Forget the Swedish or the German model for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States should develop its own alternative model to control the outbreak, one based on science and the particular demographic data that have emerged about this disease.
An alternative approach is urgently needed because, a) a general lockdown of the entire country and its economy cannot be sustained for long, and b) the more obstreperous elements of our population, and the billionaire elites who may be pulling their strings, are already forcing states into lifting restrictions on everyone. We are heading into what will likely be a disastrously premature reopening of the economy
America is trapped in a binary choice between letting COVID-19 run its natural course or locking down society to minimize the infections and deaths until a vaccine is available. The ultimate civilized goal in a pandemic is to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations, or by any other scientific means that results in the least possible loss of life. In the absence of any civil interventions, a novel virus simply runs rampant through the population at exponential speed, making almost everyone sick and killing millions if it is a lethal strain. In the absence of vaccinations, people who recover from the novel virus are likely to develop antibodies that will prevent reinfection for some period of time, although there are exceptions. When enough people in a population have immunity following their illness or through inoculations, the whole population develops herd immunity. This means that even those people who are susceptible to illness when exposed to the virus are rarely ever exposed to it. They are safely buffered by the many people around them who are immune.
There are two demographic characteristics of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates that appear significant and potentially useful in creating an alternative approach to controlling the pandemic. The first is the very differential mortality rates according to age, and the second is emerging evidence that up to 50% of individuals who contract the virus never display any symptoms of the illness. Look at the mortality differentials first.
CDC data (see table below) shows that 97% of COVID-19 deaths are of people 45-years-old or older. This agrees with data collected in Sweden, China, and other countries. Also, death rates are much higher in people with underlying health conditions. From these data we know that there is a high-risk group that requires optimal protection from exposure to COVID-19. It follows that any adults caring for people in this high-risk group also need to be optimally protected from exposure to the virus. High-risk individuals by age or underlying medical conditions and their caregivers should be allowed to remain in social lockdown in those states that are starting to life restrictions.
When the data in this CDC age/mortality rate table are pictured in a bar graph, the trendline reveals an exponentially rising mortality rate with age. It turns out that 97% of all COVID-19 deaths are of people over the age of forty-five.
A confirming set of data that looks at age and hospitalization rates produces a similar pattern (see below). This graph was produced by the CDC. And it does make sense that those who are more deathly ill would be more likely to require hospitalization. Taken together it makes sense that limiting exposure to this age-related high-risk group should lower both mortality rates and hospitalization rates, thus helping to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed.
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