Starting with the few statistics we have, what we know is that the virus is primarily deadly for older people. While age statistics are not available for the US and Europe (one wonders why?) anecdotal evidence is clear that the majority of deaths are of old people.
Equally, it is clear that men are more at risk of dying than women. In Italy over 70% of deaths are in men.
So we have a disease (doctors would use a different term) which, at least in catastrophic terms, primarily affects old people, in particular men.
While no one yet knows why younger people can get, but survive, the virus, it seems likely that they possess less hospitable receptors for the virus to latch on to. In most previous epidemics people like these develop antibodies that make them immune to subsequent virus waves.
Now to our public policy.
Economically, it is grossly biased against young people and those at the lower end of the income scale. We have shut down most service industries. Here in Northwest Florida literally thousands of service workers – waiters/waitresses, bartenders, beach services people, maids, hotel workers, condo service and restaurant employees have lost their jobs.
These people rarely have savings to survive a long layoff. Small business owners are particularly at risk – they don’t have the cash flow to survive this.
Closing schools is a double whammy for young people. Even if you were lucky enough to keep your job, who takes care of the kids?
Our policy is killing the livelihood of our main productive population to support old people, particularly old men (of which I am one). Most old people do not work. They rely on pensions, social security, savings and investments.
If they are unlucky they rely on their younger kids – who won’t have much to give. Yes, some old people (myself included) have seen significant hits to their savings. But we’re old. If you haven’t made a mark on life by the time you’re 65, you’re not going to do it now. Sure, I’d like to see my grandkids for more years, but, more important, I’d like to see their parents able to bring them up as well as I was brought up.
Our policy also ignores those who, not infected, can’t cope mentally, socially, or financially with its results. How many suicides, overdoses, over-consumption of alcohol with longer-term effects are we causing?
Finally our policies are economically catastrophic.
We should resume life as normal. Old people should recognize that they are the prime target, and, if they’re smart they will avoid exposure, using friends, families, public services to obtain food/services until the virus peaks.
Young people should accept that some will have flu symptoms and, a (very) few may die.
A disagreement! My wife, a long-time nurse, disagrees with me on this (and many other things). Her primary points are that hospital staff are the ones that face all the risks and that, in some cases, they lack basic supplies (masks, protective clothing, etc).
This is shameful, and our policy should be to provide them ASAP regardless of cost.
Second, that we do not have enough beds/equipment (particularly ventilators to deal with the inevitable lung problems). Her concern is that young people with symptoms may use beds/equipment better used for older patients. While the arbitrage decision is ultimately a doctor’s, this is again shameful. In the US the biggest manufacture of ventilators is US-based, and if they can’t ramp up production the President should use war-time powers to permit other companies to produce under a free license until the manufacturer can meet demand.
Beds can be made available. Cancel all elective procedures if there is a capacity problem.
We have numerous for-profit health care/retirement facilities with available beds. Again under war powers acts commandeer/ segregate the beds necessary.
As with most big problems there are no easy answers, but current European/US policies are doing little to solve the problem and are guaranteed to destroy the economy and cripple the workers least capable of dealing with it.
The author is a resident of Fort Walton Beach.