Coronavirus: Are We Overreacting?

Jack Taggart

The Charter Opinions

5/5/20  

With the month of May beginning, and little prospect of life returning to normal any time soon, I’m starting to wonder if this- staying home and waiting for the chance to return to the outside world, is really worth it. The motives behind the stay-at-home rules are clear: people staying at home and away from each other makes it more difficult for COVID-19 to spread, thus easing the burden on public healthcare systems and our national resources. This plan is not without merit. Experienced doctors and politicians alike worked closely together to formulate it. However, it seems to have considerable drawbacks. 

Among my main concerns is the consideration of the survival rate of people who contract the virus, seeing as the published chances of death from the virus could be inaccurate. The guesses range from a 2 to 4 percent chance of death but may not be entirely realistic. Recall that of those who contract the virus, many are not counted, since a large portion of those infected do not show severe symptoms, or are asymptomatic. Some data suggests that these types of cases might be the most common. So, in reality, the percentage of deaths is much smaller than 2 to 4 percent. 

Even with that realization, there is still the consideration of the ethics behind having people stay home, the common line of thought being that if one life is saved, the effort was worth it. Although these reasons are well founded, saving lives cannot be our only focus. We stay home to protect the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions. However, it makes little sense that the young, healthy people capable of working and keeping the economy above the water be asked to sit back and watch it sink. 

This can be compared to what we are sacrificing now. Although shelter-in-place rules could be prolonged into the summer will save some lives, doing so will have some serious consequences. The nosedive of the economy. Job loss. More national debt for the bailout of small (and some big) businesses. Travel restrictions. If the only focus is saving lives, we may as well hide in metal boxes with fire-proof suits and bike helmets. 

Am I suggesting that everything return to pre-COVID routine? No, but it seems necessary that some compromises be made. Wouldn’t it help if people age 30 and younger were allowed to return to work? In many ways, yes. 

It’s also important not to forget the adverse health conditions that could result aside from the virus. For example, approximately 47,589 Americans died from suicide in 2019, and people losing their job from an economy crash, or being stuck at home with little social interaction and support will likely increase that number this year. 

Another issue that could go out of the frying pan and into the fire is the opioid crisis. Unemployment and poverty are two things that have risen since the stock market crash in March. Both are closely related to opioid use, which kills an average of 130 people each day, according to the CDC, making it another situation that won’t get any better from stay-at-home orders.

So, here’s what we can infer: COVID-19 does not kill 2 to 4 percent of the people it infects. There are ways to reopen, so to speak, without endangering elderly people, or those with preexisting health conditions. The consequences of the closure of businesses and job loss will result in increased rate of suicide, opioid use, and opioid related deaths. 

Given the adverse effects that will come from quarantine orders, it seems the cure might be  worse than the disease.

Sources: 

“America’s Drug Overdose Epidemic: Data to Action.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. www.cdc.gov/injury/features/prescription-drug-overdose/index.html Accessed 1 May 2020.

“Coronavirus death rate: What are the chances of dying?” BBC News, March 24 2020. www.bbc.com/news/health-51674743 Accessed 1 May 2020.

“COVID-19: What proportion are asymptomatic?” The Center for Evidence-Based Medicine, April 6 2020. www.cebm.net/covid-19/covid-19-what-proportion-are-asymptomatic/ Accessed 1 May 2020.

“Likelihood of survival of coronavirus disease 2019.” The Lancet, Infectious Diseases, 2020. www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30257-7/fulltext#figures Accessed 1 May 2020.

“SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 in older adults: what we may expect regarding pathogenesis, immune responses, and outcomes.” GeroScience, May 1 2020. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145538/ Accessed 1 May 2020.

“Suicide Mortality and Coronavirus Disease 2019-A Perfect Storm?” JAMA Network, April 10 2020. jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2764584 Accessed 1 May 2020.

“Suicide in United States. Annual Report.”Americans Health rankings, 2020. www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Suicide/state/ALL Accessed 2 May 2020.

“When Epidemics Collide: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the Opioid Crisis.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2020. annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2764312 Accessed 1 May 2020.

Featured photo:

abcnews.go.com/Health/coronavirus-updates-us-death-toll-tops-40000-stay/story?id=70237290

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