A plan to quickly tackle and defeat the coronavirus without collapsing the economy?

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What America is missing right now is a plan as we veer into one reaction to this pandemic after another.

I’m not an epidemiologist, so I don’t offer professional opinions on what that plan should be like.

But, if you haven’t read the editorial in the NY Times by David Katz of Yale University, you should.

To extract:

The data from South Korea, where coronavirus monitoring has been by far the best to date, indicates that for how long 99 percent
active cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment. The small percentage of cases requiring such services are highly concentrated among people aged 60 and over, and so are older people. All other things being equal, people over the age of 70 have a three times higher risk of mortality than those between the ages of 60 and 69, and those over the age of 80 almost double the risk of mortality from those between the ages of 70 and 79 …

The experience of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which houses a small elderly population, proves this. The death rate among that uniformly exposed insular population is about 1 percent …

The grouping of complications and deaths from Covid-19 between the elderly and the chronically ill, but not children (there have been only very rare deaths in children), suggests that we could achieve the crucial goals of social distancing – saving lives and not overwhelming our medical system – by preferentially protecting medically fragile people and people over the age of 60, and especially those over the age of 70 and 80, from exposure …

If we were to focus on the particularly vulnerable, there would be resources to keep them at home, provide them with the necessary services and coronavirus tests, and direct our medical system to their early care. I would prefer proactive rather than reactive testing in this group and early use of the most promising antiviral drugs. This cannot be done with current policies, as we roll out our relatively few test kits on expanding an entire population, made even more anxious as society has shut down.

This focus on a much smaller portion of the population would allow most of society to return to normal life and perhaps prevent the collapse of large segments of the economy. Healthy children could go back to school and healthy adults could go back to work. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, although it might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings such as sporting events and concerts in stadiums …

A turning point right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable remains entirely plausible. With each passing day, however, it becomes more difficult. The path we are on could lead to irrepressible viral contagion and monumental collateral damage to our society and economy. A more surgical approach is what we need.

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