By Mark Ellis –
President Donald Trump has called for Americans to return to work by Easter, an ambitious goal already being criticized by many.
But there is a way forward that balances public health with real fears about the pandemic’s impact on the economy. The young, healthy, and fit in our society are the ones who must save us in the present hour from the coronavirus as well as economic Armageddon.
The silver lining in the statistical data is that most young people infected by the coronavirus will either be asymptomatic, have mild symptoms, or even a severe flu — but rarely succumb to the virus.
A study by Oxford’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine examined fatality rates in China among 72,314 Covid-19 cases. Those ages 20 to 49 years old had a case fatality rate of .32 %, a relatively small percentage compared to older age groups.
From age 50 to 59, the rate rises to 1.3%, with the percentage rising significantly over age 70.
In Italy, the average age of death among Covid-19 patients is 79.5, according to their National Institute of Health. Several factors may contribute to Italy’s high fatality rate at a whopping nine percent. They have the second oldest population in the world and the highest percentage of people that are antibiotic resistant. Furthermore, 24% of their population are smokers, contributing to their susceptibility to pneumonia.
As has been widely reported, patients with comorbid, underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease skew the numbers upward, and probably represent the small percentage among the young who succumb to the disease. Obesity may also be a risk factor, some infectious disease experts believe.
But shutting down an entire economy to protect those over age 50 from death makes no sense. We can ask those who are seniors – along with those who have underlying health conditions –to stay home and self-quarantine. Younger family members, friends, and business associates should stay away from them at all costs.
But the stay-at-home orders and business shut-downs that last for more than a few weeks risks an economic calamity that will make the 2008-2009 recession seem trifling by comparison.
Some are projecting an annual rate of loss to GDP of 20 to 30 percent. Even in the Great Depression, people continued to go to bars, restaurants and theaters, attend sporting events and use planes. Will the government spend several trillion dollars every month to bail out every business, large and small, and every family, when seniors are primarily the ones at great risk?
Just as young people among the Greatest Generation were asked to save us from an evil menace during World War II, they must practice social distancing from their aging parents and grandparents — and go back to work to rescue the economy from the abyss.
Schools, sporting events, church gatherings, restaurants, theaters, businesses and social gatherings must resume – hopefully by Easter — but absent those over 50, along with those who have underlying health conditions.
Sadly, this cleaving of the aged from our lives will have to continue until health professionals tell us it is safe for them to rejoin those younger and healthier.
The specter of millions of bankruptcies and tens of millions unemployed will bring the U.S. economy to its knees, without the revenue to provide the necessary health services or military readiness or countless other government services that make a great society.
However well-intentioned the shut-downs and quarantines for all may have been, the human cost is too great to let continue. As the economy unravels, the potential for criminality, rioting and insurrection will increase, along with depression and suicide.
Younger and healthier Americans must return to work soon, but stay away from grannie.