We know a lot more about COVID-19 today than we did three months ago. We know that older people with pre-existing conditions are the most susceptible to dying from or with COVID-19. We know that masks and social distancing work better than no masks and no social distancing. It may be time now to start a withdrawal of some COVID-19 safety measures.
What are we doing by prolonging the inevitable? At what point in time do we decide that we must grab the COVID-19 bull by the horns? If we continue to wear masks and social distance from others, we will maintain a lifeline to the virus. It will always be lurking around the corner ready to pounce.
How is COVID-19 defeated? It probably is not going to be! We have had success with some diseases, like polio. A vaccine was developed for the poliovirus in the late 1700s. Over time, it has become more effective and polio is almost in the history books.
Yet how many seasonal influenza viruses plague us each year? More than a few! The annual flu shot is the best guess of which viruses will dominate in the coming flu season. Annually, the United States has between 39 to 56 million cases of seasonal influenza accounting for 24,000 to 62,000 deaths.
The COVID-19 numbers for the United States are a bit more impressive – 2,330,000 total cases with almost 122,000 dead. Nearly one million people have recovered. The ratio of confirmed deaths to confirmed cases has fallen gradually from a high of 6.05% in mid-May to 5.36% today.
Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases have fallen from a high on near the end of April of 38,509 to 18,574 two days ago. Testing during this same period has more than doubled from 0.67 tests per 1000 people to 1.49 tests per 1000 people. More testing and fewer confirmed cases!
Worldwide averages for deaths from COVID-19 show that
09 years old – death rate = zero%
10-19 years old – death rate = 0.2%
20-29 years old – death rate = 0.2%
30-39 years old – death rate = 0.2%
40-49 years old – death rate = 0.35%
50-59 years old – death rate = 1.0%
60-69 years old – death rate = 2.4%
70-79 years old – death rate = 8.0%
80 years and older – death rate = 15.0%
If you are 60 years of age, the worldwide death rate from or with COVID-19 is 2.4%.
The United States’ death rates from or with COVID-19 are similar. However, if you look at all deaths from all ages for those diseases most likely to cause deaths (COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza), the death rate numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics for COVID-19 alone during the first two weeks of June 2020 are:
15 years and younger – 0.4% out of 241 total deaths
15-24 years of age – 0.9% out of 882 total deaths
25-34 years of age – 2.3% out of 1102 total deaths
35-44 years of age – 3.1% out of 1512 total deaths
45-54 years of age – 4.8% out of 2908 total deaths
55-64 years of age – 4.8% out of 6594 total deaths
65-74 years of age – 5.5% out of 10,375 total deaths
75-84 years of age – 5.8% out of 13,645 total deaths
85 years and older – 6.3% out of 17,621 total deaths.
If you are 60 years of age, 6,594 people died of COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza during the first two weeks of June 2020 and 4.8% were attributed to COVID-19 alone.
We know that COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza. We know that half of the people contracting the virus never have symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, this group of asymptomatic people can rarely pass this virus along to healthy people. There is another large group of people, pre-symptomatic, that start out without symptoms for the first four or five days and then have a mild case of COVID-19. They are treated by self-quarantine in their homes.
In the United States, one to two percent develop serious, life-threatening symptoms from or with COVID-19. They are hospitalized. About fifteen percent require ICU attention.
How did these people become infected? According to the literature, the most likely way is from human contact via the nose – they breathed in minute droplets of the virus when an infected person sneezed. Yes, it is possible to touch a surface that an infected person recently touched, and you then touched your face (mouth, nose, or eyes). That is considered least likely.
You are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 if your health is challenged with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and/or hypertension. The elderly with pre-existing conditions should be the most protected from the coronavirus due to its high mortality rate.
So, what about biting this bullet? If I am wearing a mask and have COVID-19, the mask protects me from passing it on to others. Why would I be in public if I knew I had COVID-19 is the first question to ask? I should be sheltered in place in my home. Maybe I do not know I have it yet, I could be pre-symptomatic? Pre-symptomatic means ‘no’ symptoms, hence no sneezing!
Part of biting the bullet is that no one, absolutely no one who has a runny nose, a cough, or sneezing should be allowed out of self-quarantine. Everyone else can be in public without masks. I would add a caveat that appearing in public without a mask implies that you are carrying a mask on you in case it is needed.
I have become extremely aware of coughing and sneezing sounds around me. Being in that mid-70-year-old category, I have a higher risk of catching the virus. I have not heard a single person cough or sneeze in public in the last month.
What about the six-foot rule – social distancing? If you have a cough, runny nose, or sneezing, then you would be at home under self-quarantine and not out infecting the public. If others around you are or are not wearing masks and not coughing and sneezing, then the risk of catching the virus is greatly diminished.
Can you wear masks and continue to social distance? Absolutely, you are responsible for your own health. If others around you are not observing your strict standards, you are still protecting yourself with your mask and social distance.
Herd immunity comes from everyone, or most everyone, catching the disease and recovering from it. We know that 99% of people with COVID-19 recover. There is a small number that had pre-existing conditions that continue to have health impairments due to the virus – usually a cardiovascular or upper respiratory condition that weakens the body. It is not a full recovery, but the person is not dead.
Testing is increasing weekly in the United States. Almost ten percent of all Americans have been tested. About ten percent of those tested are found to have COVID-19. Testing must continue. Testing reliability involving false-positive results and false-negative results needs to be improved.
At the risk of sounding like a heretic about a serious life-threatening pandemic disease in every neighborhood, I think smaller populations that can be easily traced can begin to experiment with minimal mask requirements and minimal adherence to social distancing. Testing should be greatly increased in this area. Those with serious or pre-existing conditions should fully be protected.
If the resultant statistics show that this group acquires herd immunity from COVID-19, then it might be time to do the same thing on a larger scale. A gradual incremental increase in safely developing a herd immunity. Why is this important?
The next seasonal influenza season will be upon us shortly. COVID-19 will most likely continue into the flu season. Do we want a double-whammy of two or more viruses itching to get into our bodies daily? Or can we implement a plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in our lives? I am open to other suggestions that protect the elderly and expedite the herd immunity of our country. I welcome agreements and disagreements with this train of thought.
Vaccines are coming, but I do not expect them to be more than 40% effective. We do not need a person vaccinated for COVID-19 to think they are fully immune to it when most likely they are not. They can catch the virus and spread it to others easily with the vaccine. Yes, they might not have as severe a case had they not had the vaccine, but why give that person the false security that the vaccine is the cure for COVID-19?
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com