– Ben Martens

COVID-19: Part 8

We made it through day 50 of the lockdown! Most places in the US seem to have seen their peak hospital utilization. Daily infection rates have flattened out so at least things aren’t getting exponentially worse. Our efforts are working. However, our fight is far from cheap. The economy is struggling to deal with this, unemployment is skyrocketing, and people are antsy to gather in groups again.

Your reading assignment for today is an excellent post by Bill Gates. He has devoted his life to global health issues so it’s extremely interesting to get his take on the situation. If you only have time to read one post, read his!

For my own feeble analysis, let’s start by looking at the IHME models. As we move into the long recovery period, I find this to be a great source of information. They do a good job of showing how the current load relates to the total availability of hospital resources, how the speed of recovery is uncertain and at one point we might get to a day when nobody dies from the virus in the state. I took their data normalized it by state population and then calculated the predicted total deaths per 100,000 people based on the average output of the IHME models. I think this helps to show how various states reacted to the virus and how well their efforts to slow the virus are working. I picked the top 10 states along with a few others where some of you live.

LocationMean Deaths Per 100,000
New York119.4
New Jersey79.5
Rhode Island57.7
North Dakota46.7
District of Columbia32.4

Some states have a harder time containing this than others. Most people are spread out in Montana so a lockdown probably doesn’t need to be very severe. New York City is much denser so they need an extreme lockdown to contain the spread. And then there’s the question of how many deaths the lockdown itself causes. What’s the right balance point? I think all we know for sure right now is that “it depends”. With this heavy social and political push to end the lockdown, it feels pretty inevitable that we’re going to start growing exponentially again. Very little has changed since the first growth period. Social distancing is the only tool we have to fight this. There’s no vaccine or treatment, and now the WHO is evening questioning whether it’s possible to build up an immunity. I do think we’re going to oscillate back and forth a bit until we find the least amount of lockdown that keeps us at some sustainable balance of infections and economic pain. I don’t think anybody has the answers about what that balance point is yet so we’ll have to fail a few times as we get it figured out.

The only way this works is if everyone participates in following the guidance provided by your local government. Doing otherwise is selfish. Stay home. Stay healthy. We can do this if we do it together.

If your government says it’s ok to start easing up on the lockdown, then use your best judgement. I know it’s going to be a long time before the three of us feel comfortable in a crowd again. I’m starting to have dreams at night where the basic premise is that I realize I’m in a crowd and regardless of how I got there, I don’t know how to extricate myself. I’m guessing I’m not alone in those kind of thoughts. Thankfully our management has already said that we will not be among the first to return to the office, and even when it is an option, we’ll all be able to keep working from home as long as we want to. I don’t expect a mad rush to fill up the office spaces again.

It has been an interesting time to be a husband and a parent too. Other than getting food, we have had almost zero contact with anyone outside our house and that’s our continued plan until the lockdown restrictions are eased. While being home together is a chance for us to bond and grow stronger as a unit, we’re very eager to have parks and hiking trails open again so we can get out a bit more. More and more trails will be snow-free as the year warms up so that will spread out the hikers and I’m confident I can find trails with low crowds on them.

Little League thinks they’re going to resume practices on May 11 and June 1. I find it highly unlikely that they’ll be allowed to operate on that schedule. On the surface that feels like a great activity since it’s outside and fairly spread out, but if you’ve ever walked through the fields on a Saturday, you know it’s a huge event. Six fields with ~12 kids each plus coaches, families, umpires, and concession booth workers add up to a big crowd in a tiny space. We opted to skip this year and use our money as a credit toward next year. I also expect a fair amount of other families will be opting out so it will be interesting to see hear if they have to combine teams or anything like that.

In the face of uncertainty, we press on knowing that God has this under control and even though we are being tested, we won’t be pushed beyond what we can bear.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.