Unfortunately, information surrounding the coronavirus is getting more confusing, not less. There is still so much misinformation, uncertainty, and people speaking as if they know so much, but don’t.
While the unknowns can be unnerving and scary, what we do know should put most people at ease. If you could respond to that statement, you might be inclined to ask… what about the spike in new cases? Well, at first glance, that would seem scary. After all, we saw the numbers spike earlier in the spring, then the numbers declined, and now we are seeing the numbers jump up again. So why would I be okay with the numbers increasing again?
I don’t think most people understood, or understand, some very important facts. First, when we sheltered in place, it was not to stop the virus. It was to “flatten the curve.” I know I’ve written about this before, but it needs to be revisited before moving forward.
A virus like this will run its course, with most people being exposed and infected by it. Knowing this, we knew that if too many people got infected too quickly, then our hospital system would become overrun, leading to increase numbers of deaths, due to the shortage of medical attention available. To avoid that, we were told to shelter in place, social distance, wear masks, etc. It appeared to work. The numbers of positive cases declined.
Now that the economy is opening back up, with people getting out more and being around more people, the numbers of positive cases is spiking. The fact that this is a surprise is shocking to me. We knew the numbers were going to jump… because they had to. Why? Because until this virus runs its course, and enough people become immune to the virus, new cases will continue to pop up. When enough people have been exposed, thus becoming immune to it, we will have what is called herd immunity. On Mayo Clinic’s website, under “Why is herd immunity important?,” they state that “Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.”
Our goal is not to STOP the virus (it can’t be stopped), it is to keep our most vulnerable citizens protected and slow things down enough to keep our hospitals from being overrun. A key to remaining optimistic is to pay attention to the words new cases versus new deaths. If you listen, most hype and emphasis is on numbers of new cases. The new cases number does not alarm me, as long as the hospitals don’t get swamped. And if the oldest and most vulnerable group of Americans remain well protected and take the most precautions, then the new cases will be in younger, healthier individuals, which are the least likely to have complications requiring hospital care.
If we were to shut down the economy again (which I believe would be catastrophic), and do things like preventing school kids from returning to school as they normally would (another bad idea), we would merely prolong the time this virus plagues us. With the risk of death, or even complications, being rare in most of the population, allowing the virus to run its course, while doing our best to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, could be the fastest way to get through this pandemic.
Experts are saying increased deaths might show up 2-3 weeks after a spike. We’ll have to watch and see, but I would bet we will not see a large spike in deaths. So as more testing is done, and we have more confirmed cases, it’s the death rate that I will be watching closest.