by James A. Bacon
Yesterday Governor Ralph Northam blamed the recent rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia upon noncompliance with his May face-covering order. In a Tuesday news briefing, he announced that the state will step up enforcement of the order.
Northam singled out the spread of the virus in Hampton Roads for special attention. “There is clearly substantial community spread,” he said, as reported by The Virginia Mercury. “A lot of that increase is driven by people socializing without wearing masks — especially young people. Virginia cases in the 25- to 29-year-old demographic have risen by 205% compared to early June.
The Virginia Department of Health is deploying 100 people to ramp up enforcement by, among other means, conducting unannounced inspections at businesses. “This will happen across the state, but will be particularly focused in the Hampton Roads area,” Northam said. “If you own a restaurant and a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line.”
As we like to do at Bacon’s Rebellion, let’s take a look at the data.
The VDH’s COVID-19 dashboard now provides regional breakouts of key metrics such as confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the “Eastern” region, which is dominated by the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. The Governor is quite right to focus on Hampton Roads — the seven-day moving average of the number of confirmed and probably cases shot higher in June and July, as seen in the graph above) in contrast to the rest of the state (as seen in the graph below).
(The Southwest region also saw a spike in June, although it was less pronounced, and the region’s seven-day moving average has declined markedly in the past two-three weeks.)
Given the surge in the young-adult demographic, one can speculate that the reason Hampton Roads stands out is that the region, and Virginia Beach in particular, is Virginia’s summertime party town. Stumbling drunk people are less likely to abide by mask-wearing orders.
The next question is whether the spike in COVID-19 cases represents a public health emergency that warrants a clamp-down on mask wearing. If 25- to 29-year-olds account for much of the surge, the fact that young people are less likely to develop severe symptoms would lead one to predict that the effect on hospitalizations would be modest
Let’s look at hospitalizations for the Eastern region.
Lo and behold, the moving, seven-day average of hospitalizations has ticked up slightly, just as it has for the rest of the state. This non-event suggests that only a small percentage of the young people getting the virus need special medical treatment.
Finally, let’s see how the increased incidence of the COVID-19 virus translated into deaths.
Well, well, well, the seven-day moving average of COVID-related deaths in the Eastern region remain well off its highs of early May, generally about two or three per day, many days with no deaths reported at all. There was a mini-spike on July 11, but it won’t prove to be sufficient to budge the moving average.
Bacon’s bottom line: Why do we care if healthy young people get infected by the virus as long as they are not burdening hospitals and/or dying? One can argue that it’s a good thing for young people to get infected, develop a resistance to the virus, and nudge the state closer to herd immunity.
Young people aren’t stupid. True, they rely upon social media for their “news,” which is a close cousin to stupidity, but they aren’t stupid. And, true, there are anecdotal horror stories of young people getting infected. A neighbor told me of a case he encountered in the Richmond region in which a 20-something had attended a “COVID party,” got the disease, was admitted to the hospital and died, uncomprehending to the end that the virus had done him in. Wait, what? COVID parties? Let’s concede that young people are stupid and refuse to heed the sage advice of their elders.
Let’s assume that Northam succeeds in cracking down on bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other places where young people congregate and spread the virus. Does anyone seriously think they will cease socializing? We all know what will happen. The twenty-something crowd will move to different locales, such as private homes. Good luck regulating those.There are currently no comments highlighted.