Learning to Live with the Virus

Die, virus, die!

by James A. Bacon

There’s been a lot of recent discussion in the media about a “second wave” of the COVID-19 virus this fall when days grow shorter and temperatures drop. Maybe it will happen, but I doubt it will be as virulent or as deadly as the first wave. I’m optimistic we’re making significant progress in learning to manage and live with the disease.

According to Virginia data published the morning, 658 new cases were confirmed from 8,451 new tests. The 7.9% “positive” rate continues a steady decline. Here’s an amazing figure: The number of COVID-19 patients in Virginia hospitals fell to 959, the first day under 1,000 since the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association began reporting the numbers in early April. Yesterday also saw the fewest patients held in ICUs and the fewest on ventilators as well.

Seven deaths were reported, five of which were connected to long-term care facilities. To the extent that there is a public emergency in Virginia — contracting the virus is not an emergency, only dying from it is — the crisis is still confined primarily to nursing homes.

While the incidence of COVID-19 apparently has ticked back up in some other states, I see no evidence in the statistics of a resurgence in Virginia. The protest marches in defiance of limits on crowd size have had no discernible effect; the partial reopening of businesses has had no discernible effect.

Source: John Butcher, based on June 10 data

Longer term, we have several things going in our favor:

  • We are far from developing “herd immunity,” in which 70% to 90% of the population needs to survive and acquire a resistance to the disease. However, tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of Virginians likely have developed immunity or resistance, which will serve to slow the transmission.
  • Most places of commerce and employment have adopted best practices for limiting the transmission of the virus, while many Virginians (especially the most vulnerable) continue to voluntarily wash hands, wear masks and self-isolate.
  • The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the nursing home industry appear to be finally getting a grip on disease transmission in nursing homes, which account for a majority of all COVID-related deaths in the state.
  • Although it has stumbled in hiring a force of contact tracers, VDH will get them hired eventually. I’m not terribly hopeful they will make much difference in halting the spread of the virus in the general population, but I think they will make a difference in controlling outbreaks, which have accounted for 17% of all cases.
  • As medical practitioners learn more about how the disease is transmitted, individuals, businesses and public health authorities can better adapt their strategies for avoiding infection. As docs and hospitals learn more about how to treat the disease, fewer people will die from it.

We may never be able to exterminate COVID-19, as we have done with smallpox, but I am optimistic that we can learn to live with it without disrupting everyone’s lives and wrecking the economy.

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9 responses to “Learning to Live with the Virus”

  1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    One either lives with it or dies from it…. kinda like marriage.

  2. sbostian Avatar

    Now, as has been the case for several months, restrictions on social, religious, and commercial behavior of the Commonwealth’s citizens have been primarily politically motivated, not by genuine public health and medial concerns. One reason that Governor Northam has been able to sustain the lockdowns for as long as he has is that many of his constituents have not been harmed by his policies. Government workers, educators, white collar “knowledge workers” and the wealthy (US billionaires have seen their collective wealth rise by $434 billion during the “lockdowns) have had continuous compensation, lowered work demands in the “work from home” environment and little genuine inconvenience.

    Given the current concern over systemic racism, we should demand that the Commonwealth study the disparate racial impact of the cost of the Northam policies. On the surface it appears that minorities and the poor have borne the brunt of the cost. If disparate impact is prima facie evidence of racism, perhaps the Northam administration is the largest pocket of “systemic racism” in the Commonwealth.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      What “politically motivated” reasons were behind the lockdowns? Who stood to gain politically from them?

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Shhhhh, stop asking sensible questions.

  3. sbostian Avatar

    Ralph Northam regained relevance and a measure of reputation rehabilitation after his medical school yearbook fiasco and the torrent of lying in its aftermath. Closing places of worship but keeping abortion clinics open was a political choice. I suspect that the Virginia Democratic party is more heavily funded by Planned Parenthood than by religious groups. Deceptive reporting of infections and deaths by avoiding nursing home data until well into the state of emergency created a more generalized panic facilitating the Governor expanding the reach of his government by decree, while camouflaging the genuine nursing home crisis presided over by Northam and past governors. Perhaps you consider these to be prudent public health moves, but they look political to me.

    I understand that many here don’t object to rule by decree (as long as one of your people is issuing the decrees), so I have no ambition of changing your minds, just stating my observations as do you. If you have a compelling scientific, medical or public health argument for Northam’s management of the situation, please explain it. I am always willing to learn

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    There was a new, lethal, highly contagious virus, for which there was no treatment or vaccine, that was spreading around the world, with many people becoming seriously ill and a significant number of people dying. The advice of the medical community concerning the best way to mitigate its effects was to minimize public gatherings. That seems like a compelling scientific, medical, and public health argument to me.

    I think the Northam administration’s handling of the situation was inefficient and bumbling in some ways, especially as far as testing was concerned. As far as “ruling by decree” is concerned, his actions were based on existing law. I do not think he has abused the emergency powers authorized by law.

    Back to the notion of political motivations, I can’t see where the Northam administration has gained anything politically from the stay-at-home orders. If anything, the administration’s stay-at-home orders, which have adversely affected the economy, have delayed implementation of some of the Democrats’ top priorities, such as the increase in the minimum wage, for example, angering some members of his party. Also, the damage to the economy has decreased tax revenues, thereby probably killing some of the party’s budget initiatives.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    What Dick said, plus this. Just about every state in the union has done and is doing some version of what Northam has done, and not without similar complaints from some folks in those states.

    If we could look at Northam and honestly show that his actions are out of line with most other states, it would be a valid complaint.

    In other states, some are going after their governors for the same reasons some in this state are going after Northam.

    The opponents are loud and vociferous but most polls show that most people support what Northam and the other Governors are doing.

    Many companies, institutions, even many churches are agreeing with social distancing and other restrictions. For example, the Episcopal Church has not yet re-opened – .. because they believe the science about the coronavirus and congregating and last I heard almost no churches are doing communion yet.

  6. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Living with COV2?

    Do it virtually… running live until 9AM.

    look at the virtual Le Mans 24 hours, live now on YouTube (until 0900 tomorrow). It’s technically remarkable, 60 cars, 170 computers connected, 240 drivers in 37 countries (and diverse time zones). Amazing visuals, including realistic depth of focus, late-afternoon shadows. Lots of on-boards and on-screen graphics, as usual. Huge number of camera views on this long track.


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