Where are we at with the battle against COVID-19? Much of the evidence suggests that we are beginning to turn the corner against this virus.
So, today I would like to reveal what the evidence is showing, and how we might proceed into the future.
Be careful with what you read and hear in the news media these days, especially about the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.
For instance, last week Christina Larson and Michelle Smith, journalists with the Associated Press, quoted scientists as saying that a single infected person could potentially spread the coronavirus to 4,142 others within a single month. However, this figure was calculated using data from China and the Diamond Princess Cruise ship!
Consequently, these kinds of statistics are highly questionable because they do not adequately compare to life in the USA, especially life in western Nebraska. Instead, I agree with the Stanford epidemiologist, John P.A. Ioannidis, when he said last week about this kind of shoddy research that, “The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable.”
So, what does the evidence actually suggest?
One measurable statistic that we can actually use is the number of deaths related to the coronavirus. Two weeks ago, there were 100 deaths in the USA due to the COVID-19 virus. Using simple math and actual death statistics, the death rate at that time was calculated to be 19 deaths per every 1,000 cases. However, last week the death rate fell to 13.7 deaths per every 1,000 cases. In other words, the death rate did not increase; it dropped by 33%.
In short, self-isolation is working and the number of positive test cases have begun to plateau. In the state of Washington, for example, the number of new positive test cases has already plateaued, and this occurred in a matter of weeks, not months.
Together with isolation and the introduction of two new drugs to treat the coronavirus, we should expect to see other states begin to plateau and then decline within the next few weeks.
The public panic has been more than it really needs to be. For instance, according to the CDC, so far this season there have been 38 million cases of influenza and 23,000 deaths nationally from the flu.
Conversely, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center as of 5 p.m. on March 20, there have been 17,303 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 213 deaths nationally. Moreover, no deaths have ever occurred in Nebraska. So I have to ask, which is more fatal: The regular strains of influenza or the COVID-19 virus?
By the end of 2020 we will likely look back and see that far more Americans have died from the regular strains of the flu than those who have died from the coronavirus, yet no one is talking about how widespread is the flu or how many deaths it is causing.
My intention is not to belittle the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. Instead, I simply want to point out that there is no reason to panic.
The coronavirus remains a serious disease that deserves our full attention. The way to get rid of it is for each of us to continue doing what we have been doing, namely, washing our hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and practicing social distancing.
If you get flu-like symptoms, self-isolate yourself and call the University of Nebraska Medical Center at (800) 922-0000.
In the meantime, keep calm, pray and ask God to help us remove the coronavirus from America and the rest of the world.
Steve Erdman represents Dist. 47 — west of Lincoln County — in the state legislature. His district includes the towns of Ogallala and Sidney.