By the Numbers
In my state of Texas, we’ve been doing fairly well in terms of this virus’s overall death toll. What had been a projected death toll of 6,000 has come down to 1,000 and while that is terrible in and of itself it is far better than 6,000 dead. Those numbers came down because we did things quickly; what New York and New Jersey and parts of the northeast didn’t. We quarantined and we practised social distancing. It saved lives; of that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. I believe the scientists and the numbers and I will never believe its fake science or the idea that scientists are feeding us wrong information. Can the information be wrong depending on the numbers we put into the equations? Yes. Definitely. Statistics and models/graphs are very dependent on the information that is fed into it.
Speaking of models, here’s a little information that might help you wade (or trudge, if you’re like me) through the available models surrounding coronavirus a little more easily.
- Models use different techniques to project the future. They are built around the notion that the current regiment of stay-at-home orders and social distancing will continue. They also cut off predictions after two months or less even though we know the coronavirus will be with us much longer.
No matter the mathematical skills employed behind these models, there are still questions left unanswered about this virus which make these models less than perfect. 1.) Researchers aren’t sure about the rate of transmission to other people; 2.) rate at which people who become infected die; 3.) how many people who have already been infected and have some immunity to the disease or even how long that immunity will last and; 4.) even the count of coronavirus deaths are uncertain. All of these variables can change how the information on a model is presented and it’s not shady science or bad math, it’s a fluid scene. This isn’t going to be a tidy, little story like Outbreak or Pandemic where in a few weeks or months you can trace a virus and contain it, and then in another few months develop a vaccine and cure everyone. That’s the magic of Hollywood. This is the ugly, horrible, real thing. This will take a long time to map out and it will take hard-working, brilliant people to hunt it down and more brilliant people to find a vaccine. In the meantime, people will die. More people will live; our nurses and doctors will be working tirelessly and we need to have their backs. We owe them immeasurable amounts of love and gratitude. [i]
These protesters in Kansas, Texas, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, California, North Carolina and Pennsylvania among other states have a right to be afraid. But not for the reason you may be thinking. They have a right to be afraid because these circumstances have us in a position where the right answer may actually be the one that kills us. If we continue along with the course scientists and doctor’s have laid out for us, social distancing and quarantining until- let’s say- June, it could be devastating to our economy and also extremely limiting to our personal liberties. If we throw our hands up in the air and say something in the spirit of our Lt., Governor Dan Patrick, like just resign ourselves to the fact that people will die, and well, there are “More important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” then the virus could make a hard comeback. We could see waves of more sick and more death in the style of New York that will overwhelm our health care system. It makes sense people would be confused and afraid. You’re talking about people’s livelihoods and how they put food on the table. I get how important that is. We’re one of those families who lives paycheck to paycheck. We’ve been very fortunate that although my husband is working from home, he is getting paid the same as though he was at work and it’s not reduced. But we also have all our kids at home all the time and so it means more meals are being eaten and higher grocery bills. But if he didn’t have this job we’d be in dire straights with the rest of Americans- and I still wouldn’t change my position because opening up businesses and resuming life too soon nulls and voids all the work we’ve put in up to this point. Why do that and risk a wave of infection that might be even more ruthless than ever before? Why risk that with an upcoming flu season and damn our citizens to something worse than hell? When scientists warn us about an impending hurricane, we make the preparations. We don’t ignore them and hope for the best and resume life as usual. We don’t leave it in God’s hands no matter how much we may believe. We batten the windows, go inside and hope for the best. And as Dr. Fauci said, which segues into the next portion of this post, “Unless we get the virus under control the real recovery economically is not going to happen.” [ii] [iii]
[AP Photo Elaine Thompson]
On April 20th, Dr. Fauci spoke to George Stephanopoulos about the antibody tests and the protests. Here is a little bit from that interview I hope will clarify some questions you might have about what those tests are and how we move into the future. This isn’t a transcript of the interview, but a summarization of what Dr. Fauci said.
The biggest thing that needs to happen before life can return to normal is Testing.
We need to be doing 5 milling tests per day to start and then 20 million tests per day by June. We’re only managing 50k a day right now.
The Antibody Tests that everyone is so hung up on are great, but they have their issues too. Here is the information an antibody test will give you.
- Whether you were exposed, infected and likely recovered. This is great. This will tell Doctors and Scientists much-needed information.
- The problem: They have to be validated and calibrated. We do not know what an antibody titer means yet. The reasonable assumption is that an antibody leaves you somewhat protected to an infection, but that has not been proven.
- It’s been proven for other viruses but not for this one. It’s not a crazy idea. There’s precedent for it but we just don’t have the proof yet for this one and we don’t know how long that protection if it exists, lasts. Is it one month, three months, six months, a year? Are we willing to take that gamble?
- “So, what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back. So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening it’s going to backfire. That’s the problem.” -Dr. Fauci [iv]
Still Sick and Dying
The pandemic hasn’t magically eliminated the sick and dying. You still have people in dire need of blood, organs and major surgeries that can’t have them because our doctors and nurses are being utilized elsewhere. People who may have lived- who may have been able to have stolen an extra 6 months to a year with family, which is precious when you know you are going to die, or those who may have a fighting chance but that one procedure that could change their life is denied, are being sent home to die because of this pandemic. One in four cancer patients reported delays in their care because of the pandemic, including access to in-person appointments, imaging, surgery and other services according to a recent survey by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. But you have people out there who are protesting for their “liberties.” Some need to work. Others want to go out to get haircuts, go out to eat, get together with friends because they are bored. I understand the hardships of those families who need the income. I truly do. As a patient who has to balance multiple illnesses and a plethora of medications often with ugly side effects, you are continuously analyzing the cost/benefit of every medication, every procedure- pretty much everything that has an effect on your body and your health. One medication may reduce pain, but cause itching. Are you, the patient, able to live with that? Can your body handle antihistamines or steroids if necessary, on top of pain medications and any other medication they might be on? If it’s a yes, then go for it. [v]
You can’t choose to disbelieve the science regarding the coronavirus but choose to believe the diagnosis your doctor gives you when your sick with pneumonia or worse, cancer. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t choose to disbelieve when you get a weather alert about a possible tornado or hurricane. No one would be out there protesting the stay-at-home orders if there was an impending storm. There’s a reason we believe science. Perverting the information, whether it be math or science because it’s changing day-to-day is ridiculous. We’re in the infancy of a pandemic, of a new virus. There’s going to be some errors. Protesters can harp about “liberties,” they can harp about “Constitutional Rights,” but these don’t just apply to them. They apply to all of us and this virus doesn’t distinguish between good, bad, Republican, Democrat, White, Black, Asian, Mexican, poor or rich; so, we need to be vigilant and protect ourselves. This isn’t going to be forever. One day things will go back to normal. There will be a vaccine. But jumping the gun will ensure that we’re employing these precautions for much longer than we’re needing to and that people will continue to get sick and die. Is that worth anyone’s liberty? Could you roll a die with the name of six family members and whoever it lands on say it’s worth their lives? What I am saying is we all have liberties and freedoms and rights inherent the pursuit of our happiness here on this planet. Infringing on mine and possibly costing my life during a health crisis makes no sense. This is war; only the enemy is unseen.
[i] Bui, Q., Parlapiano, A. and Sanger-Katz, M., 2020. What 5 Coronavirus Models Say The Next Month Will Look Like. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/22/upshot/coronavirus-models.html?referringSource=articleShare> [Accessed 24 April 2020].
[ii] Sorace, S., 2020. Protesters Rally Against Washington’S Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order: ‘Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Covid 19’. [online] Fox News. Available at: <https://www.foxnews.com/us/washington-coronavirus-protest-inslee-stay-at-home> [Accessed 24 April 2020].
[iii] Madani, D., 2020. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick On Reopening Economy: ‘More Important Things Than Living’. [online] NBC News. Available at: <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-lt-gov-dan-patrick-reopening-economy-more-important-things-n1188911> [Accessed 24 April 2020].
[iv] Good Morning America, 2020. George Stephanopoulos Interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci. Available at: <https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/News/video/dr-anthony-fauci-reviews-latest-approach-reopening-us-70238315> [Accessed 24 April 2020].
[v] Grady, D., 2020. The Pandemic’S Hidden Victims: Sick Or Dying, But Not From The Virus. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/health/treatment-delays-coronavirus.html?referringSource=articleShare> [Accessed 24 April 2020].