As U.S. Congress works on a nearly $2 trillion dollar relief package, NYT opinion columnist, Thomas L. Friedman asks the question many are thinking: “What the hell are we doing to ourselves? To our economy? To our next generation?” With rising unemployment numbers, Friedman says now is the time to “think afresh about the coronavirus challenge. In drawing from health experts around the country, Friedman suggests in his March 22 NY Times piece entitled, “A Plan to Get America Back to Work,” that those least vulnerable to the coronavirus must return to work while those most vulnerable must isolate.
The Reality of a Low Fatality Rate
Friedman says that one reason those least vulnerable should return to work is because the coronavirus’s fatality rate is actually low, less than 1 percent. Friedman cites Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, co-director of Stanford’s Met-Research Innovation Center, who found that ““A look at some of the best available evidence today, though, indicates it [fatality rate] may be 1 percent and could even be lower.” For Dr. Ioannidis, this means that ““Locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational.”
Current Solutions May be Worse than the Cure
Friedman also states that those least vulnerable should return to work because the current solutions, which do not differentiate for region and vulnerability predictions, cause problems far worse than the spread of the virus (recall low fatality rates). Friedman cites Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, who says: “Society’s response to Covid-19, such as closing businesses and locking down communities, may be necessary to curb the community spread but could harm health in other ways, costing lives. Imagine a patient with chest pain or developing a stroke, where speed is essential to save lives, hesitating to call 911 for fear of catching the coronavirus.” Woolf also points out, “Lost wages and job layoffs are leaving many workers without health insurance and forcing many families to forgo health care and medications to pay for food, housing, and other basic needs.”
A Common Sense Answer
According to Friedman, the low fatality rate combined with the economic consequences from current solutions, which do not account for economic consequences, point to a common sense solution: those least vulnerable to the coronavirus must return to work while those most vulnerable must isolate.But this is not just Friedman’s opinion: Friedman cites Dr. David L. Katz, the founding director of Yale University’s C.D.C. – funded Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and an expert in public health and preventive medicine, who says, “We need to pivot from the ‘horizontal interdiction’ strategy we’re now deploying – restricting the movement and commerce of the entire population, without consideration of varying risks for severe infection – to a more ‘surgical’ or ‘vertical interdiction’ strategy.” Katz suggests. “The most vulnerable are carefully shielded until the infection has run its course through the rest of us – and the tiny fraction of those of us at low risk who do develop severe infection nonetheless get expert medical care from a system not overwhelmed.”
The full article can be found here.