Opinion

New Data Should Cause Revaluation of Our COVID-19 Response

Written by Ainsley Jackman

In today’s world, no matter who you are, one thing is bound to be on your mind: the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its terrifying ramifications. Contrary to popular belief, however, the most recent numbers show that the greatest danger comes not from the pandemic itself, but from the government’s attempts to stop it. 

When calculated using “confirmed cases,” the COVID-19 mortality rate is predicted to be anywhere from 2-5% worldwide. This may appear to be a terrifying statistic, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that 80% of cases are asymptomatic or very mild, and are never considered “confirmed cases.” As a testament to this, a major study in New York used antibody tests to find that there were actually about 10 times more actual cases than confirmed cases.

While many news sites spin this as an ominous statistic that showcases the pandemic’s rapid spread, it also indicates that the virus is far less deadly than we originally feared. One estimate that not only takes this into account, but also doubles the death count to compensate for those that died without testing, found a “crude mortality rate” of around 0.28%.

With this new data, it’s time to revaluate our priorities. It’s no secret that our national economy has plummeted during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders and restrictive social distancing guidelines. Not only were millions put out of work at the beginning of the pandemic, but the crisis continues as thousands of businesses that cannot sustain a quarantine-friendly business model close permanently. These jobs will not return when social distancing measures loosen, and the crisis has also effectively killed countless small businesses that might have grown to take their place.

All of this shows that the effect the pandemic has on the economy cannot be brushed off with the trite platitude that “lives matter more.” Things aren’t so simple. The economy is equivalent to the livelihood of the American people, a livelihood that has been cut off for the 36 million Americans who lost their jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of a crashing economy are not only incredibly severe, but will last far beyond the end of the crisis and for years to come.

Of course, it’s too late to completely reverse the damage, but we can still mitigate the problem by lifting unreasonable restrictions to allow the economy to recuperate and begin to function normally again. For example, allowing “non-essential” businesses to function fully and encouraging schools and universities to start up again in the fall—especially considering that the vast majority of students are extremely low-risk and often very isolated.

I don’t mean to make light of the COVID-19 virus. It’s still dangerous for some and highly infectious, so some precautions are warranted. Nor do I blame lawmakers for taking swift action when the data they were first provided indicated a problem much worse than the reality. But now that reliable data has shown the world is safe for the vast majority of people, revitalizing the economy must become our first priority.

It should be up to the individual—not the government—to reduce their own risk of exposure if they think it necessary. Enough provisions have been made that this is now more than possible. For the rest of us, it’s past time to roll up our sleeves and get the world spinning again.