Let the Young Be Stupid. Focus on the Outbreaks

by Carol J. Bova

Governor Ralph Northam is cracking down on a surge in COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads by limiting the serving of alcohol in the region. He’s attacking the wrong problem. You can’t fix stupid, and you can’t make young people listen to advice. Irresponsible youthful behavior will spread the COVID-19 virus, but it won’t overburden hospitals because most young people will weather the illness on their own at home without serious complications.

What do the numbers look like for all of Virginia for the past four weeks?

Yes, the Eastern District had twice the number of new cases the Northern District had, but the Northern District’s 5,000 wasn’t exactly a goose egg on the charts. Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield threw in their share to the nearly 3,700 in the Central District, and the more outlying Southwestern and Northwestern Districts shared another 5,400 between them.

Take a look at the cases by age group. No surprise that older teens through 30-somethings had some high numbers.

But the hospitalizations paint a different picture with only 88 for the 20-29 group, in spite of almost 6,000 cases in July so far. (In June, there were 3,240 cases and 75 hospitalizations for 20-29’s.)

The hospitalization numbers get worse and climb with each additional decade of age, peaking at the 60-69 year-olds.

There are no additional deaths until the 30-39 age group, with only four there. The 40’s and 50’s together had 34. Then the steep climb begins with the 60’s and up.

This is a pandemic with no vaccine and no pre-existing immunity. A lot of people are going to get the virus before it’s over.

If the Honorable Ralph M. Northam wants to address the size of crowds, he could start by issuing orders to stop allowing mobs to run the streets of cities, shouting and destroying public and private property and terrorizing citizens. Their bad behavior doesn’t keep these mobs from getting COVID-19 and spreading it wherever they go.

It’s up to individuals at higher risk to look out for their own health. They can choose not to go out to restaurants. They can use online ordering and parking lot pickup for groceries. If they have to go to a physical store, they can go at off hours and  go where masks are required.

Starting July 22nd, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) provided data downloads for their historical databases for all the sources of COVID-19 information used in the daily Dashboard. They are to be commended for doing this. These downloads provided all the information shown here, and they will be useful to anyone looking for trends and changes over time.

Now, if one of our Governor’s staff could review and summarize some of these numbers for him before press conferences, he might see that his new regions are too large an area to give an accurate picture of what’s happening. The same region can have one health district with one of the highest numbers and another with one of the lowest. Regions don’t come with barrier walls between them. And health district totals don’t show what’s happening in individual localities or which numbers are connected to the still growing number of outbreaks.

Map showing regions used in Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard.

VDH doesn’t have a handle on outbreaks yet in confined living situations, nursing homes, assisted living, group homes, correctional facilities and such. That’s something that should have been addressed months ago before there were 628 outbreaks with 14,086 cases and the 1,281 deaths that are still 60% of all COVID-19 deaths.

Doing that would save a lot more lives and suffering than shutting down alcohol sales at 10 p.m.