By Larry Klein
Chris Powell asks: “Is virus cure worse than the disease? (Record-Journal, Mar 25, 2020.) This question is also presently asked by Pres. Trump and other conservatives. I am surprised Powell picks up on it and devotes an entire column discussing it.
Powell’s op-ed piece has misinformation. Also, there is out of date information and ungrounded speculation. He makes weak comparisons of ordinary influenza to the coronavirus. He disguises his opinions as facts (“…many people sense that it may not be that bad”). He implies that the low mortality rate from the virus is perhaps acceptable. Is this a moral blindspot? What is an acceptable mortality rate from a disease?
Even specialists in the medical profession, the epidemiologists, admit they know little about this particular new coronavirus, whether from whence it came, how it performs, how long it can survive and how we can defend ourselves from getting it. Dr. Fauci, a leading epidemiologist, has revealed that the coronavirus is ten times more contagious than ordinary influenza. It is highly contagious, more so than the flu. Powell writes, however, that “many people” sense it may not be that bad and no worse than ordinary influenza. Is this just Powell’s personal opinion or is it factually true? He gives no empirical evidence to support his opinions.
Powell drivels out misinformation, writing that mainly frail elderly people are more susceptible to getting the virus. Recent new evidence suggests, however, that the virus also affects younger people (roughly 18-50), who can also die as well as the elderly.
Powell writes that “just” two and a half percent in Connecticut have died from infection. The virus has not run its course yet, so how does he know what the final figure really will be? Is this his oblique way of saying there is an acceptable number of fatalities from the disease? If so, what is that number? President Trump of course has implied that by Easter we should all be out shopping again in the malls irrespective of the risk from virus infection. Trump implies it is more important to revive the economy again and not worry so much about the risk of infection and possible death from it.
When I hear many physicians and research epidemiologists appearing on CNN in recent days say they do not suggest there is an acceptable fatality rate nor would they think like Powell that “the precautions are going too far.” Powell should note that medical doctors, having taken the Hippocratic oath, are dedicated to the health of their patients and saving as many lives as possible. Professional physicians and nurses do not question whether their practices and precautions have “gone too far" in trying to save patients from death.
Powell should not be asking whether the virus cure is worse than the disease. We have not gone too far trying to contain the virus and protect people from death. Instead of this question, Powell should write a column which questions whether our health care system is up to the job in protecting us from the virus and giving enough access to health care for all Americans. He should examine the merits of a Medicare-For-All system which guarantees access to health care for all citizens. He should question whether we should maintain our present health care system, which is a profit based business model and sells insurance policies to people which they cannot afford and rips them off. He should question the outrageous prices of the medicines we have to take and the obscene profits made by pharmaceutical companies.
Countries like our next door neighbor Canada or European countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway or England, just to mention a few, should become new models for us in providing health care. Presently, however, if the uninsured are afflicted with the coronavirus and must enter a hospital, the virus may not kill them, but perhaps the hospital, doctor and pharmaceutical bills they get will kill them.
A Southington resident, Larry Klein is Professor Emeritus at Central Connecticut State University, where he taught for 39 years. He taught both entering and practicing public school teachers in undergraduate and graduate master’s degree programs. His expertise as an educator was in the politics, issues and policies of education.