As I See It: COVID-19: Re-opening, perception, election

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By Elpidio R. Estioko

With or without meeting the minimum requirements for recovery, all 50 states by Memorial Day weekend will be partially re-opened! The ultimate goal is to bring back the economy to normal which was badly affected by the corona virus COVID-19 pandemic.

This latest development sent us an array of perceptions coming from all sectors of society. The way I see it, the politicians, federal and local governments, are one in saying that this is the road to economic recovery bringing back America again in good financial situation trying to gain lost momentum and financial deficits. Perhaps this is the political view as most of our local officials are seeking re-election and US President Donald Trump is up for re-election against Democratic standard bearer former vice president Joe Biden.

On the part of the American people, there are mix emotions here. Those who were affected by the lockdown and lost their jobs, think this is the best move so far because it will bring them back to life by working  again, a calculated move because they will be exposing themselves to the corona virus in the workplace.

For people who value their lives and heed the advice of medical experts and are afraid of the second wave, they need to buy their time and wait until such time that the pandemic will normalize and be safe for everybody. So they think this is too soon to re-open and needs to extend the lockdown until such time that the experts say it’s safe.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has finally released its  60-page guidance document to re-open, people in the know, like the top government adviser and expert on the pandemic corona virus Dr. Anthony Fauci, are speaking out their hearts and minds to give the people honest evaluation of the facts confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Fauci testified in the recent Senate Committee hearing on re-opening the economy saying that “consequences could be really serious with re-opening.”

Re-opening, Fauci said, could be “really serious” consequences if states re-open prematurely. While the corona virus will not simply “disappear” this fall, Fauci said the threat of a possible second wave can be mitigated by aggressive testing efforts and health-care preparedness. He said that second wave is “entirely conceivable and possible.”

This warning seems to be contradictory to what President Trump wants urging the governors to re-open soon to bring back the economy. Apparently, White House decision is based on politics, not on science. He announced over CNN the other day his ambitious plan to develop the vaccine by the end of the year. Pharmaceutical companies’ scientists and doctors are working on that, but Trump likewise commented, “I just want to make it clear… vaccine or no vaccine… we’ll be back…” Whatever he meant, health experts are skeptical about the vaccine deadline being met… because the corona virus incubation period takes weeks.

Dr. Fauci added: “There’s no guarantee that the vaccine will be effective.” This is a warning from the medical expert that states could not open too early. Reports show that all the 50 states are re-opening or planning to re-open by Memorial Day weekend. This is a complete contradiction with reality as most if not all the states that are re-opening or planning to re-open are either ignoring or relaxing the guidelines set forth by CDC.

Fauci warned that there’s “real risk you will trigger an outbreak that you will not be able to control… Go by the guidelines on re-opening to avoid spikes.”

He further said that death toll “likely is higher than 30,000 as reported.” More deaths than reported, according to Fauci said many experts believe more people have died from corona virus than have been reported. He said he’s not sure “exactly what percent higher” the real death toll could be. “But almost certainly it’s higher,” he added. Perhaps, this is because those who die in their homes, not in the hospitals, were most like not reported.

Perhaps President Trump needs to do something to boost his chances of re-election considering that the November presidential election is six months away. Re-opening seems to be the political gambit he has been pushing for due to the waning of his support from the electorate as shown by latest surveys.

Aware of the medical facts and other warning signs, California Governor Gavin Newsom is cautiously working on re-opening the state based on data gathered. He is building an army of contact tracers for corona virus?

Based on the strategy, “it requires tracking down every infected person’s most recent contacts — every friend, family member and barista they’ve potentially swapped germs with since becoming contagious — and then making sure all those people get tested and, if necessary, isolate themselves.”

The goal of Gov. Newsom is to come up with 13,000 contact tracers at the end of the month. Contact tracing, however is labor intensive and requires a lengthy interview process. Besides, “the interviewee might forget details or intentionally omit them… because someone with corona virus can remain asymptomatic for days before developing symptoms — if they develop symptoms at all — this new virus is particularly tricky to contain.”

A team of Oxford University researchers in the Journal Science last month wrote:  “Manual” contact tracing “is too slow, and cannot be scaled up once the epidemic grows beyond the early phase, due to limited personnel. We suggest that…a mobile phone App implementing instantaneous contact tracing, could reduce transmission enough to achieve…sustained epidemic suppression, stopping the virus from spreading further.”

It was reported that earlier this month, Google and Apple announced a plan to do exactly that, an almost unheard-of collaboration between the two California tech rivals who said they’ll work to create a phone-to-phone contact tracing system to help citizens and public health officials track new hotspots.

The consequences of reopening are high and the risks are costly. Let’s listen to the experts, not from the politicians!

So, when do we have to reopen? Immediately? Soon? Or, let’s buy our time until such time that we are assured that the pandemic has normalized and ready to safeguard the Americans in getting back their freedom?

 

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedback, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com)

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