Should We Risk More Death To Save The Economy?

Trump is ready to put the country back to work, in spite of the continued recommendations from the experts for aggressive social distancing and even closures of most public operations.

He is fully embracing the new catch phrase that “the cure can’t be worse than the problem”.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that there is a line of thinking that all of the measures taken to contain the coronavirus and attempt to prevent the rapid spread are overblown and are doing more harm than good. We can’t allow the economy to suffer anymore, even though that means placing more people at risk of dying due to the virus.

Proponents of this argument are now back to comparing the threat of the coronavirus to that of the seasonal flu and automobile accidents. Comparisons that I thought we had all learned were full of errors in reason. I guess we’re back to the drawing board. sigh

“America is not built to be closed. American is built to be open”, claims Trump.

He says that we have learned enough about the virus and the people have learned enough about how to be careful and so we are ready to open things back up. We now have systems in place and things are ready for us to move on and open up.

He claims that we can rely on the American people to abide by all of the social distancing and hand washing recommendations in their normal daily routine and we’ll be just fine. Meaning, we can open things up and all of the people will be vigilant about their personal hand-washing and no hand-shaking, and maintaining the 6-foot distancing, etc.

Then, the next day we hear about people having coronavirus parties and becoming infected. And on top of that, Trump himself is suggesting that we want “packed churches” on Easter.

Sure, we’re ready to gamble hundreds of thousands of lives on the people’s sense of personal responsibility.


What’s more, every day we hear of the chaos around the country. States are competing with each other to obtain critical medical equipment. Testing is still not in place and available for all who should be tested. Talking about relaxing our efforts at this time is way premature.

So, is it appropriate to weigh the costs and benefits of extreme measures such as “shelter at home” orders? Is it appropriate to make determinations on what is an acceptable death rate of some risky thing for the overall benefit of that thing?

Of course it is. And we do that with just about everything.

As they argue, we don’t ban automobiles because people get killed in accidents. We don’t ban bathtubs because people slip in them and crack their heads open. We don’t ban ladders because people fall off of them. We don’t shut everything down because people die from the seasonal flu every year. All of that is very true.

We, as a society, have decided that the benefits of all of these things outweigh the risks, even though we know that people will die.

So, why is this any different?

Because, for example, we have long sense built in the healthcare needs of the seasonal flu. Our healthcare system can handle all of the flu victims each season, and therefore, those who become ill have the opportunity to receive the best possible care and chance for survival. Having vaccines certainly keeps the numbers down to a manageable level. Still, many don’t make it, unfortunately. Again, as a society, we have come to terms with the fact that many will die from the seasonal flu, but we do what we can do to mitigate it.

At some point, we will need to make the same calculation with this new coronavirus. But we’re not to that point yet, because we have NO IDEA what the costs are.

The actions we take can literally result in a couple thousand deaths or up to a couple million. I would hope to God that if we knew it would be a couple million, that there is no way that people would agree to follow Trump in this gamble. So, not having all of the information we need to conduct a rational cost/benefit analysis, it’s foolish to decide that the risk is worth it.

We need more time to get a handle on this…to really understand the ramifications.

Currently, we have no idea how bad the situation is, because we have still not tested enough people around the country. In an ideal world, we would test every person and have a complete understanding of where we stand. We’d be able to quarantine those afflicted and get the rest back to work. Short of that, we definitely need a solid statistical sampling around the country, and we just are not there yet. Maybe as all of these promised testing abilities come together, we can have that in another couple of weeks. Also, we need to have enough medical beds, staff, and equipment for all people who will need it, based on our full testing and projections.

Short of those two things (full testing and enough medical capacity), it is absurd to be talking the way Trump is.

Once and for all, get the testing under control such that we begin to get solid, straight answers, and get the states all of the equipment and resources they need in order to handle the coming wave of patients.

Then, and only then, should we figure out how we are going to move forward and start getting people back to work.

Lastly, Trump uses the supposed mortality rate as one of his reasons for now planning to change course and “re-open the country”. He claims that the mortality rate is a lot less than we thought it might be. He said that many were saying that the mortality rate could be as high as 3-4% and now, he says, it looks like it’s closer to 1%. In comparison, the seasonal flue is around .01%, so if this one is 1%, that would still be 10 times as deadly as the seasonal flu, for something we don’t yet have a vaccine or treatment for.

But here’s the thing…if it does indeed turn out to be a 1% mortality rate, that would be the rate for the scenario where we still have hospital beds, staff and equipment to care for those who need it. The problem is when the number of such patients vastly outnumber those resources. In that case, the mortality rate WILL increase to the 3-4% or probably even higher.

Currently, the U.S. has 55,041 confirmed cases and 790 deaths. That’s a mortality rate of 1.4% (14x the seasonal flu rate). Again, that’s now, while we still have the medical resources. In Italy, where they have greatly overrun their medical resources, they currently have 69,176 confirmed cases and 6,820 deaths…a staggering 9.9% mortality rate. If they had not exceeded their medical care capacity and were at the 1.4% mortality rate, the deaths would have been more in the 968 range, meaning 5,852 people have died so far, where they very well may not have if they had taken the threat more seriously and began the strict social distancing and mass quarantines to flatten the curve.

If we allow ourselves to get in the situation Italy is in our attempts to “open the country” and get our economy back on track, it will kill potentially hundreds of thousands of people, and if that happens, I don’t care how many people got back to work, the economy will not improve in any way that would justify those deaths.

Frankly, we are obviously not ready to talk about letting up on our “flatten the curve” efforts. Doing so now, prematurely, will detrimentally effect the progress we are currently making. More people will be back to not taking this seriously.

Trump should shut up about it.

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About Steve Wood 257 Articles
I am a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a Citizen of the United States. As my avatar depicts, I believe The People need to relearn and focus on the basic principles that our Republic was built upon. My contributions here will be geared toward that end. Please join me in rational, civil discourse.