The last few days have made me aware of a Covid-19 data point due more attention. In the past, I thought some at-risk would prefer to be with loved ones in a hazardous circumstance rather than separate from their loved ones. Aware they have a finite time left, they may choose not to spend it in isolation. So long as they didn’t endanger others, I felt this was their decision to make. Our job was to offer ways to protect the endangered to the best of our ability. My assumption was only a small number of people would turn down help to segregate from those able to infect them. Two things caused me to reassess. The Wall Street Journal reported widespread European elderly resistance to be locked down. Across the continent, seniors were demanding the right to determine not to be quarantined. They claimed the right to chose how and with whom they lived out the rest of their lives. Elder organizations cried ageism. To be sure, overall European rules tend to be more stringent than ours. Still, the numbers and senior organizations involved are illuminating.
Checking in with friends and family in the days after Mother’s Day, I was stunned to learn how many inter-generational gatherings took place. When asked why these well-seasoned citizens took such a risk, the answer was they didn’t want to miss a holiday time with their families. They were going to decide how they spent their limited time. . They surely have earned the right to make this choice. When Grammie makes clear what she desires, the family feels guilt for possibly infecting her and feeling guilty if she spends her last days alone. Obviously, in these situations, Grammie rules.
I can understand where older people are making a risky choice are. As you get closer to the end, the time has a much higher value. Looking forward to the things you love is increasingly precious. I hope to have at least a few more robust years. I’m in my early eighties with good health and no underlying conditions.
On the other hand, my wife though younger, recovered from lung cancer in the last two years. This past weekend, we were supposed to be in Dublin, Ireland embarking on a cruise to Iceland. After returning to Dublin, we planned to meet our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter for further time in Ireland. We canceled a summer family gathering with our kids and grand-kids on the California Coast. We have to wonder, will we ever get to do these things in the future? Zoom is lovely, but it doesn’t replace hugging your grand-kids. Time is indeed different for the elderly.
In his Bloomberg column, Tyler Cowen, the Economics professor from George Mason University, makes the case “Forced Quarantines aren’t the American Way.” We should not forcibly quarantine the uninfected elderly. We have to find ways to find a workable compromise.
The question then becomes, how many people are acting out in this manner? If it is a significant number, then we must factor this Data into our decisions. My suggested survey sent from the at-risk patient’s Physician would give us an idea of the numbers. We need to ask the question. Because 4 out of five Covid-19 deaths are over 65, imposing extreme lockdowns to prevent the extinction of those rejecting your help makes little sense. Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College of London Modeller, observed in the UK 1/2 to 2/3 of those who died from COVID-19 would probably have passed away within a year anyway.
We must consider how seniors feel and act about their limited time left during a pandemic that mostly affects them. We don’t close down all high places because some choose to climb mountains or Jump out of airplanes. Remember George W. Bush skydiving at 90.
.It would be instructive to those claiming to follow the Data to justify the extreme lockdown and the resulting depression to collect and use data instead of ignoring it. If our leaders claim to make decisions based on saving lives, we should get the input from those most involved.
If we find say a quarter of the elderly refuses to segregate, it will be hard to keep death rates low. Remember, it’s aged that are the ones dying. What accommodations are needed to get them to comply? Could highly protected visits or better access to zoom change behavior? How does this change our thinking? Is the extreme lockdown an effective response? I have always said protecting the at-risk isn’t easy and requires effort, resources, and imagination. Even those in Sweden and the UK favoring a less drastic response overlooked their elder facilities. This failure led to unnecessary death. I have been saying protect the at-risk and let everyone else go about their business. However, this plan won’t work if you don’t defend the vulnerable. It’s definitely worth the endeavor by being far less disruptive and costly.
Useful Data is especially crucial at this time. Some are saying; we must continue the extreme lockdown in place because we face a more significant second wave coronavirus attack in the fall. Testifying before the house, Dr.Rick Bright is a former director for developing countermeasures to infectious diseases. Putting this way, “without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.” But what does the data say? Will the disease kill a whole new category of people? As far as we know, the numbers still tell us what it has from the beginning. Older people and those with underlying conditions are the ones at mortal risk. How did the extreme lockdown work for them? Not too well
Instead of directing resources to the most vulnerable, those in charge directed they go elsewhere. Care for the Aged still lacks essential resources and priority. Just recently, the governor of Arizona ordered a surge in help for elder care areas. In the first wave, the states most overwhelmed, New York and New Jersey can link the significant source of deaths with care for the aged. 30-40% in New your and over 50% in New Jersey were related to Eldercare. Overall, 30+% of all US deaths are associated with nursing homes. The Data highlights a horrifying misdirection of resources and effort. Both states now say they are looking into the problems. Well, over one in three coronavirus deaths in the US were in those two states. They were older people. (see the NYC chart in my “Was This Trip Necessary?” post) It tells us how they valued the elderly. A comparison with Florida highlights the failures. Florida is taking robust measures to protect the aged. It’s outcomes are far better. Wouldn’t it be better to follow the data? Marshal our forces to protect those needing and wanting our aid before possible second wave? Of course, that was true in the first wave.