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Community Voices: The COVID-19 debate
Community Voices

Community Voices: The COVID-19 debate

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In the past three months I have spent many hours reviewing data on several state’s Department of Health websites. Principally however I will cite data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. The data is for the five months of February through June 2020.

  • There are currently approximately 61.2 million Americans under the age of 15. In the 5 months cited, a total of 10,216 died. Of that number, 29 (28/100ths of 1 percent) were listed as COVID-19 related. Exactly 100 were attributed to Influenza.
  • There are currently approximately 104.9 million Americans under the age of 25. In the 5 months cited a total of 22,585 died. Of that number 171 deaths (76/100ths of 1 percent) were listed as COVID-19 related. Another 151 were attributed to Influenza.

As I continued to review the data it does indicate that as older demographics are added the percentage of deaths attributed to COVID-19 increases.

  • In ages 25-64 there were a total of 297,994 deaths of which 21,695 (7.3%)were attributed to COVID-19
  • In ages 65-74 there were a total of 251,194 deaths of which 23,333 (9.3%) where attributed to COVID-19
  • In ages 75-84 there were a total of 310,904 deaths of which 29,780 (9.6%) where attributed to COVID-19
  • In ages 85+ there were a total of 394,198 deaths of which 37,247 (9.4%) where attributed to COVID-19

Every one of these deaths, irrespective of the cause, is painful to the families and friends. Every life has meaningful value.

During these challenging times it is generally acknowledged that a critical task facing our nation is to contain and conquer COVID-19. Simultaneously we must minimize the negative, often unintended, collateral damage inflicted on our educational system and economy.

From a personal as well as business perspective I am doing my best to participate in this effort. Among other practices and protocols I wear a mask when going out in public as well as carry hand sanitizer and use it frequently. In my commercial properties we have placed hand sanitizer stations at every entrance. Additionally we sanitize all frequently touched surfaces with medical grade disinfectants which have long lasting residual properties.

As our country and communities grapple with this challenge, we must have thoughtful dialogue and decisions based on complete and accurate data and information which is presented in context. It is only in this manner that we will be able to defeat the virus while minimizing unintended negative consequences.

In my opinion there are two critical conditions which make this task more challenging:

    The hyper partisan nature of our current political climate. This includes many elected officials, members of the media and private citizens, across the entire range of the political spectrum, who view social and economic issues as “contests” in which there must be winners and losers. Some of us view all issues in absolute terms of “we are right and you are wrong”.

    The 24-hour news cycle in which many members of national televised network broadcasts feel compelled to top yesterday’s hyperbolic adjective with today’s rather than to state facts. Compounding the problem is that “facts” that are presented are true but not presented in a context which allows the consumer to accurately come to reasonable conclusions. Had I not taken the time myself to review the CDC data, which was presented earlier, I would not have known these important contextual data if relying solely on months of news media reporting.

To the ends of defeating the virus, resuming our young person’s education, and revitalizing our economy, I respectfully propose two considerations. First, we all must acknowledge COVID-19 exists and is highly contagious. For many it is deadly and we need to defeat it. Second, we must all acknowledge that owing to our response there are significant educational, economic and public health issues with serious consequences.

I was recently compelled to lay off four employees. That was because a major client informed me that we were not permitted to perform work in the field for safety reasons even though the work area could accommodate social distancing and all work would follow CDC, OSHA and State Department of Health guidelines. In my opinion the directive was, at minimum, influenced by the nature of national televised news media reporting which is, again in my opinion, sensationalized and hyperbolic.

What are the long-term consequences of four families losing health care plans? What are the long term consequences of tens of millions of students having their education delivered ineffectively when weighed against the chance that a few more may die after contracting the virus and expose teachers? What are the roles of risk and safety in a nation founded by risk and now prizing safety? What is the relationship and optimal balance of individual liberty and freedom with personal responsibility to others? How many other serious and complex questions and issues require thoughtful reasoned consideration?

We will get to those answers more quickly if nationally televised news programs will report facts without sensationalized hyperbole.

We will get answers more quickly if all of us, elected officials and citizens, listens more and, as Ben Franklin once said, “doubts a little of his own infallibility.”

Rick Rovegno is a former Cumberland County Commissioner and owns and operates Rovegno’s of Carlisle, Rovegno Properties and Rovegno Real Estate Partners.

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