For the last two days, the U.S. has experienced 60,000 new coronavirus cases per day, and worldwide daily new cases have been above the 200,000-per-day mark for five out of the last eight days. As we have noted before, there are many reasons that the number of new cases can increase quickly (access to increased testing for example) so it is important to look at additional data. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, we now have significant and reliable information related to hospitalizations and deaths – good intermediate (hospitalizations) and lagging (deaths) indicators of the true trends. While we have experienced continued record highs in new cases for several weeks now, the number of new deaths and hospitalizations had continued a slow, but steady, decline. Unfortunately, over the last ten days we have seen these indicators level off and now begin a slow, but steady, increase.
So, what are we to make of this? As we know, there are some in our society who believe the pandemic is a fabrication of a global illuminati bent on ruining the economy to assist their efforts in taking control of the world. On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe the coronavirus is the worst disease in history and we must lock down society even more than we did in the spring to survive it. The truth, as it always does, lies in the center of tension between these two extremes. COVID-19 is indeed a real disease with dire consequences for some of those who contract it. Likewise, the shutdowns earlier this year had a devastating impact on the economy and the fallout from those actions will last for years.
While the disease appears to be rapidly spreading, it is important to remember that the majority of this spread is in the younger generations, who do not appear to bear the brunt of hospitalizations and deaths. Worldwide, only 4% of COVID-related deaths are for those under the age of 44, while 75% are for those over the age of 65. In Indiana, the difference is equally stark where those over age 60 account for only 25% of cases, but 92% of deaths. In addition, data appears to show us that half of individuals with the disease never show symptoms and for the many of the rest, the symptoms are relatively mild.
Taking all of this into account, the current approach of our state government makes sense – continue to ease restrictions while practicing common-sense approaches to limit transmission of the disease (physical distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, etc.) while at the same time protecting the most vulnerable among us – the elderly and infirm. If we do not practice these safety measures, and if the increase in disease prevalence among the young inadvertently exposes more at-risk individuals to the disease, continued re-opening of society is put in jeopardy.
At the end of the day, it still comes down to making common-sense decisions for ourselves and our families that balances the benefits that come from our choices with the risks that accompany them as well.
All the Best