To the Editor:
Some might look with disfavor at the decision of some to relax social distancing aggressively, given how terrible the U.S. is already performing at mitigating the coronavirus.
As this note is written, in the U.S. there have been over 1.6 million documented COVID-19 cases and over 96,000 documented deaths (numbers taken from Johns Hopkins website). Defenders of the U.S. disease mitigation performance might correctly say that these numbers look bad in relation to the rest of the world because places with large populations, like the U.S., will naturally have more cases. This is entirely true.
However, the performance of the U.S in disease mitigation is objectively terrible, even when one adjusts the data for population differences across countries. For example, both the U.S. observed case-fatality ratio (6.0%) and the U.S. death rate per 100,000 people (29.34) rank among the worst 10 in the world. And folks, the best projections that we have suggest that the pandemic is nowhere near over. I laugh when I hear some say that 96,000 deaths “ain’t so bad.” Sure – unless you are one of the dead people.
Moreover, there will be more deaths: The best science we have indicates that this pandemic is not anywhere near over. Given the decision of some to relax social distancing aggressively, it would not at all be surprising to see the COVID-19 disease and death counts at least double. It is also a worry if the aggressive relaxation in distancing causes an increase in the disease rates. Look to Italy to see why.
It is not good to put doctors in the position of triage, having to make decisions to leave some untreated because of limited resources (beds, ventilators, drugs). That’s what even a relatively modest increase in the disease rate will do (and why low-population areas mistakenly think they are safe – they have low populations, but also tend to have relatively few medical resources).
Folks, until we get a reliable vaccine, this is our fight. This is our chance to make a difference to this country. Keep people alive. Diligently maintain social distance. Wash and sanitize like fiends. Wear your mask. Sure, if we do these things, others won’t honor us on Memorial Day, but we will be doing our patriotic part on behalf of the country, and on behalf of each other.