How to reopen the economy with a reality-based approach

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Sweeping public health measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, such as banning large gatherings, travel restrictions, closing all but essential businesses, closing schools, and “social distancing” for the entire population, have “flattened the curve.” But they are also flattening the economy, destroying millions of jobs and thousands of businesses. If they are maintained for much longer, we will suffer a deep and prolonged recession. The damage will not merely be economic: Social isolation is associated with depression, anxiety, mental decline, and increased risk of premature mortality.

Imposing public health measures is not an all-or-nothing choice. There must be an ongoing evaluation of interventions that detect infections, limit viral transmission, and minimize the number of deaths. We must continue expanding viral testing and contact tracing to identify infected people who must be isolated. As COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths peak and decline, it is time to consider moving to less comprehensive mitigation measures that narrowly target the most vulnerable, with flexibility for different situations and geographic areas.

New data indicates that COVID-19 is far less lethal than feared and far more dangerous for certain groups than others. Early studies overestimated fatality ratios because the denominator (the number of infected people) was derived from testing only the sickest patients who were most likely to die, leaving those with mild or no symptoms uncounted. More recent data from CaliforniaNew York, and Europe suggests that most infections are asymptomatic and go undetected. A new study of random samples in New York State reports at least 13.9% of the population were infected, recovered, and now have antibodies. The figure was higher (21.2%) in the hot spot New York City. These figures are undoubtedly low since it takes two to three weeks to develop antibodies, and people infected in the past few weeks will not yet test positive.

Read the full article on the Washington Examiner.