David Cox of Orono is a retired microbiology laboratory technician.
I have heard some people say that it is unfair to subject the entire population of our country to strict mitigation efforts when coronavirus has really affected such a small number of Americans. They have said that the concern is overblown and that we should just live our lives like we always have and not worry about it because so few people get sick and die, so why bother.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. As of Friday, there were more than 223,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus and more than 8.4 million infected. Of the total U.S. population of about 330 million, that is just about 0.07 percent dead and 2.5 percent infected.
That does seem rather low, so when should we be concerned enough to take action? At 1 percent dead? Or 4 percent dead? If 4 percent still seems small, that equals 13.2 million dead Americans. Or think about how the entire U.S. population makes up just 4.23 percent of the global population. A percentage number may look small, but the actual number can be quite large.
Others talk about herd immunity, thinking that we should stop trying to avoid the virus and let the virus wash over us. They disagree with lockdowns, mask wearing, and social distancing because they say that not enough people are getting infected. They say that with enough immune people, the virus won’t be able to continue its spread.
Again, let’s look at numbers. There are differing opinions as to how many people must be infected for this to work, with the range being between 40 percent and 80 percent ( measles needs about 95 percent immunity). Let’s use the middle: 60 percent. The fatality rate for COVID-19 is not known for certain, but is estimated to be between 0.1 percent and 5 percent, so let’s use just 1 percent. So, for herd immunity to be achieved using 60 percent of Americans infected and then 1 percent of those die, that means 243 million would get it and 2.43 million would die.
We have heard people say that the lockdown cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease, but I’d say 2.43 million Americans dying is worse than a lockdown of a few months. You can try different scenarios at this interactive Washington Post simulation.
Also, it’s not just a matter of someone getting the virus and just living or dying; it’s a matter of those people who actually get sick overwhelming the hospitals. We hear of hospitals across the country experiencing record high coronavirus hospitalizations where equipment, such as ventilators and hospital beds, is scarce and patients can die as a result of not getting proper treatment. Those who do survive are not guaranteed a problem-free life — many, young and old, have chronic health issues that may continue for years, as well as large hospital bills that may take years to pay off.
This is a novel coronavirus and as such there is still much that we don’t know about it. However, we know it is not just the sniffles or the flu, a virus we know and for which we have vaccines. We have no such vaccine for this coronavirus and realistically won’t see one until next year.
It is absolutely abhorrent that some people shrug their shoulders and say that we should let the virus run freely through the population to infect their fellow Americans. Even then, they callously say, those who die are probably just too old or just not in the best of health anyway.
We can do better than that. We need a leader who recognizes that more than 220,000 dead Americans is intolerable and that by working together as one unified nation, we can beat this virus. We need a leader who knows that all of us can take simple steps to help stop the virus, such as wearing a mask and not gathering in large groups.
We need someone who values all of us, and that is Joe Biden.