When we talk about “reopening the economy,” restoring freedom is what we mean: The freedom to earn a living, to worship inside a church, to go shopping, to see a doctor in person, to have important but “non-essential” medical or dental treatments, to enjoy meeting with friends—to live normally.
Arizonans, like all Americans, haven’t experienced “normal” in quite a long time. Everything we do is under the shadow of constant reporting of new coronavirus cases and related deaths. This includes only the fatalities presumably to be from COVID-19. Heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and suicide are not on our mind, although they may well be increasing because of the lockdown and delayed or denied medical care.
The death toll keeps rising. After all, it can’t go down! As of the end of June, 1,600 people have reportedly died in the state as a result of COVID-19. Applied to the Arizona population, that’s roughly one out of 5,000. For perspective, 863 out of 100,000 (43 of 5,000) Americans die of something every year. COVID deaths are most likely in people who have already lived longer than the average lifespan.
The number of cases keeps rising too. Keep in mind that more than 99 percent of “cases” will fully recover, but will still be included in the figure. Perhaps almost all of us will be included in this figure eventually. Hasn’t almost everyone had a cold at some point?
The concern now is a surge in numbers, which just happens to coincide with a surge in testing. Now, we are counting people with mild symptoms or none at all who were infected (and not counted) before. Are more people actually getting infected? The ICUs in hospitals are filling.
Where did the patients get exposed? In a barber shop? Or while protesting in close quarters with thousands of people?
If we don’t go back to work now, we must ask: When may we do so? Will we have to interrupt life for every spike in the curve?
How about for influenza? Remember that Woodstock occurred during the 1968 “Hong Kong flu,” which was more than twice as deadly as COVID-19 is projected to be. Yet there was no panic, no media hype, and no lockdown. The 1958 “Asian flu” was even worse than that.
How long will people cower in their homes in fear and shy away from every person as a possible deadly threat? How long can civil society survive without social contact? How long can we continue to eat without a functioning economy? How can we aid the needy with tax money when tax revenues are drying up as the businesses that provide them go bankrupt?
At this point, the treatment is far worse than the disease. And does the treatment even work?
Countries that have imposed lockdowns have done no better than those that did not. More than 60 percent of recently hospitalized New Yorkers had been “sheltering at home.” The evidence for the unprecedented “social distancing” and masking rules is questionable at best.
So what can we do to protect the most vulnerable, get back to living, and relieve fear?
In high-exposure situations, such as caring for sick patients, effective masks (not bandanas) are essential—along with eye protection and other precautions. If a person is not infected, the possibility of infecting others is zero. If an infected person is truly without symptoms, the risk to others is extremely low. Sick people should not be out in public—or sent to nursing homes!
While we are crippling healthy people with arbitrary, unproven restrictions, we are suppressing discussion or even misrepresenting or banning ways to protect them, such as adequate vitamin D, zinc, and hydroxychloroquine as an early or preventive treatment. It’s time to open free discussion, as well as the economy.
Jane Orient, MD is a doctor in Tucson, Arizona. She serves as Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and is a partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.