Saturday, April 25, 2020

1889 Institute on OK's COVID-19 Shutdown: "Not Worth the Cost"

The COVID-19 Shutdown: Not Worth the Cost
By Byron Schlomach

The costs of the economic shutdown due to COVID-19 across the nation are mounting. Record unemployment caused by a government-induced 25 percent reduction in the nation’s monthly GDP is symptomatic of bankrupted individuals and businesses. Drug use and suicides have surged. A little- noticed U.N. report has pointed out the obvious – that even a mild worldwide recession will cause hundreds of thousands of children’s deaths. So, news of state re-openings are welcome.

Governor Stitt has declared many businesses can open on Friday, April 24. By May 1, all enterprises in the state will be able to operate more or less normally. Eventually, Oklahoma will be fully operating again. But the question remains, “Was the shutdown and extreme social distancing even necessary?”

The answer is a clear and unequivocal “No.”

Let’s start with this gem from a blog by an Oklahoma State University academic. “Harvard University epidemiologists determined that continuing extreme social distancing measures into the summer months could actually result in more COVID-19 deaths than a ‘do nothing from the beginning’ alternative.”

The Harvard study does more than confirm that the shutdown should end now. It recommends developing “herd immunity” (a condition where most have been exposed and have become immune) as quickly as possible. By developing herd immunity while the most vulnerable (the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions like COPD, hypertension, diabetes, etc) shelter, the disease is eventually less likely to passed around at all.

Thus, social distancing is recommended only if healthcare-related resources might be overwhelmed. Based on COVID-19 case history, the Harvard researchers recommend government-mandated social distancing (shutting businesses) only be implemented when currently confirmed COVID-19 cases are 39.33 TIMES greater than the number of ICU beds.

Have we ever reached this shutdown threshold in Oklahoma?

Not even close. Oklahoma has 1,024 total ICU beds but many will be occupied by critical cases other than COVID-19. An April 20 Oklahoma State Department of Health report credits Oklahoma with 365 ICU beds available, which is too few since some are already occupied by COVID-19 cases. But, let’s apply the Harvard formula to this conservative number: 39.33 times 365 equals 14,355.

So, Oklahoma should only mandate social-distancing measures if the number of active COVID-19 cases exceed 14,000. That’s almost five times the roughly 3,000 total cases Oklahoma has suffered. But, only around a third of these cases remain active.

The obvious conclusion is that the shutdown in Oklahoma never should have happened, at least up to now. And, it should not happen again until the number of active, known cases gets far higher than it’s ever been to this point.

The message is clear. Open up, fully, NOW! Protect the vulnerable, sure, but our lives and our livelihoods should never have been disrupted to the degree they have been.

1 comment:

  1. The Harvard study recommendation (why do you not link to the actual study? Seems that would be a minimal journalistic requirement) could be followed IF there has been adequate testing of statistically valid sample of the population. To point to the confirmed infection rate where there has not been sufficient testing (basically none) is reliance on a likely false number. Further, the confirmed number of infections is materially affected by the stay at home, social distancing orders at state and city level. Arguing this number proves the very measures under which the number was generated is disingenuous. This intellectual slight of hand may fool some of your readers, but it is a disservice to the public and misleads on a life and death issue. Do better.


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