Coronavirus: Are We Doing More Harm Than Good?

I’m a born skeptic.  I question things.  I want to know why.  It’s the way my mind works.

Considering how many end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it disasters I’ve lived through already, it’s natural for me to question the conflicting reports and approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic.

I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, or a politician.  I’m just someone looking for answers.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is like nothing we’ve experienced in my lifetime.  It’s new territory, and the scientists, doctors, and politicians don’t have enough data to make sound, rational decisions. So, decisions are being made based on limited data, fear, and political considerations.  Shutting down businesses and schools, social distancing, and quarantines may in fact be the best way to slow Coronavirus deaths, but I don’t know if these policies are actually making any difference, and from what I’m reading, neither do many leading scientists.  And my skeptical mind is questioning if these policies might be doing more harm than good.

As the CDC has acknowledged, quarantine by itself may slow the spread of Coronavirus, but it cannot prevent or end any disease outbreak. It has had very mixed results in the past and is questionable in the realities of the modern world. If the pandemic slows, short-term extreme social distancing and quarantines may be reasonable. The question is, how long should measures like these be continued if the pandemic continues? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?

If the health system does become overwhelmed, the majority of the extra deaths may not be due to coronavirus but to more common diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, mental illness, and such that will not be adequately treated.

Are we causing more deaths than we are preventing by shutting down the economy and shutting people away in their homes?  I have questions:

What about sick or elderly people who can’t get treatment of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer?  How many of these will die?

How many people will die due to lack of medications because of lockdowns, lost wages, and travel restrictions?

Most regular medical checkups are being cancelled, so conditions that are potentially life-threatening aren’t being caught as soon. How many lives will this cost?

School closure leads children to spend more time with susceptible elderly family members.  How many of these older people will become infected and die as a result?

Abuse victims are being confined with their abusers.  What will the toll be in destroyed lives?

Hoarding behavior reveals an irrational hysteria, from purchasing ineffective household masks to hoarding toilet paper. This fear is being driven by anxiety over what the government will do next.  Preventative measures such as social distancing and quarantines have prevented access to critical health care for people with serious mental illnesses. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine has seen a surge in calls.  Suicide rates have climbed.  What will the death toll be?

Unfortunately, in an election year, many of the decisions being made are politically motivated rather than evidence driven. There are some who would use coronavirus to destroy the economy in order to defeat Trump, and there are others who would let people die of coronavirus to keep the economy strong and help Trump get reelected.  Most of the decisions are being made with inadequate supporting data.  The skeptic in me questions the efficacy of many of the policies and edicts coming from governors, politicians, and government agencies.  I hope I’m wrong.

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