I enjoyed my Covid news holiday, but here we go again. My current thoughts:
1.) When all this started, the WHO was saying COVID had a 3.7% death rate. That is scary. Very scary. Given that number and all the uncertainty, I think it was appropriate for the country to shut down. We could have been facing millions of deaths.
2.) The CDC’s “best estimate” of the fatality rate of Covid for the US is 0.4% for symptomatic cases. (I will have to do some research to figure out what percent of cases they think are symptomatic.) Source. In my opinion, it is not appropriate to shut down the country for a disease with a 0.4% fatality rate. The CDC’s estimate of the flu fatality rate is 0.1%. So, current best estimate is 4x worse than the flu. Note that the uncertainty is 0.2% to 1.0%. For the best estimate, fatality rates by age are:
- 0-49: 0.05%
- 50-64: 0.2%
- 65+: 1.3%
3.) Let’s assume 30% of the country contracts Covid with a 0.4% fatality rate. This is pessimistic since the fatality rate applies only to symptomatic cases, and some unknown percent are asymptomatic. We would be looking at 360,000 deaths. That’s obviously a lot. But consider deaths from various sources in 2017 (last year I found data):
- Heart disease: 647,000
- Cancer: 600,000
- Other diseases in the top 10: 615,000
- Accidents and suicide: 217,000
- Total deaths: 2.8 million
I guess I think a 10% bump in deaths in a year is a terrible tragedy but again, not an acceptable reason to shut down the country.
4.) Smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually in the US, including 41,000 deaths caused by secondhand smoke. 16 MILLION americans live with disease caused by smoking. Yet, we don’t ban smoking. But we’re willing to ban people leaving their houses and working and going to school, which will save fewer lives (given current data)?
Again, I think shutting down was appropriate for a disease with a 3 or 4% death rate. I also support an emphasis on PPE (masks) and unemployment protections for the vulnerable. But its time for the shutdown to end.
Finally, I continue to think that if things go well, we’ll have a widely available vaccine in a year. Not sooner. Furthermore, I think the likelihood of that happening is only about 50%. It’s quite likely there will be a vaccine which is ineffective for the elderly or just ineffective in general. Or not safe. When the polio vaccine was initially tested on 10,000 children, it provided no protection against the disease and nine children died. Many more were paralyzed. Why? Because there was a huge rush to try and prevent this horrible disease (polio). There is obviously huge risk that excessive rushing could result in similar tragedy with Covid. So I think we need to be very careful about assuming this is all “temporary” and we can just stay home for six more months and then be rewarded for our patience.
Can I spend a few more days not checking Covid news? Maybe.