COVID-19

The New York Times has the following headline: "Japan Shocks Parents by Moving to Close All Schools Over Coronavirus". It seems like responding to a health concern has now been closely tied to politics. The stakes are high. And in a sea of uncertainty, the consequences for either doing too little or doing too much are severe. Right at the heart of this precarious situation is the unreliability of data. It is the reason why even experts are so cautious with their assessment. Still, there are pieces of data that one can deem reliable. Both fatality rate and confirmed cases, for instance, are skewed toward older age.

Above copied from
The New York Times

An article in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology reports that nearly 90 percent of cases are in the age group of 30 to 79 years old. Consequently, the majority of the fatalities are also in this age group. What is worth noting is that even the fatality rate goes up with age, reaching more than 1 percent for 50 years or older:



The fatality rate remains low, 0.2 to 0.4 percent for those younger than 50 years old. Thus, the reaction from Japan is questionable, as the New York Times quotes Kentaro Iwata, an infectious-disease specialist at Kobe University:

“I don’t understand this. Primarily, children are not easily infected with coronavirus, and even if they are infected, they don’t easily fall seriously ill.”

Responses to health issues should really be guided by evidence and should be made by experts. When politics goes into the equation, the response may easily be an overreaction, which only makes the situation more of a crisis.

Without a cure at this point, what is really necessary is to adhere to nonpharmaceutical interventions, which the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reiterated over the past few years:

CDC recommendations
Voluntary home isolation: CDC recommends voluntary home isolation of ill persons (staying home when ill) year-round and especially during annual influenza seasons and influenza pandemics.
Respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene: CDC recommends respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene in all community settings, including homes, child care facilities, schools, workplaces, and other places where people gather, year-round and especially during annual influenza seasons and influenza pandemics.




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