Welcome to Day 121 of 15 Days to Slow the Spread.
Seems like just yesterday that we watched, aghast, as Italy’s hospitals collapsed under the weight of those sick and dying from COVID-19. It was late February. If we didn’t act we faced the same fate, experts said.
And so, in mid-March, 15 days to slow the spread was born.
A move that was never intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but to slow it so that hospitals could prepare to treat the sick.
I know I’ve written this before, but let’s say it again, for those eating paste in the back of the class: There is no stopping a novel virus. None of us had immunity to Covid-19 prior to January. At this point it’s not a matter of IF we’re going to contract the coronavirus. It’s a matter of when.
It quickly became evident that those most at risk of critical illness or death were the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity, COPD and compromised immune systems.
Once the 15 days were over, though, governors moved the goalposts. They closed schools, ordered businesses to shutter and told people to stay home.
Seemed they were now determined to somehow stop the virus. A fool’s errand.
As many of us predicted, the lockdowns were impossible to maintain. People need to work to support their families, children need to play, people need other people, hundreds of thousands need elective surgeries.
Naturally, as states began to open, COVID-19 spread. We simply delayed the inevitable.
Here in Virginia, things are murky. Yes, we have seen sharp increases in the number of cases in the past several weeks. Those numbers are particularly high among young people in Tidewater. But we have no idea if the spread is more rapid than it was before June because Virginia’s testing was atrocious.
For months, our testing data was some of the worst in the nation. In April, Virginia ranked near the rock bottom of states and scored even lower than Guam.
Throughout that month, Virginia tested about 2,000 people a day. In May it rose slightly, to about 5,000. By the end of May the commonwealth occasionally hit Gov. Ralph Northam’s goal of 10,000 tests a day. In June and July the state bounced between 8,000 to 15,000 tests a day.
In the early days only the sick were tested. Now anyone can get one.
And — stop the presses — our numbers of cases has risen dramatically. More testing unearths more cases.
Color me unsurprised.
Despite lots of positive tests, our death rate is low and 63% of our fatalities have occurred in nursing homes. Johns Hopkins reported yesterday that over the past week, Virginia’s rate of positive tests rose slightly to 5.4%, which means 94% of everyone tested was negative.
Hardly hair-on-fire territory.
Yet the governor is making noises about imposing more restrictions on Virginians. Someone please tell Northam that on Friday, the same day he was making threats, there were a total of four Virginia deaths from COVID. A sharp drop from May when our fatality numbers were soaring and hit 57 in a single day.
For most people COVID-19 is either an invisible illness or a mild one. For those with underlying conditions it can be awful and deadly. People most at risk will have to continue to hunker down at home, perhaps for the next several years. Let’s be honest, there may never be a vaccine.
But the answer is not to roll back the phased reopenings. Virginia’s hospitals have 3,699 available beds. Plenty to accommodate any increase in COVID patients.
Thinking back over these 121 days, a heretical thought occurs to me: Experts tell us that almost no one dies of the coronavirus without at least one underlying condition. Unsurprisingly, obesity is to blame for many COVID deaths and hospitalizations. With 78 million obese Americans, it might have been smarter to put America on a national diet in March instead of locking people up and wrecking the economy.
This column was republished with permission from www.kerrydougherty.com.