The COVID-19 news abounds with lengthy committee reports and media perspectives. And, of course, politics.

Much of the information is misleading and would benefit from further detail. The appropriate comparators for incidence, hospital admission and mortality data need to be presented on a per capita basis, not as absolute numbers. There are 60 million people in Italy, over 330 million in the U.S. The U.S. mortality rate is actually much better than most of Europe, with only Germany having a better rate.

Factors such as population density likely play a role. In New York City, there is ample opportunity by high-density exposure to increase the viral load and for people to have face-to-face encounters (subways, close living quarters). Therefore, data should be given as cases-per-square mile. Rural areas, where distancing is natural, have much different numbers.

And what really counts is the number of hospitalizations and deaths attributable to documented COVID-19. The tendency of some health-care officials to capture all conceivable COVID-19 admissions and deaths, because then they might receive higher institutional compensation via Medicare, needs to be remembered.

Return to work should focus first on low-population-density areas and the creation of low-density areas at bars, restaurants and other service industries, so as many people can resume work as possible. We should continue strict rules in high-risk areas, such as Northern Virginia, but let others (most of the rest of Virginia) gradually open up with the institution of distancing rules, such as restaurants with tables six feet apart.

Government workers, politicians and many, many others still get a paycheck every month. We forget the vast number of people who live day-to-day, dependent on services and small businesses. Let’s apply a bit of balance.

Testing is critical to eventually find out the true incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 and any presence of herd immunity; and, for the future, vaccination programs are needed. But for, now let’s get back to living.

Kline Bolton

Albemarle County

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