The editorial of the Wall Street Journal on the health situation in the United States is realistic and concrete
Fears of a resurgence of the new coronavirus are dominating the news and frightening the financial markets. The flare-ups endure observation and preparation, but the original blockages would never have eradicated the virus unless it was unacceptable economic pain. The sad but inevitable truth is that Americans will have to learn to deal with the virus, which means trial and error and greater individual responsibility. Outbreaks cannot be denied, although some media seem to almost enjoy the increase in cases and hospitalizations in Arizona, Florida, Texas and other hot areas of the South and West. Hospitalizations in Texas doubled in two weeks and more than quadrupled in San Antonio and the lower Rio Grande Valley. Cases in Harris County hospitals around Houston doubled in a week.
Hospitalizations also doubled in Arizona in two weeks amid outbreaks in rural counties along the Mexican border. Miami-Dade County in Florida has experienced a 50% increase in hospital admissions in the past two weeks, and hospitalizations have increased by a quarter in California in the past week.
Once states started easing their blockages, their spread was inevitable, and will continue until a vaccine exists. But they must also be contextualized.
New York City had about 12 times more patients than Covid-19 per capita in intensive care units in April, at the height of the hospital wave, compared to California today, six times more than Miami-Dade, five times more than the Arizona and four times more than Harris County.
New York City and other areas of the Northeast were hit by more serious epidemics in the spring, which were slow to recede even with a severe lockdown, as the virus spread through nursing homes and public housing.
Two months after isolation, New York City still had far more Covid ICU patients than most new outbreaks today. Elderly patients usually require more care and spend more time in the hospital, and the good news is that hospitalized cases are now younger and less severe on average.
Most hotspots currently have a large healthcare capacity, although some hospitals are in difficulty. Miami-Dade County has approximately 1,000 ICU beds available for one wave, more than five times the number of Covid ICU patients. Harris County has approximately 455 beds available in intensive care, approximately as many as those currently occupied by Covid patients.
Public health officials worry about an exponential increase in cases: this is their job. But political leaders must consider public and economic health in general, and isolation does not seem justified by the evidence.
Florida and Texas started to reopen over a month before hospitalizations started to rise. Arizona health officials have linked outbreaks to specific events or locations such as large Hispanic vacation rallies and Indian reservations. Cases related to Indian reservations and rural counties along the Mexican border are four to five times higher per capita than in Tucson and Phoenix. These can be monitored and contained.
Some groups have been linked to bars and churches, and political leaders should do more to ask for social distance and the use of masks. But states like Wisconsin and Iowa, open for several weeks, have experienced only a slight or no increase in hospitalizations. Shutting down again will not stop family reunions in homes, or essential workers returning home to spread the virus to families.
In any case, the health, social and economic costs of a new closure of the economy are too high. Twenty-one million Americans are unemployed. Countless businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed. Rhode Island reported this week that drug overdose deaths increased 22% in the first three months of this year.
A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the number of adults who reported symptoms of severe psychological distress rose to 13.6% from 3.9% in the same period of 2018, with higher levels among young people. (24%), low incomes (19.3%) and Hispanics (18.3%).
Political leaders will need a realistic strategy to deal with Covid and minimize its damage for as long as necessary. The mistake is to think that in a country of 330 million people, a single top-down plan, that of Washington, will crush the virus.
States, feds and private companies will need more tests, and states and Washington may have to increase hospital capacity.
Governors, mayors, entrepreneurs and religious leaders and even President Trump can talk realistically about the risks and measures that continue to exist to reduce the spread. Large gatherings will have to be limited and young people will have to protect their elderly. It will be a long way, but America has faced worse.
(Taken from the foreign press review of Epr communication)
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