Opinion

One Size COVID-19 Policy Does Not Fit All

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Posted: Aug 18, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
One Size COVID-19 Policy Does Not Fit All

Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

We can forgive our policymaking betters to a certain extent, regarding the COVID-19 lockdowns back in March and April, because nobody really had any information about the virus. Nobody wanted to be the person in charge when an unknown virus appeared, not take it seriously, and watch the population fall ill and die en masse.

However, since the end of April, the data across the entire country (and globally), has been remarkably consistent.  That data shows that one-size-fits-all restrictions regarding virus mitigation are an over-correction, and that the collateral damage is and will be far worse than the virus itself.

Take a look at what we know, what we can compare it to, and then an analysis thereof:

9% of tests have been positive (6.28 million) since testing began.
 The current rate (unweighted average) from all sources is 6.7%.

The overall US infection volume is 1.67%.

2.68% of those testing positive have died.

The overall US death volume is 0.05%

80% of deaths occurred in those over age 65.

93% of deaths had co-morbidities (age, obesity, immunosuppression)

28% of all deaths were in NY, NYC, and NJ.

For the week ending 8/8, there were a total of 438 COVID deaths, half of which were in those age 65 and older. That compares to 17,000+ in mid-April, a 97% decline.
 
Drilling down to the county level anywhere in the U.S. reveals that infection is a local issue.  Drilling down even further to municipality or neighborhood demonstrates that infection is, in fact, a hyper-local issue.

The 7-day moving average of new cases is declining. The cumulative hospitalization rate is 0.14% and is declining dramatically. It is 0.09% for those aged 18-49.

There have also been claims that hospitals are “overwhelmed.”  Recall that the initial reason for the lockdowns was to prevent such a thing.
 
Even then, however, NY/NJ never exceeded 46% bed use from COVID.  That’s why the Navy’s hospital ship Comfort left at the end of April after serving only 200 patients. We also know that that high rate of infection early on in NY and NJ is the direct result of failure to close the subways and buses.
 
MD, MA, and RI hospital use was over 20% in April and May. A handful of others were over 10% in May. From June 1 onwards, only NY, NJ, IL, MA. RI, and DC were over 10%.  
 
Since June 10, only AZ has been over 10%. All others are lower, with the current national rate at 8%.
 
We also know that mask usage is, at best, of questionable benefit.  Multiple studies and meta-studies suggest that only properly worn N95 masks might be of some benefit.
 
The annual influenza infects about 35 million people, some 11% of the U.S. population.  It kills about 70,000, which is a 0.2% death rate for those who contract it, and a 0.02% death rate for the entire US population.  

The aggregate COVID-19 death rate is 0.05%, not much higher.
 
The death rate from influenza over two years is almost the same as that of COVID. We deal with the flu every year, yet we never shut down society every year, or force people to be muzzled, or to stand six feet apart.  The data tells us that there is no logical or rational reason, even out of an abundance of caution, for any restrictions to be imposed on everyday life by any government.  COVID-19 mitigation has been a municipal issue for weeks.  It’s time for Mayors, County Supervisors, and Governors to back off, and let people live their lives.  
 
This one-size-fits-all policy of shutting things down is not worth the cost.
 
That cost includes the destruction of both family-owned businesses. BLS reports that number of active business owners fell by 22% from February to April 2020.  Black businesses experienced a 41% decline. Latinx businesses fell by 32% and Asian business owners dropped by 26%.  The cost includes the bankruptcy of iconic names.  It includes more than 40 million people thrown out of work.  
 
As I have long said, the collateral damage of these foolish policies will far exceed deaths from COVID, in the form of human suffering:  alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, depression, and suicide.  All of these are increasing.

This is America. Our country is founded on freedom and choice.  That includes the choice to undertake certain risks in order to enjoy life, liberty, and pursue happiness. We each take countless risks every year in order to do so.  It’s time to let people choose their behavior based on their own risk assessment.
 
 Those who cannot take the risk of contracting COVID-19 must be cared for by the community, at all costs.  
 
 Those who don’t want to take the risk can stay home.  

It is not, however, Liberty Jane’s job to wear a mask and social distance in order to mitigate the risk of Fearful John, anymore than it is John’s job to mitigate Mary’s risk in anything she may choose to do on any given day.  After all, Mary has no right to demand that John grab her fork and chuck her ice cream sundae against the wall if she has diabetes.  
 
If Fearful John chooses to go outside, then he can wear a muzzle and social distance himself. People are practically throwing themselves into traffic to avoid getting too close to another person anyway.

Businesses should be able to choose their own policies.  Prudence is warranted, so opening to one-third capacity for a bit, then widening to two-thirds, and then fully opening makes perfect sense.  Throttle occupancy and mitigation as the owners choose.  Their patrons – that ridiculous thing called “the market” -- will signal what action to take.
 
Why is this happening?   We know why.  It is easier to control people when they are made to be afraid.  Drive them into a panic and it becomes effortless.  Tell them it is for their own good and they become evangelists.
 
 Half the country still believes politicians are the good guys.  The question they aren’t asking is, “good for what?”