Thursday, 30 April 2020 13:13

From the Publisher: Balancing Act

By Chad Beatty | Editorials

GREETINGS LOYAL READERS,

I hope you are healthy and staying safe. I never thought we would be living through a global pandemic and economic meltdown, yet here we are.

Today I want to explore a polarizing subject of great importance: When should the regional economy be reopened? For all the elected officials reading this, I feel for you. You are in a no-win situation. There are plenty of Monday morning quarterbacks who consider themselves experts in epidemiology, economics, and virology, but the consequences of their opinions and platitudes are meaningless. Your decisions however, impact lives and economies. May God grant you wisdom to make prudent decisions.

Now I will do what I always do and share my personal views of this situation. By the end of the article you may agree or disagree, but hopefully we will all leave this with a little more information, a little more insight, and a lot more understanding.

THE ONGOING BATTLE…

Our current pandemic is not unique to this generation; humans and viruses have been battling for global supremacy since the beginning of time. Shaped by evolution to ensure their own replication and survival, viruses are a daunting opponent.

Thankfully, humans have been blessed with an equally ingenious group of epidemiologists who have managed to outsmart and outwork those microscopic enemies. From Hippocrates to Larry Brilliant, epidemiologists have kept the human race moving forward.

Relative to prior pandemics, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is rather low, but the transmission rate is rather high; these are both important facts needed for any decisions. Let’s take a quick look at pandemics from the past 100 years:

AIDS PANDEMIC  (1981-present)
Death Toll: 35 million

FLU PANDEMIC (1968)
Death Toll: 1 million

ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)
Death Toll: 2 million

Spanish Flu (1918)
Death Toll: 20–50 million

SIXTH CHOLERA PANDEMIC 
(1910-1911) Death Toll: 800,000+

And while it didn’t take place in recent history, I think it is important to mention the Bubonic Plague, (346-1353). Death Toll: 75–200 million

After an extensive search I was unable to find any consensual global death toll estimates for Covid-19, but it appears the range of global estimates are well below the prior pandemics mentioned above.

MORTALITY RATE…

Regarding the mortality rate of COVID-19: It seems to be changing daily as randomized test results come in, but it appears a generally accepted figure is 1.5%. A sobering figure but not relatively high when compared to the mortality rates of other epidemics such as Ebola (50%), Smallpox (50-90%), SARS (9.6%) or MERS (35%). *Both SARS and MERS are coronaviruses. Recent data from the randomized testing is showing that the infection rate of COVID-19 is potentially 25-50% higher than reported. This would mean the mortality rate could be substantially lower than the 1.5% figure.

A recent Stanford University antibody study now estimates that the fatality rate of infected individuals is likely as low as 0.1 to 0.2%, far lower than previous WHO estimates that were 20-30 times higher.

We need to treat this pandemic for what it is: A high transmission, low mortality virus. This is not a death sentence.

TO OPEN OR NOT TO OPEN…

This simple question is as powerful as Hamlets famous soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’, in which he is questioning the value of life.

It appears the general argument to remain in lockdown hinges on two specific facts:

1. A full quarantine will reduce deaths from COVID-19.

2. Ending the quarantine will increase deaths due to COVID-19.

While both statements seem to be 100% accurate, there is a fatal flaw in relying solely on that logic to defend an ongoing shutdown because it neglects to mention non-COVID-19 deaths which may occur due to the shutdown.

As anyone who has raised a family, run a business, or paid rent can attest, finances and health are not mutually exclusive. Money may not buy happiness, but financial insecurity can certainly impact your health (physical & psychological.)

Some of the risks associated with financial worries include, but are not limited to: heart disease, overdose, depression, domestic abuse, addiction, anxiety, molestation, stroke, relapse, suicide, migraines, diabetes, sleep problems, etc.

Additionally, there is a psychological effect from being locked down in your home. Police calls related to domestic abuse have increased substantially over the past month and local organizations which deal with domestic situations have seen a troubling increase. These are personal traumas that will last a lifetime, not a season.

As addressed in the article on page 9, people are putting themselves at undue risk due to COVID-19 fears. They are neglecting needed medical care for fear of contracting the virus at hospitals or Doctor offices.

Also, the high mortality rate is isolated to a very small segment of the population, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, allowing us to better control outcomes among age groups. Those in the high-risk categories can remain self-isolated with regular monitoring.

Is a life saved from COVID-19 more valuable than a life lost due to the shutdown? I would say no.

Companies and individuals make decisions every day that effect life expectancy.

Insurance companies decide what procedures and medicines they will or will not cover. Automobile companies decide the trade-off of safety vs. expense. The boxer steps into the ring accepting the possibility of catastrophic injury, mountaineers hike Everest knowing they may not return, and large swaths of society smoke, drink, and shovel unhealthy food down their gullet despite the warnings.

THE CONSTITUTION…

Quarantines were a normal occurrence throughout early American history. But the creation of the U.S. Constitution, as well as ongoing legal and procedural developments and the advent of modern medicine have helped shape current views on this topic.

While the First Amendment guarantees among other things, the Freedom of Assembly, what rights does the government have to abridge these freedoms for the greater public good? And, for that matter, who should oversee these powers, the federal Government or the state government?

This topic is far too in-depth to address in this editorial, but I will make two simple statements.

The Tenth Amendment says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

James Madison pointed out in The Federalist, No. 10 that if a state adopts a disastrous new policy, at least it would not be a catastrophe for everyone. On the other hand, if a state’s new programs work well, other states can adopt their ideas and adjust them to their own needs.

Therefore, I would say the main power to address this issue lies in the states, with the Federal government acting as the facilitator and addressing specific national issues such as borders, travel bans and critical supply logistics.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

This is not a black and white issue with a simple solution, but we have plenty of data to point us in the correct direction. This shutdown could eventually (soon) create an economic meltdown like we have never experienced, with the fallout rippling through every aspect of society.

When I hear people nonchalantly say “Saratoga Springs should just shut down until next summer” it makes my blood boil. You are talking about families losing everything they have; dreams shattered; life savings gone; home foreclosures all around; college savings evaporated; businesses shuttered; not to mention the countless health issues addressed earlier in this editorial which will destroy families.

And let’s not forget that the tax revenue generated during our summer months is what helps to pay for many of our essential services such as police, fire, schools, sewer maintenance and roads. 

Currently the date set by Governor Cuomo for the potential reopening of businesses in upstate NY is May 15. That is only 2 weeks away. Things may look a little different in the beginning and we may need to wear masks and continue to social distance, but that is certainly an acceptable inconvenience for a short period of time.  This cannot last through the summer.

We need businesses open. 

We need normalcy. 

We need money flowing through the system. 

We need to be paying our bills. 

We need to navigate our way through phase 1 and enter phases 2 & 3 as soon as possible.

*For those individuals who are considered ‘at risk’, your self-quarantining may need to last until a vaccine has been developed or the virus has run its course.

THE NEW NORMAL…

We are a nation of survivors. Life WILL get back to normal.We have made it through world wars, pandemics, presidential assassinations and 9-11. We have crossed oceans, explored the unknown and put men on the moon. We will overcome this. We will get back to normal. We will forge on and once again experience the American dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

God Bless !

-Chad

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