Was this Trip Necessary?

Sooner or later, the question has to be asked, did we need to shut down most of the country? Did 30 million and counting Americans have to lose their jobs? The supporters of the lockdown uniformly answer, of course, it saved lives. The chorus they sing is you can’t let people die to rescue the economy. Morally we have to put lives over money. But was that the choice? What if we trashed the economy and it turns out that net-net our actions caused more deaths than it saved? What then? I think we are going to find out sooner than later. You might not like the truth.

The first thing is the lockdown was never primarily about saving lives. It was just about flattening of the Covid-19 hospital admittance curve. Spreading out the infections would prevent hospitals and our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. The idea was if they have the resources to treat those admitted, the medical community might save them. Doctors in hospitals save lives. How many TV shows make this point? The only problem is Covid-19 was different from the start. Rather than killing both young and old, coronavirus kills primarily the elderly and those with underlying conditions. We have known this since the first data came out of China and the Far East. Statistics out of Italy confirmed this. New York shows the same thing. Three charts illustrate this crucial point:

Like a laser, the data pointed out where we had to concentrate our efforts. Additional protection had to be provided for the elderly and compromised. Where are the highest concentrations of the aged? Nursing homes, rehab centers, assisted living, and retirement communities were easy to find. Surely testing, gear, and support had to be rushed to the front lines. This course of action isn’t brain surgery. In any epidemic, these would be at the top of any list of the vulnerable. Plans for this should haw been in place. Others with underlying conditions putting them at high risk needed notification and help. Doctors know who these people are. They write their prescriptions. These groups would be the likely ones to end up in ICU’s in any pandemic. In this case, better than 4 out of five in the ICUs were above 65. If you wanted to keep our medical community from being overwhelmed, you do your best to make sure the elderly don’t get infected in the first place. This chart brings all this home:

How did we and a good part of the world get detoured from a targeted approach? Scenes of Italy’s state-run medical system crushed by sick unattended patients horrified people. Taken by surprise Italy never got ahead of the epidemic. They never had a chance for a targeted approach. At the same time, Neil Ferguson and the Imperial College in the UK announced their model’s findings. If we didn’t take drastic action, Covid-19 would kill 2.2 million in the US and a half million in the UK. If it bleeds, it leads has always ruled the media. Unattended dying patients and the prediction of millions more inspired a media-fueled public panic. Politicians mostly folded. Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially supported a targeted approach in the UK, but promptly did an abrupt about-face. President Trump in the US caved and recommended a full lockdown. Schools and businesses shut down. “Shelter in Place” wasn’t just for those at real risk but for everyone not deemed essential. With millions out of work, governments turned on the printing presses and spent Trillions they didn’t have.

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