is also the owner of 24 newspaper in Mississippi including your Clarksdale Press Register.

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