Shutting Down States Was an Extreme Overreaction

Leadership Tips, Worklife

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Note to All Governors: Be the Leader You Were Elected to Be.

Shutting Down States Was an Extreme Overreaction and May Kill More People than the Coronavirus.

On Friday, our Governor, Gregg Abbott began the “reopen” process for Texas. He created a process called “retail to go” where commerce could now take place in non-essential stores. Basically, as long as customers can order online or by phone, stores can have employees service those customers. That is, as long as the customers don’t ever come into the stores or offices.

While that is more hope to many businesses than what they had last week, it is likely not going to allow most of them to survive.

For instance, a local hero to small business owners in Dallas-Ft Worth is a brave woman named Shelley Luther. She owns the Salon A La Mode hair salon in North Dallas. On Thursday, she opened her salon against the Governor’s and County Judge’s executive orders.

On Friday morning, Dallas police cited her (gave her a ticket). Later that same day, the County Judge sent her a cease and desist letter. Whether you like or dislike Luther’s tactics, you are, most likely, going to see this behavior more and more.

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Confusion Causes Worry and Uncertainty.

As a business owner, I was chomping at the bit to get back to work on Friday morning. By 9 AM, though, only half of my staff had arrived. I was shocked. My assumption was that after six weeks of working from home, the team would be as excited to return as I was. As the team started trickling in, though, I didn’t see excitement. I saw an entirely different emotion — fear. The fear that they were experiencing was entirely caused by uncertainty.

I knew I had a huge problem, so I visited with a few of my team members one-on-one. (In a few cases, I don’t think I was a great leader, by the way. When you combine fear and frustration, the outcome can be somewhat challenging.) However, after a few heart-to-hearts, I began to get a more clear picture of what my team was experiencing.

Later in the morning, we had a mastermind meeting with everyone. This was one of the most inspirational and powerful meetings that I have participated in since the crisis hit.

Once the vision was set and the uncertainty was diminished, the excitement started to return.

My Need to Help My Team Led Me to a Few Shocking Discoveries.

You and your team may be experiencing something similar, so I thought that a little clarity might be helpful. Since I like to think of myself as a pretty decent researcher, I decided to spend some time recapping where we are in the Covid-19 Crisis and how we got here.

About one-and-a-half-days into the research, I was both appalled and furious with what I found.

  • First, this loss of life and loss of livelihood is tragic.
  • Second, many of the decisions made by well-meaning politicians have been based on lies and false data.
  • Finally, it is now clear that everything that we have done to our economy has been an extreme overreaction.

The Loss of Life and Livelihood from the Covid-19 Pandemic is Tragic.

The number of deaths that New York reports each day is unbelievably heartbreaking. As I was researching the topic, the more that I learned about the devastation in New York, the sadder I became. With that being said, I like to think of myself as being a thorough researcher. And trying to get specific answers to what exactly is taking place in New York was frustrating. It was like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and I only had 22 pieces at the start.

However, as I investigated more and more, pieces began to fall into place. Here is where I started.

I looked at the CDC reports of total cases and total deaths by state. Right now, the US has about one million reported cases of Covid-19. Over 288,000 of those cases are in New York. (Over 25% of all cases are in one state, New York. The other 75% is spread out among the other 49 states.)

In addition, New York has reported over 17,000 of the 54,000 deaths from the virus. (31% of all Covid-19 deaths are in one state, New York.)

By comparison, California, a more populous state, has reported 1651 deaths. (That is 1/10th of NY!) Texas, a state with over 10 million more citizens than NY has reported only 648 deaths. (That is less than 4% of the deaths in NY.)

The numbers just didn’t add up. Those are HUGE discrepancies.

The tragedy of the huge loss of life, though, and it is tragic, pales in comparison to the loss of commerce. CNBC is projecting a 23% unemployment rate within the next 30 days. In the last six weeks, businesses have been forced to shut down. These businesses still have rent, overhead, and salaries to pay, though. They have also had two complete months with little or no income, so many will not be able to open back up. Entire life savings have been wiped out trying to keep the family business solvent and keep their employees able to feed their families.

Why Are the Numbers in New York So Different than the Rest of the Country?

New York City is different from the rest of the US. (The numbers prove it) It has the highest population density of any city in the US. The population of NY also uses public transportation more than any other city. The main difference, though, is that it is the destination of many international flights. Any one of those things individually would likely cause a spike in cases. All of them together, though, created a petri dish for the virus. New York was also the first city to face the crisis, so they were adapting on the fly.

Still, though, the numbers are so different, that something seemed to be missing. For instance, San Francisco had many flights come in from China before the travel ban. It is also a pretty congested city with public transportation. The numbers there aren’t nearly as high as New York.

Then I found a story that seemed to be unrelated. It was about the first hotspot in Washington state. The Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA had a rash of early deaths in the pandemic.

“It all began with patient zero. The 35-year-old had just returned to Seattle on January 15 from visiting family in Wuhan, China… Four days later, after feeling a little under the weather, he was in an urgent-care clinic… County health officials reportedly quarantined more than 60 people whom patient zero had come in contact… a few days later, it became clear the authorities had missed someone. Firefighters soon began receiving calls from the Life Care Center, a 25-mile drive from where patient zero was being held in quarantine, at an alarming rate.”

The article went on to talk about how Life Care patients were sent to local hospitals. Some were then treated and returned to Life Care or transferred to other nursing facilities. In retrospect, that sounds appalling, but at the time, that was normal protocol.

The Nursing Facilities Seem to Be Important to an Overwhelming Spread.

This week, a number of stories have surfaced about the high rate of cases in NY nursing facilities.

  • ABC News – “About a quarter of the state’s total fatalities have been in long-term care facilities, which have been dubbed ground zero of the national crisis.”
  • NBC News – “The coronavirus patients began arriving the last week of March, transferred to the Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center under a New York state mandate requiring nursing homes to accept those recovering from COVID-19, even if they still might be contagious.”
  • NY Post – “City nursing homes ravaged by the coronavirus were warned about disturbing patterns of unsanitary behavior long before the deadly outbreak… The state Health Department cited more than a dozen COVID-19-stricken facilities in New York City for infractions such as healthcare workers not washing their hands, neglecting to wear personal protective equipment, allowing medical devices to lay on the floor and exposing residents’ wounds to germs.”

There were many more. The picture was becoming clearer, but the challenges in the nursing facilities still didn’t fully explain the huge differences in cases. That is until you understand how the virus spreads. Most people under the age of 65 have mild or no symptoms when infected with the virus. Although asymptomatic people can still spread the virus, logically, it will likely spread slower. (They aren’t coughing on you.) Older people are more likely to exhibit symptoms, though. In addition, people who have other illnesses are more likely to develop severe symptoms.

Nursing facilities have (1) people over 65, (2) with lower immune systems, (3) multiple comorbidities, and (4) require healthcare workers to help them with normal daily functions.

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Example of How the Spread Grows Exponentially.

(This is totally hypothetical but possible.)

A family member with the virus but no symptoms visits grammy in the nursing facility. As the family member says “bye”, the family member kisses Grammy on the cheek. Grammy then touches her cheek. All it would take is for Grammy to touch her lips or wipe her nose, and she is now infected. Three days later, she is in distress. She can’t breathe, and she is coughing violently. Her nurse rushes in to help her. Grammy has never been diagnosed with a communicable disease. So her nurse, in the rush to help her, doesn’t put on additional personal protective equipment. The virus spreads again.

A few days later, the nurse, being younger has mild symptoms. But rent in New York is “too damn high,” so she can’t miss out on work hours. She muddles through the day. If she interacts with a dozen patients, they could all become infected. Then, every family member that visits them is more likely to catch the virus because the symptoms are so intense.

Grammy gets even more serious, and the staff calls an ambulance. Paramedics and firefighters arrive and take her to a hospital. She is treated, and she is one of the 80% of the elderly who fights off the virus. However, since she is more frail, now, she needs more specialized care and is taken to a different facility. Grammy may have now coughed around 50 or more people, and many of those people will be treating other patients.

It is possible that we have not seen huge outbreaks in other locations because the virus never entered the nursing facilities.

Decisions Made in this Crisis Have Been Based on Lies, Misinformation, and Bad Science.

Here is a review of a few things that happened since January 15th.

We Have Made Decisions Based on Computer Projections that Have Been Wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The old saying is that even a broken clock is wrong twice a day. Scientific projections about coronavirus don’t even have that amount of success. I remember taking a computer class in the fourth grade. My teacher reinforced an acronym over and over — GIGO. It stands for “garbage in, garbage out.” If the data that you put into a program is wrong, then the outcome you get will be wrong as well. Here are a few highlights.

  • Medrxiv (2/4/2020) – Using this model and the three sets of data, we estimated maximum cases as about 21,000, 28,000 and 35,000 cases refining these predictions in near-real time.
  • Science Magazine (2/7/2020) – “Beyond China itself, Thailand is the country that most likely will have people who arrive at one of its airports with an infection by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has sickened more than 30,000 people. Next on the team’s list is Japan—Osaka’s international airport, interestingly, is more at risk than Tokyo’s—which is followed by South Korea, Hong Kong, and then the United States. Russia likely has more infected people flying in than India, Germany (mainly the Frankfurt and Munich airports) is the most vulnerable country in Western Europe, and Ethiopia is the only sub-Saharan African country to break into the top 30 of virus-threated countries.” (Italy?)
  • NY Times (3/13/2020) – “Between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States could be infected… As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. And, the calculations based on the C.D.C.’s scenarios suggested, 2.4 million to 21 million people in the United States could require hospitalization, potentially crushing the nation’s medical system.”
  • Washington Post (3/19/2020) – “…an alarming new scientific model, developed by British epidemiologists and shared with the White House. The scientists bluntly stated the coronavirus is the most serious respiratory virus threat since the 1918 flu pandemic. If no action to limit the viral spread were taken, as many as 2.2 million people in the United States could die over the course of the pandemic.

This is just a sample, but you get the picture.

These Outrageous Predictions Caused More Outrageous Predictions.

  • The Hill (3/24/2020) – “Cuomo says NY needs 30,000 ventilators, pleads with feds for help.”
  • NY Post (3/29/2020) – “Dr. Anthony Fauci said “bottom line” Gov. Andrew Cuomo has to have the [30,000] ventilators he needs to treat people stricken with the coronavirus in New York as it struggles with the largest number of cases in the nation.”
  • Newsweek (3/31/2020) – “…as of March 30, 2020, the country is predicted to need 220,643 beds, with a shortage of 54,046 beds. It predicts the need for 32,976 ICU beds with a shortage of 13,856. Overall, 26,381 ventilators are predicted to be required.”
  • Health Data (4/1/2020) – • Our model for the US points to April 15 as the peak day for hospital use. At this peak time, the US is predicted to need 262,092 total hospital beds (39,727 for ICU), and 31,782 ventilators to support COVD-19 patients. This demand on hospital resources could lead to a nationwide shortage of 87,674 total hospital beds and 19,863 ICU beds given current COVID-19 trajectories.
  • The Guardian (4/2/2020) – “New York only has enough ventilators for six more days, says Governor Cuomo.”

These Outrageous Predictions Cost States and the Federal Government Millions (Maybe Billion.)

  • Health Data (4/5/2020) – “Updated COVID-19 estimates find that need for hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators needed to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic are less than previously estimated. …IHME is predicting the need for approximately 25,000 ventilators over the next several weeks. Estimates of need for ventilators have primarily been revised downward because of the much larger datasets on US practice patterns for the caring of COVID-19 patients. Predicted excess demand for ICU beds has also been revised downward, with an estimated 16,323-bed shortage.”
  • Fox 5 Atlanta (4/5/2020) – “After confirmed cases of the virus passed 6,000 on Saturday, Georgia health officials announced it’s pouring $72 million into the addition of 300 hospital beds and medical staff.”
  • NPR (4/6/2020) – In New York, Overflow Hospitals at Javits and on Navy Ship Have Been Largely Empty.”
  • The Federalist (4/8/2020) – “New models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show that New York already reached its peak projected ventilator usage on April 8, with a projected need of 5,008. The actual use may have been even lower.”
  • Life Science (4/10/2020) – “Why a highly-cited coronavirus model now projects thousands fewer US deaths than before. The model now projects 60,400 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by the summer, down from 84,000 deaths in earlier predictions.”
  • Denver Post (4/20/2020) – Temporary coronavirus hospital at Colorado Convention Center delayed, downsized amid diminishing need.

They Have Been Wrong Every Time, But We Are Still Following Their Advice.

It Also Appears that Everything that We Have Done to Our Economy Is an Extreme Overreaction.

The Goal Was Said to “Flatten the Curve” to Keep Hospital Resources from Being Overwhelmed.

People panicked in March because of the outrageous models. The models all showed that we would run out of hospital beds by early April, so we had to “Flatten the Curve.” The American population went along with the social-distancing measures to help flatten the curve.

On March 3, 2020, StatNews reported the following. “’If you look at the curves of outbreaks, they go big peaks and then come down. What we need to do is flatten that down,’ Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The notion that the curve of this outbreak could be flattened began to gain credence after China took the extraordinary step of locking down tens of millions of people days in advance of the Lunar New Year, to prevent the virus from spreading around the country from Wuhan, the city where the outbreak appears to have started. Many experts at the time said it would have been impossible to slow a rapidly transmitting respiratory infection by effectively shutting down enormous cities — and possibly counterproductive.

“But the quarantines, unprecedented in modern times, appear to have prevented explosive outbreaks from occurring in cities outside of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.”

What? So the lock-down in Wuhan prevented explosive outbreaks in Milan and New York. Well, thank God! (Sarcasm.)

The Science Times reported the following just days ago. “Trying To ‘Flatten the Curve’ Could be The Worst Way to Fight COVID-19 Pandemic: Study Reports.

“The team which included Harvard University scientists in the United States said that the turning point will never come, the number of cases at its peak will remain the same as if there are no measures done.”

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Did Social Distancing Shutting Down States Work?

The first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Washington, Arizona, Illinois, and two instances in California in January. All five patients were hospitalized. So we can assume that all of them were exhibiting symptoms dramatic enough to go to the hospital.

California enacted a Stay at Home Order on March 19th, 2020. That means, for at least seven weeks, contagious people were in California, and California citizens were interacting normally. People were shaking hands, hugging, and high-fiving. Folks were standing shoulder-to-shoulder at Starbucks waiting for their overpriced lattes. The LA Lakers played 17 games that hundreds of thousands of fans came to see (in person). And people were congregating in movie theaters, getting their hair cut, and working out in sweaty gyms. Restaurants were packed.

On March 19th, 1006 cases had been reported and 19 people had tragically passed away. Assuming that the incubation period is 2-14 per the CDC, that means that infections should have dropped significantly after a 14 day period. That didn’t happen, though. On April 2nd, California reported over 1500 new cases. Since April 2nd, they have reported over 900 new cases every day (except Sundays for some reason). The highest number of new cases was 2283 on April 20th.

All total, California is reporting a little over 41,000 total cases. They aren’t reporting how many people have recovered. That means if all 39.5 million people in California went back to work (or went to a Lakers game,) you would have to have to shake hands with 963 people before you came into contact with just one that might still have the virus.

Let’s get back to work, America!