My son came home Monday night distraught. College football seemed to be hanging on the brink because of CV-19, and while the thought of not getting to watch the games was definitely a downer for him, he was also thinking about the logical progression of fallout if football indeed is canceled.
“It just makes sense they’ll cancel high school football too, and that means they’ll cancel all the other sports,” he surmised. He throws javelin and runs track and already had his junior season lost, so the concept of his last high school season going away is driving him crazy.
“When is this ever going to end?” he asked.
It’s a question everyone is asking, and for many the implications in that question are far more serious than not getting to watch football or losing a season of sports. The bad news seems to get worse almost daily. While national media are fixated on reporting case increases, the predicted fallout from shutting down economies worldwide is now becoming reality.
Two weeks ago the Associated Press reported there are now 10,000 children a month in the Third World starving to death because of the destruction of economies primarily due to lockdowns. People are not allowed to work to feed their families. They also reported another 550,000 children a month are being struck by “wasting,” according to the United Nations. That means cases of malnutrition so serious they can permanently damage children physically and mentally.
At home, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting 30 million Americans said they hadn’t had enough to eat within the past week. It’s hard to believe in the country where wasting food is practically a sport, people are having a hard time getting enough to eat, but massive unemployment coupled with disrupted food chains are making it harder for some to get what they need.
There’s frantic work on vaccines going on all over the world, but surveys show huge percentages of Americans, at least, won’t be rushing to get what they view as a slapped together “cure” with no track record. So inoculating 330 million Americans — much less nearly 8 billion humans around the world — also becomes a daunting and time-consuming task.
Meanwhile, the deaths from COVID-19 keep piling up. It’s not hard to feel somewhat hopeless.
But maybe there are some rays of light after all.
Shortly after my son and I had our conversation, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s nightly email newsletter showed up. Stimpson has made a habit of reaching out to the citizenry almost every night to offer an update on the ’rona fight and the related issues we face because of it. His Aug. 10 letter raised my eyebrows.
“After drilling down with a closer look during our regular Unified Command briefings this morning, the Mobile County Health Department stated they were confident and encouraged that our case numbers are trending downward,” he wrote. Included was a graph from the lab doing 40 percent of the testing in the county also showed a rapidly declining seven-day average of positive tests.
“This downward trend was exactly what we were hoping for when the masking ordinance was enacted,” Stimpson wrote.
We’ll see what happens to those numbers in the coming weeks as schools are back in, but I do think the takeaway from beating back this most recent “wave” is the virus transmission can be reduced and slowed through reasonable social distancing and even the haphazard mask usage we’ve had. Hopefully, that will be considered the next time someone starts the crazy talk about lockdowns.
Looking across the state, the trends appear to support what Stimpson reported here in Mobile County. Information from the Alabama Department of Public Health also shows new cases and deaths per day declining. Hospitalizations have leveled out and the reproduction rate of the virus in Alabama is now 0.93. Any number below 1 means the virus will stop spreading exponentially.
None of this means the virus is gone or no one will die from it, but there are positive trends. And it also doesn’t mean we won’t have another spike if people start interacting more, going to school or when the fall cold and flu season comes around. I’m just saying perhaps Doomsday isn’t here yet — at least not from catching the virus.
Most reporting from public health officials has focused heavily on the number of cases, and getting solid information about the numbers of ICU beds or ventilators available hasn’t been easy. But there are some other numbers we can look at that at least offer a snapshot of what has actually happened during this pandemic. For instance:
- 77.8 percent of the 1,695 deaths in Alabama have been in people older than 65; 17.5 percent were 50-64; 4.4 percent were 25-49; and the remaining 0.3 percent were under the age of 24.
- In Mobile County, there have been 222 reported deaths and 169 (76.1 percent) were 65 years or older; 45 (20.3 percent) were 50–64; seven (3.2 percent) were 25-49; and one (0.5 percent) was 18-24. No one under 18 has died of COVID in Mobile County according to MCHD, and only one person under 25.
- The death rate in Mobile County has been roughly 53.8 per 100,000 by my calculations. Put another way, it is 0.05 percent of the population of 413,000 who have died, and 2.5 percent of the county population has been confirmed as having CV.
None of this is meant to minimize the dangers of the virus or the tragedy of losing a loved one to it, but hopefully, it does offer some perspective on the actual likelihood of dying from it.
It’s pretty clear a fairly large segment of society is afraid of dying from COVID. It’s not an unreasonable fear — particularly if you’re older or have conditions that make you more vulnerable. Is it an unreasonable fear for a 15-year-old to worry he or she will die? Probably so. Hopefully, as we discuss things like school and athletics, consideration will be given to the reality of who is really most at risk and who is not.
Unfortunately, chances are we’re going to have to learn to deal with the risks of COVID for at least a little while, so we’re going to have to actually live life along the way. Hopefully what we’re seeing now are signs better days lie ahead.
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