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The second wave

July 03, 2020

Some experts say the recent surge in COVID-19 cases may represent a second wave of infection sweeping through the country, while others think it is still the first wave, and still others think we’re somewhere in between, kind of like a wave-and-a-half.

Wherever we are on that spectrum, there’s no doubting we’re experiencing a second wave of something else related to the virus — a second wave of hysteria.

The first wave resulted in massive lockdowns, stripping people of their civil liberties, robbing citizens of their right to travel and worship and work, and delivering a gut punch to the American economy. 

The massive lockdowns, of course, were intended to “flatten the curve” to prevent our hospital infrastructure from being overwhelmed. That onslaught never happened. Except in New York and maybe one or two other cities, nobody’s hospitals were even close to maximum capacity, even before the lockdowns.

The death toll, too, was exaggerated. It’s hard to say precisely what the death toll really is because we don’t know how many people died who were going to die anyway from other conditions but ended up being counted as COVID-19 deaths because they had tested positive.

We do acknowledge the virus did turn out to be quite serious for a few population groups, especially those over 70 and with underlying conditions, and those in long-term care facilities.

For everyone else, especially ages 50 and under, the virus turned out to be no more deadly than the flu, with almost every other person who gets it never even having a symptom.

Still, hysteria ruled the day. Instead of calmly focusing on protecting those most vulnerable to the disease, we locked everybody down and did immeasurable harm not only to the economy but to the mental health of so many.

Now we have hysteria, the second wave. This time the clamor is not for lockdowns so much as for face masks, though the latter is merely another form of lockdown, only the violation is more personal and intimate. Across the nation, in community after community, mandatory face mask ordinances are being passed.

It’s a curious thing. The CDC recommends face masks but its own published science isn’t convincing that the masks do anything more than make people feel safe, rather than actually making them safe. Just protecting people in nursing homes would do more to lower the COVID-19 death totals than a million masks in Walmart.

The public face of hysteria hasn’t changed, though. There was Dr. Anthony Fauci the other day, warning that, unless we heathens change our ways, unless we good citizens wear our face masks and shoo family members from our doorsteps, there could be 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day.

This is meant to scare us, but, really, we shouldn’t be frightened. Yes, there are more cases because there is more testing, which finds more cases, especially among those who are or were asymptomatic, and, yes, younger people — now realizing the virus is pretty much a nonissue for them — are going about their lives more normally, as they should be.

Notice the change in Fauci’s narrative. Now it’s not about how many people are going to die — that was the narrative in the early months — but now how many cases there are. Fauci and the media abandoned the death narrative when death rates started falling.

Now they scream the sky is falling because of all those cases out there. But who cares about the case count if those people aren’t seriously ill. In fact, might it not help us toward herd immunity?

With that in mind, it might do us all good to take off our masks, breathe deeply, and consider the good news that the media should be reporting. 

On April 17, for example, at the height of the pandemic, 2,267 people officially died from COVID-19. But, on June 26, long after the lockdowns ended and after case counts began to rise sharply, 626 people succumbed. That’s a decline of 72%, and it followed a declining trend line of daily death totals throughout the months of May and June.

Those declining death totals are good news, but you’d never know it watching the national media.

Notice what’s going on? A lot more cases, a lot fewer deaths. But of course, according to public health authorities, it’s not about the deaths, it’s about the number of cases. They are very, very concerned.

So let’s talk about hospitalizations. Hospitalizations have increased in some locations but once again the overall trend is either stable or declining, despite headlines suggesting otherwise. As we report today, hospitalization rates are not keeping pace with the number of diagnosed cases, and Wisconsin tells the tale.

In our state, total cases have surged past 28,000 but, as we report, hospitalizations remain near a low since the pandemic began. On June 29, there were only 236 people hospitalized with the disease, the lowest number since April 2 and a continuation of an overall downward trend in hospitalizations that began in late May.

Again, that’s good news.

Then there’s this calming fact. Unless you are over 65 (80% of all deaths) or in a long-term care facility (45% of all deaths), you pretty much aren’t going to die from the virus. Yes, some younger people will and have tragically passed away, especially those with underlying conditions, but if we look at the numbers, and excepting those populations just mentioned, this virus isn’t much of a threat to the general population.

Let’s review the statistics that back up that assertion: a 1-in-10,000 risk of dying if you are under 50 (this comes from Swedish estimates); a 1 in 669,000 chance of dying if you are under 25; with 45% of those infected never even having a symptom.

We can verify those statistics using Wisconsin numbers. For example, for those under 50, there are 19,119 confirmed cases and just 39 deaths, which puts your chance of dying at 1 in 490. But as even the CDC acknowledges, the case count is likely at least 10 times higher, which lowers the risk for 50 and under to 1 in 4,900. And actual antibody studies suggest the real case count is 20-25 times higher than the confirmed count, which puts the risk at 1 in 9,800, the same as Sweden.

An important emphasis here: Even using the official confirmed case count of 19,119, it’s smooth sailing, with a death rate of just two-tenths of 1% for the under 50 age groups. 

We destroyed our economy over this?

Again, none of this is to dismiss or minimize the risk to older people and those in group home settings, as well as to those with serious underlying conditions. That’s where the virus actually poses a serious threat, and that’s the shame of it all. It’s a shame because our public health officials have needlessly terrified the general population yet failed to protect those who actually needed protecting.

The public health response should have been geared all along to those populations and how to protect them, and that way was certainly not to lock down the entire population or compel people to wear face masks, especially those populations that are virtually unaffected.

We close with a telling new statistic, just released from a North Carolina antibody study that has enrolled more than 18,000 random participants so far. And, so far, you know what they have found?

An amazing 17% of those tested have antibodies to the virus. That suggests, if those numbers hold and already nearly 20,000 random people have been tested, that nearly one in five North Carolinians have had the virus and recovered.

This study, one of the largest of its kind, corroborates other data indicating that the virus has infected far more people than anyone could have imagined, perhaps as many as 50 million Americans, maybe more.

The North Carolina data, because it shows so many recent recoveries, also suggests — as both European and U.S. doctors are reporting — that the virus is weakening, as viruses have a tendency to do. What was a hurricane in March could be a just a drizzle by the fall.

If this is the case, and the death rates are as low as they appear to be, a herd immunity strategy is called for, since the virus will likely linger long after the hysteria has faded and even after a vaccine is put on the market, as new strains emerge.

Would some people die who might not have if the lockdowns in their various forms were not compelled? The answer is yes, but not nearly as many as would be saved by not having lockdowns. 

In the end, herd immunity will KO the virus. In the end, a calm, rational look at the data and where the disease is headed will be a lot more effective than donning a face mask to go to the grocery store.

Fauci should take off his mask and acknowledge that fact, and the media should stop cowering in their basements and report it.

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