Good News on Covid

Covid might be over before East Lansing’s downtown mask mandate ends. Dr. Marty Makary a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health argued in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial that it will be “mostly gone” by April. City council this week extended the ban to May 16.

I’d planned to log on to the council meeting to object, but why bother. The decision had been made.
If I’d participated, I’d have shared my Covid story; I’m 60 and like about 80% of those my age who contacted it, I’m fully recovered and doing fine. Oddly, for such a dangerous disorder, when we notified our family doctor he advised doing—nothing. Use over the counter medicines and go to the hospital if it gets worse. I doubt he’d have said the same had I been suffering a heart attack; at least I hope so. For me, it was about two weeks of fatigue and coughing in late November. Generally, it was very similar to coughs and colds I’ve had all my life. But, over the past year my wife’s had me taking vitamins B and D along with zinc, just in case. I took it upon myself to up my beer dosage a little.

I’m writing because my suffering from Covid pails in comparison to that of so many small business owners in East Lansing and throughout Michigan. These people are the true, forgotten victims of Covid.

The Ingham County Health Department as of February 26th reported a total of 272 Covid deaths; 57 in the 48823-zip code; that’s all. It’s the highest in the county and comes despite all the efforts to protect and avoid. Most victims were seniors, and with almost the victims over age 80 we know Covid is getting credit for deaths that would have occurred without it.

Age Percent of Ingham County Covid Deaths
Under 40 2.2
40 to 49 1.8
50 to 59 7.0
60 to 69 16.5
70 to 79 31.1
Over 80 41.2

No serious person can look back at the data and believe that the response was proportionate to the threat. The good news is that we can choose to look forward. As Dr. Makary wrote:

“There’s a 76 percent reduction in daily cases over the last six weeks,” Makary said. “You, as a scientist, have to ask why. And we cannot explain that by vaccinated immunity. We can’t explain it by a sudden change in behavior. It’s natural immunity, and it’s now over 50 percent of the population.”

If not now, when will the City Council or the Governor give us clear, precise directions for lifting the curtain and letting the sunshine again? In fact, what is so awful about optimism or at least debate?

When asked about the right reaction to the atomic bomb years ago, C.S. Lewis hit the correct tone.
“It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty…. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds”

7 thoughts on “Good News on Covid”

  1. This is a response to Bill Weckesser for publication.

    Bill, I am glad you are fine, but please understand that your doctor advised you as he or she did because there is no treatment for covid that you could access from home. The same would be true if you were having a heart attack. Taking an aspirin might help, but you would still want to go to the hospital. Covid is the same way in that if you think you are at risk of death, you go to the hospital. (Just to be clear, anyone who is having trouble breathing should go see a medical professional.) The flu is the same way, except it is less deadly than covid and harder to transmit to others.

    I do not understand how you can say small businesses are the forgotten victims. The City staff has been working tirelessly on business support programs, including crowdsourcing for special programming. The Council and DDA have voted through numerous financial relief programs amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those programs have been supported also with state and federal supplements.

    At ELi, we have an entire series dedicated specifically to pushing out information on how to support local businesses:
    That series has included something like 60 articles at this point.

    If you haven’t heard of the support of local business, you should read more local news.

    I definitely share your concern about the need to reopen as soon as possible. It troubles me that the City Council keeps voting through emergency extensions with no clear measures about when they will allow for ramping up to normal operations. At ELi, we have been tracking the tremendous hit the city is taking from the closure of MSU and the impact of closures on businesses, not to mention the shift of many income taxable workers to outside the city where they can’t be taxed. We can’t do this forever. The people being most harmed are on the bottom of the income spectrum plus small business owners.

    So yes, there are concerns, but I think you misunderstand both your doctor and what’s been done to try to help local businesses. I think you should consider taking more personal responsibility in this situation.

    Alice Dreger

  2. Bill Weckesser, we’re all glad that you, along with tens of millions of other Americans, had only a mild case of Covid-19. I’m not sure why you thought your doctor’s advice was odd, because it was exactly what medical experts have been saying all along: if your Covid symptoms are only mild the only requirement is quarantine, no need for medical treatment.

    However, this doesn’t change the fact that over 500,000 Americans have died from this disease, and more are living with serious after-effects. It also doesn’t change the fact that even with our present level of safety protocols, our local hospitals are currently in the “red” level in terms of available beds for inpatient treatment.

    That means we are in a precarious position, where we can’t relax our guard and risk a backslide that puts our hospitals back in the crisis circumstances they were in for a large part of last year.

    I also think that focusing on a mask mandate is misguided. We’ve been wearing masks for nearly a year now, and it’s really the least problematic restriction of the entire pandemic. A little personal inconvenience is minor compared to the concern we should have for our businesses. If we have to continue to wear masks in public places for a while but doing so makes it safe to open up more of our businesses and increase capacities in others, that’s an excellent tradeoff and I’m all for it.

    You’re right that the numbers are looking better and there is reason to be hopeful. We are all seriously concerned about the crisis for businesses. If this pandemic is really gone by April, it should be obvious in the data and I’m confident that our government will react to get things back to normal. But we’re not there yet.

    – Christopher Wolf

  3. Like everyone responding to Bill’s comments, I am glad he recovered from Covid. But like Chris, I can’t follow why fewer numbers of positive tests, hospitalizations or deaths should mean that we suddenly should lift mask orders. I also can’t figure out why the Council should be criticized for the May date. The Council order is designed to emphasize the statewide mask mandate that the State Health Department issued, and reissued on March 2. The Council does not otherwise have the authority to issue a face mask order. The City’s independent public health authority is very limited. A face mask is probably less invasive of personal rights than any other part of the various restrictions implemented to address the Covid crisis. The Council has been aggressive in helping businesses survive within the limited resources the City has. It should be complemented for taking the steps it has, not criticized for them. Plus, the oped by a doctor Bill cited got the trend right but pulled April right out of his you know what. Although, we are all now hearing that the trend the doctor was basing his opinion on has met a roadblock.

    – Mark Meadows

  4. A look back at the “Good News On Covid” commentary on Public Response two months ago shows how the misuse of data can be detrimental to public health efforts.

    If you recall, the commentary started:
    “Covid might be over before East Lansing’s downtown mask mandate ends. Dr. Marty Makary a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health argued in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial that it will be “mostly gone” by April. City council this week extended the ban to May 16.

    Dr. Makary’s justification for his prediction on February 19 can be summed up in two quotes:
    “There’s a 76 percent reduction in daily cases over the last six weeks”, and
    “At the current trajectory, I expect COVID will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”

    Well, here we are at the end of April and unfortunately between February 19 and now, the drastic downward trajectory he was counting on has disappeared. In fact, the average number of daily cases in the U.S. (the metric he was using for his prediction) has barely budged since February. Now in late April it remains at a level comparable to the severity the country was enduring in July through October last year.

    The Covid situation in Michigan has even worsened since February, with our local hospitals now more full with Covid patients than they were then:

    It’s unfortunate that the wishful thinking expressed by Dr. Makary and others (including the original poster) may have encouraged some people to relax their safety precautions and contribute to this relapse, but we can be glad that our City leaders did not follow along.

    Note that Dr. Makary’s faulty prediction is hardly surprising. He is a gastrointestinal and oncological surgeon, not an infectious-disease specialist. At the same time that Dr. Makary was making his prediction, Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and other experts were predicting the earliest likely return to normalcy for late summer. This is hardly guaranteed, but still seems achievable if everyone will continue keeping their distance, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.

    – Christopher Wolf

  5. Actually, there’s plenty of good news on Covid.

    In the roughly 57 days since my post, Ingham Country reports 57 deaths. During the prior 57 days it reported 79. And that’s having gone through another spike in positive tests.

    It’s interesting to note that the Governor mandated masks last summer. That’s after the Spring 2020 peak. There’s a good chance that masks and avoidance have contributed to the longevity of a virus that, thankfully, hasn’t proven to be as deadly to the general population as advertised.

    – Bill Weckesser

    • I don’t see plenty of good news for Ingham County there, certainly nothing that would say we are approaching normalcy soon.

      57 deaths in 57 days could only be called good news by comparison to the horrendous November to January peak. A year ago 57 deaths from a disease in 57 days would have sounded like the emergency it is and (to get back to the original issue) it shows how ridiculous it was to talk about the end of Covid by April. To put it in perspective, 57 Covid deaths in March and April for Ingham County is approximately the same as we had in the six months from May to October 2020 combined!

      In regard to the mask mandate you bring up, Michigan has had a mask mandate since Executive Order 2020-59, issued April 24, 2020 (well before last summer) as soon as masks were recommended by the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. It was gradually strengthened throughout the year, following updated medical guidance.

      Regarding the Covid death toll, Covid has been far more deadly in the overall population than first predicted. If you look back at forecasts from last spring and summer, no one was predicting the U.S. would have 600,00 deaths from the disease, but we will soon be there. Last spring President Trump was predicting 50,000 to 100,00 deaths, while the CDC forecast was twice that, still much too low. And that is in spite of the fact that we now have far greater availability of testing that can catch cases earlier and we now have improved treatments that are saving lives that would not have been saved last spring.

      Beyond the death toll, Covid has also been much worse than “advertised”, as you say, in the general population because of the completely unanticipated post-Covid effects on many who were infected but had no symptoms or only mild symptoms but wind up disabled in a variety of ways months after their initial recovery.

      And to see how Covid can re-explode in a population that was unable to keep physical distance and wear masks as consistently as the U.S. did, we only have to look at India. Be glad that we have not let down our guard.

      – Christopher Wolf

    • Bill , without casting aspersions, knowing your political leanings, I do not find your beliefs/choices of what news to believe/ about covid to be out of sync with those thought patterns.

      One need only to look to India and Brazil to see what lack of belief / understanding, in/ of some basic preventative measures can wreak on a society. By your own Graph We are testing positive at a rate higher than ever before and our incidence rate is about 2.5 percent lower than the highest peak we have experienced since the beginning of our pandemic. I find it difficult to believe any one who would make a statement that this virus isn’t as deadly( To the general population) as advertised…. in one year it has managed to move into the third deadliest malady faced by the “average” American. What the previous administration chose to ignore was educating the people of this nation, that he claimed he was making great, about the truth of what a viral infection really is. Viruses mutate. They can only mutate when they replicate. More replications ,more chances for more deadlier mutations.

      As the Viral pool in a nation grows, the chances for a deadlier virus increases exponentially…. the people of America needed to hear this and understand it… masking and distancing work together…no politics, no right or left axes to be ground.

      Just a nation of people that need to work together to end this…now VACCINATION is our best additional tool to move forward…..TG


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