How About Using the Science We Have?

The leftist governors of the leftist coast – Jay Inslee (D-WA), Kate Brown (D-OR) and Gavin Newsome (D-CA) – routinely proclaim that they are just following the science as we move through some of the most restrictive directives of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is absolute and total baloney.

Let’s start with when the pandemic began. As the pandemic began to appear no one – not the President, not the scientific advisers, and not the governors – knew what they were dealing with. (In fact, as they commonly do, the Democrat leadership sought to politicize it as a racist reaction by President Donald Trump – you will remember Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) inviting people to Chinatown celebrations and the governors of Washington and New York criticizing the president as xenophobic.) All they knew was it was highly contagious and that people were dying from it. So they shut down the country. That had nothing to do with science despite the solemn parade of “experts” including Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx in lab coats. The President made the recommendations and most of the governors implemented the shut down. (It’s probably best to remember that President Trump – despite his bluster – did not have the authority to order the steps taken by the state governors, including how it was to be implemented.)

Those decisions were not based on science because the science did not yet exist. They were based on prudence and expedience. They were trying to retard the spread of the virus and the best way was to isolate people from each other. And, as usual with government types, the method adopted was based on the principle that “one size fits all” – probably the single most unscientific principle in the world. Having said that, ninety-nine out of every hundred people presented with the problem would probably make the same decision. And that was fine for then.

But we are now six months passed that initial decision. And in the passage of that time we have developed warehouses full of data and reams of medical information. We relied on untested algorithms to make projections as to the spread, the morbidity, and the requirements for medical equipment and supplies. In all most every instance the projections were wrong. Yet, despite all of that we are making the exact same decisions today that we made six months ago and we are applying same basic unscientific principle that “one size fits all” and the same projection models that have been proven wrong. There is a better way but not one that the political class will never consider because they never exercise a scalpel when a sledgehammer will do.

Before we begin, let’s agree that you cannot get through life – including life in the pandemic – risk free. And that means risk to your health, risk to your employment, risk to your business and/or risk to your acquired wealth. We probably ought to add that life is not fair – never has been and never will be. Both of these facts may drive millenials to their safe spaces but they were going there anyway. Prudent people gather information, measure the risk and make a decision as to how to proceed.

Having said that, let’s see what we know today that we did not know in February. First, let’s acknowledge that virtually no one was thinking of the economic impacts of shutting down America at the time the decisions were made. The few that were thinking on those terms were horrified. It was only after we began to see the effects that we began to realize that the short term and long-term effects could be as devastating as the coronavirus itself. Those effects now have to be factored into decision making even when it is the political class that is making those decisions. In short, you simply cannot shut down the United State economy for an extended period of time without draconian and life threatening results.

Second, we know that while the coronavirus infects people of all ages, sexes and ethnicities indiscriminately, its morbidity is concentrated on the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Before you jump off your back porch in a fit of rage, I recognize that there have been deaths among young people (including those under eight) including those without known compromised immune systems. But there is less frequency of morbidity from the coronavirus among the younger children and adults than there is for the periodic waves of flu, or automobile accidents, or smoking – conditions for which we have never shut down the whole economy. We also know that those who live in concentrated areas and multi-generational quarters because of poverty appear to be more susceptible due to the twin drivers of proximity and poor health.

Second, we know that the overwhelming majority of persons who contract the coronavirus recover. Some never know they had it, some have mild symptoms, and some get very – though not fatally – ill. But they recover. And with the recovery there appears to be a secondary immunity due to the antibodies developed internally to fight the virus. Because there has only been six months of dealing with the virus, there is no evidence of how long that immunity lasts. More importantly, there are two studies that suggest that the number of people who have been infected, recovered and developed immunity could be far in excess the known verified cases. A Stanford study in April of this year conducted in Los Angeles and Santa Clara Counties (California) by sampling a group of 3,300 volunteers determined that there were nearly eighty-five times as many people who had been infected and recovered than the reported incidents determined. More recently, an Associated Press story in the June 25, 2020 edition of the Denver Post noted:

“WASHINGTON — U.S. officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States, meaning that the vast majority of the population remains susceptible.

“Thursday’s estimate is roughly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed. Officials have long known that millions of people were infected without knowing it and that many cases are being missed because of gaps in testing.”

There is no explanation as to why current testing has missed so many people. It could be that there are simply that many people who were infected, did not suffer any significant symptoms and thus made no report. Others have suggested that antibodies that people developed due to other strains of flu are basically the same antibodies that the body develops to fight the coronavirus. Regardless, if 20 million people have been infected and recovered that suggests that, at best, we are moving rapidly toward “herd immunity” and, at worst, that there is significant body of people capable of functioning without all of the restrictions and thus keep our healthcare industry and underlying economy up and running.

Third, we know that the virus has spread unevenly with large swaths of the country remaining virtually virus free while other places – principally large urban areas where people are jammed into multifamily housing and housing in which multiple generations live suffer disproportionately. (The same is true of housing where a significant number of unrelated people live – you may remember there have been significant outbreaks in livestock processing plants where the same people not only work side by side but live in the same cramped quarters.) Again it is proximity and frequency that is the culprit.

There are other data points that may suggest other measures to be taken but let me suggest that based on the three data points above, that the following be implemented on at least a county by county basis and in large urban areas a more finite basis:

1. Allow for the free COVID –19 antibody testing and certification of the results. I recognize that not every test is equally accurate but the medical community can quickly agree on the most accurate. Certification of the presence of the COVID-19 antibodies would allow the individual to participate without restrictions – no masks, no social distancing, no restrictions on employment. While there is no evidence thus far that those having been previously infected, recovered and developed the antibodies are in danger of being re-infected, it would probably be prudent to be re-tested periodically to ensure the continued presence of the antibodies. Again the medical community can agree on a reasonable period of time for re-testing – a period of time that could grow or shrink based upon data from those re-tested.
2. In those geographical areas where there is a low frequency of verified new COVID-19 infections the mandatory facemask for indoor retail establishments should be lifted. While mandatory facemasks allow liberals to readily identify those who are “woke” and those who are not, in practice they do little to retard the spread of the coronavirus particularly with regard to cloth masks and those “surgical” masks worn over any extended period of time. (The former, at best, can retard the distance of a sneeze or a heavy sigh, while the latter become ineffective when they become moist – and they all become moist.) Again before you jump off your porch in a fit of rage, I do not advocating banning facemasks of any kind. They should be an individual choice where new incidents of COVID-19 are at a low frequency.
3. In geographical areas where infections are concentrated – Portland and Seattle for instance – not only should facemasks remain mandatory but the health authorities should drop like a ton of bricks on these morons who drape the masks below their noses or below their chins – particularly the retail establishment employees. In addition travel into and out of those areas should carry a mandatory fourteen-day isolated quarantine. The governors of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have issued requirements for an isolated quarantine for travelers from certain states. Surely the same can be said for in-state travel between communities of high risk and those that are virtually risk free.
4. The elderly and those with medical conditions present their own challenge. Those who are confined to nursing homes, graduated care facilities or other facilities where there is centralized care and feeding need protection – particularly from those who provide that care but live in the general community. Responsible facilities have already implemented many of the necessary safeguards including daily mandatory screening of employees, barring non-residents from entering, sanitizing materials delivered, and fast isolation when symptoms occur. For those who are elderly (like me) or suffer from compromised immune systems but live in our homes, a strong and continuous education routine will provide the best defense. Most elderly people are perfectly capable of making informed decisions and most are far more attentive to the rules regarding social distancing, washing your hands, refraining from touching your face and even the use of face masks than is the general public.

The whole point here is that given the amount of data that we have accumulated, there are better ways of dealing with the spread of COVID-19 than the current “one size fits all” methods. Those methods encourage the punishment of the majority for the lapses of a few. We’re better than that. Maybe the politicians are not but we surely are.