Jeff C: “The Chart you linked to yesterday addresses deaths but not hospitalizations.  Hospitalizations aren’t down because people in their 30s have developed immunity; they’re down because of social distancing! If you increase the number of younger people in the hospital, the system once again gets overwhelmed.”

→ Actually not.  Scroll down to the chart (from this different source) that suggests just 3% of hospitalizations are of people under 50. Not overwhelming. The patients who need to be hospitalized, and for the longest, are almost entirely the ones you and I agree should take rigid precautions not to become infected: those in bad health and the elderly.

If healthy people under 50 largely resumed normal life — while being ultra-careful not to infect vulnerable loved ones — I don’t see how that would overwhelm the health care system.

Jeff C: “There is no conclusive evidence that COVID-19 antibodies confer any sustained immunity. If you get a cold you don’t develop immunity to the common cold. This is a cold.”

→ Good point. Unless/until immunity is proven, vulnerable people need to remain socially distanced and carefully protected even from those who test positive for the antibodies.

Jeff C: “If old people have to stay isolated, who is supposed to care for them and keep them company? A world of people like myself are caring for aging parents while isolating with them. Are we supposed to leave them behind?”

→ No!  These wonderful care givers, like you, should take every precaution not to become infected themselves.  Masks, hand-washing, social distancing.  Keep your aging parents safe by keeping yourself safe!

John S.:I’m not sure Sweden is doing as well as you think.”

→ I’m not sure Sweden is doing any worse than we are, either — they’ve had roughly the same number of deaths per capita as we have, but without taking their economy to the brink of a depression at a cost of trillions of dollars.

If we had heeded the urgent warnings that began headlining the Presidential Daily Brief in January, we wouldn’t have had to face choices like this. But we didn’t. We had a grossly incompetent, impeachably negligent* response from the top.

So now what do we do?

At one extreme would be permanent lockdown until everyone is vaccinated or there’s a cure.

At the other extreme, opening nursing homes to all visitors.

Both obviously wrong.

The question is: have we struck exactly the right balance with where we are now?  Or could we be doing this smarter?

Could we, for example, open schools and playgrounds and summer camps and beaches for most young healthy people, as suggested yesterday (sparing no expense to protect unhealthy and elderly people)?  And let young healthy people largely resume their lives while continuing to keep vulnerable people safely distanced from them?

Jeff Irving:  “Yesterday’s column makes the proper case for a more balanced age/health-based approach. Nothing like solid data to help point the direction.  I am a 77-year-old PhD with a fairly strong statistical background, who will continue to self-quarantine.”

Andy L., Pandemic Central (Brooklyn NY): “I am sure that you have received lots of ‘grief’ (to put it politely) but that does not make you wrong. To paraphrase Clemenceau, pandemics are too important to be left to the doctors. Experts in every field tend to be alarmist (Homeland Security for example) because they tend to see everything solely through the prism of their own expertise. And that’s a good thing but they should not be the only voice to set policy. That is not to say that they should not be listened to but it is to say that their advice has to be tempered. Of course, the person who should be doing the tempering is simply ignoring . . . which is not correct either.”

Reacting to my tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we card older people at the saloon door . . .

Don Bauer: “I’m well over 44 so I’d be stuck at home, but it would be nice to be carded again!  If we don’t get the economy started soon, I fear things could really fall apart.”

Susan: “Fascist pig! What’s next concentration camps for ‘those of a certain age?'”

→ I hear you, Susan.  I only suggested carding at-risk seniors (a) because I thought it was a little funny; and (b) to show that there are compromises possible, if agreement can’t be reached between those who believe seniors should be allowed to take crazy risks, if they are informed of the danger, and those who believe the government needs to exert, in effect, parental control.

If a senior chooses to go to a bar or restaurant — just as former President George H.W. Bush chose to jump out of an airplane at 90 — well, should we perhaps leave these decisions up to each individual?

Don’t Use Even My First Name: “I’ve been concerned about suggestions like ‘carding’ old people. Does this mean that certain age groups cannot continue to work let alone venture out to restaurants, theaters, opera etc.? Many people in many businesses including restaurants, hotels and airlines are working well past 55/ 65. If the economy tanks and impacts retirement investments, we may see more seniors looking for work to supplement social security and pension income. . . . I think individuals should be able to make choices for themselves at any age as long as they are mentally capable. If an ADULT who is a senior citizen wants to go out and accept responsibility for potential ‘risk,’ who is the State to interfere? Our generation who protested the Vietnam War and other issues may have to take to the streets again to protect our rights. This suggestion reflects a ‘brave new world!’ that should be rejected.  Why would we want to give the government the license to control senior citizen’s movements, dictate their activities or discriminate against them for any reason including age?”

And on my argument that it was dumb to give $1,200 to the 80% of us who have thus far not lost our jobs . . .

John S.: “One reason to give $1,200 to people who don’t need the money is that, as with Social Security, it helps everyone buy into the program.”

→ Actually, we didn’t give $1,200 to “everyone” as with Social Security – only to those with household income under $75,000/$150,000. As suggested yesterday, I don’t see how it would have hurt to ask them to self-affirm they had lost their livelihoods in order to cash their physical checks or keep the direct deposits (giving them three months to see how things shook out before having to do so).

Sande R.: “I had just been thinking of returning my $1200 check before I saw your column; planned to look into how to do that today.  Wish there had been a rider for the auto-deposit.  Being one of those old people, I am still mulling over your other suggestions.”

Patricia Carlin: “A few thoughts about people who are working and received a check (I am not one of those people — no check):  (1) Some people still working have dramatically different situations living as home. One young educator needed to buy a computer ( desktop/ printer, materials) because her iPad and phone were not conducive to teaching online. She had many debts and school resources now not available. Also several people had to install, increase the strength and speed of internet connection.  (2) In many places public transportation slowed or stopped. Mandated workers had to struggle to continue working.  Two people I know had to lease a car to get to work as no other option existed.  (3) Hospital staff in many situations bought whatever PPE they could as early supplies were not sufficient and sometimes non existent. Welder’s masks, clothing that stayed in the garage, cleaning supplies, etc.  (4) Child care — a challenge for mandated workers with school closings and fewer options. (5) People giving entire check to a friend or relative who is waiting for unemployment and cannot even get registered.”

→ Fair enough.  The language I suggested yesterday could perhaps be tweaked to accommodate possibilities like these.

Bernetta F.: “Are you drunk?”

*Does ignoring more than a dozen urgent national security warnings that resulted in tens of thousands of needless deaths and wrecked the economy at a cost of trillions of dollars not rise to the level of a “high misdemeanor?”  Just sayingthe tests are all perfect” — or “the call was perfect” — doesn’t make it so.



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