What we are trying to prevent coronavirus from becoming . St. Patrick’s Day was a turning point in the aggressiveness of the federal and state governments’ response to the novel coronavirus.
The Trump administration announced plans for tougher border restrictions and an $850 billion economic stimulus package, possibly to include immediate, direct payments to households across the country. This came after the Federal Reserve eased interest rates and ramped up lending to banks.
Amid mass closures, the economy could lose a million jobs in March alone, according to a former Trump economic adviser. Large cities ordered restaurants to switch to takeout only. The San Francisco area imposed a “shelter-in-place” lockdown. Hospital systems faced overwhelming demands on equipment and access to care. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expects the state to need six times as many ICU beds as it has.
The chart below illustrates why avoiding large gatherings and closing public spaces, what falls under the umbrella rubric of “social distancing,” is so important. Heart disease and cancer kill more than 600,000 people every year in the United States.
Opioid-related deaths edged toward 47,000 in 2018. Alzheimer’s takes more than 120,000 lives a year. Many of these deaths aren’t preventable, and even those that could technically be classified as avoidable — say, nonprescription opioid abuse, car accidents, homicide — are far more complicated to reduce significantly than coronavirus-related fatalities. As STAT explains, “On any normal day, health systems in the United States typically run close to capacity. If a hospital is overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases … people in car crashes, people with cancer, pregnant women who have complications during delivery — all those people risk getting a lesser caliber of care when a hospital is trying to cope with the chaos of an outbreak.”
Thus, the strategy of “flattening the curve.” Social distancing can slow the spread of the virus long enough to make sure infections rise over time instead of hit all at once. That prevents hospitals and other care providers from having to ration treatment and attention, which, in turn, saves lives — both those afflicted with the coronavirus and those with unrelated illnesses that require similar medical resources.