Commentary: PSA to Carney administration: Open Delaware now

By Dr. Christopher Casscells

A lack of specifics on the Phase 3 opening criteria and guidelines for conducting activities suggests that the Carney team is making them up as they go, just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was doing in the beginning of the pandemic.

That was acceptable then when little was known about the novel coronavirus, but unacceptable now that a great deal is known regarding how to measure the pandemic and provide both protection and treatment.

Not one of the epidemiologists’ forecasts has been even close to accurate, some off by a factor of 10 times. The panicked focus on spikes in infection misses the most important marker to watch: outcomes and their trends.

On TV, a couple of times, Gov. Carney said he was “puzzled by a big spike in cases in Georgetown, but with no increase in hospitalizations.”

Had the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services paid closer attention to real-time data, they should have told you that a large swath of the population is either asymptomatic, or if they have symptoms, they are mild, or that those who have stronger symptoms can recover at home.

Let’s look at the data:

• COVID-19 is not fatal to 99.9% of the population.

• Fewer than five people in 10,000 have died with mention of the coronavirus on their death certificates. Since the feds promised more reimbursement for the coronavirus treatment, the probability that “possibly COVID-related” on death certificates was overstated on cases with extreme underlying conditions prevailing.

• The pandemic peaked and the “curve was flattened” about two months ago.

• A recent report from the Division of Public Health had only 56 infected people in hospitals compared to a peak of more than 300 many weeks ago. Only 15 were “critical.”

• Both the feds and Delaware have been making policy decisions based on data often weeks old, like driving with the rearview mirror. The Kinsa data, which daily measures abnormal fevers in thousands of counties throughout the United States, revealed that Delaware and the immediate surrounding counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the lowest in the entire country, including only one case June 17 and one case June 18.

• Delaware’s data says 64% died in nursing homes (nationally, it was 40%), 80% were over 64 years old and 90% had preexisting conditions.

A politician’s worst problem is to have to balance risk between two bad outcomes, namely more people sick and dying and severe economic downturn, jobs destroyed, tax revenues down, government layoffs, etc.

Delaware made The Wall Street Journal on June 22: Delaware ranked No. 7 in the highest unemployment rate in the United States, 15.8% compared to the national average of 13.3%. All other states with higher-than-average unemployment rates had longer-than-average lockdowns.

The Carney team’s policy of very cautious steps to protect folks has now reached the point of social unrest and economic and psychological harm. The above numbers tell us that the administration must proceed aggressively to stop the harm to the economy, jobs and persons’ well-being.

The public understands what it must do: Protect old people, social distance as a general rule, get everybody back to work and, by all means, get the kids back in school now. We recommend starting summer school classes now, so schools can get used to the idea and procedures for reopening classes at the usual time in September.

The CDC’s published school procedures appear overly strict. Why? Young children have an lesser chance of getting the virus and, if so, it’s often mild. If teachers over 64 years old feel unsafe, get substitute teachers. Children with underlying conditions like asthma don’t go to school. If parents are too afraid to send their children, then don’t. Checking temperatures daily takes five seconds per student.

Children need socialization as part of understanding who they are and how to react to others and vice versa. The reports on virtual classes are fairly negative: lack of student attendance, poor concentration, no incentive since no grades or tests, cheating on assignments, etc. Virtual learning is not a short-term or long-term solution for K-12 students.

The massive lockdown, huge instant unemployment, uncertainty about the future, absolutely no religious attendance, media’s incessant scare tactics about the virus, and lack of knowledge about the virus by people who we pay and trust to know about these things all add up to a severe social disruption.

Throw in the recent riots, looting and property destruction in the name of civil disobedience, and we are moving toward social disease and chaos.

The cure for this condition:  Return to social norms: back to work, to school and to churches, now.

Dr. Christopher Casscells is the director of the Center for Health Policy at the Caesar Rodney Institute.