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Social distance from the old, send the young back to work

Social distance from the old, send the young back to work

Deserted Spanish Steps in Rome | AFP

Sober minded Americans were alarmed by the images of Spring Breakers in Florida, partying like there is no tomorrow and ignoring social distancing standards.

Don’t gasp when I make what sounds like a heretical argument in the age of COVID-19 fear, panic, and hoarding hysteria. The young, healthy, and fit in our society are the ones who must save us in the present hour from the coronavirus as well as economic Armageddon.

The silver lining in the statistical data is that most young people infected by the coronavirus will either be asymptomatic, have mild symptoms, or what feels like a typical flu.

A study by Oxford’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine examined fatality rates in China among 72,314 COVID-19 cases. Those ages 20 to 49 years old had a case fatality rate of .32 %, a relatively small percentage compared to older age groups.

From age 50 to 59, the rate rises to 1.3%, with the percentage rising significantly over age 70.

In Italy, the average age of death among COVID-19 patients is 79.5, according to their National Institute of Health. Several factors might contribute to Italy’s high fatality rate at a whopping 9%. They have the second oldest population in the world and the highest percentage of people that are antibiotic resistant. Furthermore, 24% of their population are smokers, contributing to their susceptibility to pneumonia.

As has been widely reported, patients with comorbid, underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease skew the numbers upward, and probably represent the small percentage among the young who succumb to the disease. Obesity might also be a risk factor, some infectious disease experts believe.

But shutting down an entire economy to protect those over age 50 from death makes no sense. We can ask those who are seniors — along with those who have underlying health conditions — to stay home and self-quarantine. Younger family members, friends, and business associates should stay away from them at all costs.

This means severely restricting visits to senior facilities and regular testing of their staff.

But the stay-at-home orders and business shut-downs that last for more than a few weeks risks an economic Armageddon that will make the 2008-2009 recession seem trifling by comparison.

Some are projecting an annual rate of loss to GDP of 20% to 30%. Even in the Great Depression, people continued to go to bars, restaurants and theaters, attend sporting events and use planes. Will the government spend a trillion dollars or more every month to bail out every business, large and small, and every family, when seniors are primarily the ones at great risk?

Just as young people among the Greatest Generation were asked to save us from an evil menace during World War II, they must practice social distancing from their aging parents and grandparents — and go back to work to rescue the economy from the abyss!

Schools, sporting events, church gatherings, restaurants, theaters, businesses and social gatherings must resume, but absent those over 50, along with those who have underlying health conditions.

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