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Fayette County


Fayette County and COVID-19: The facts, just the facts

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

I’m a Facebook frequent flyer, a blogger (see www.universalhealthreform.wordpress.com), and columnist. I’m also the former Director of Health Planning for Georgia and spent decades at high executive levels in for profit corporate healthcare. 

Some social media sites are very accurate regarding COVID-19 information, but most are not, with many showing political bias. That causes a lot of misinformation to float around and be self-perpetuating on social media. That misinformation is one reason why America is so far behind many other nations in its COVID-19 response.

Here are some “down to earth” fairly easy to understand Pandemic facts:

• How well has the USA done in halting the spread of the virus versus the rest of the world? The USA is 4th in population and has 25% of the world’s COVID cases;

• How much have COVID-19 cases increased in Fayette over the last few months? On March 28, Fayette had only 26 cases. By April 28 it had 170. By May 28 it had 230. There was a  spike in June, up to 326 cases on June 28 and up to 693 cases as of July 21, with 56 hospitalizations and 21 deaths (a 3 percent death rate). That is an increase of 367 cases in 3 weeks as opposed to only a 96 increase for all of June.

• Is the Fayette school district prepared? Yes, to their credit they have derived a comprehensive 3-phase plan (green, yellow, red), depending on how rapidly the virus is spreading. Unfortunately, in my opinion based on the above, it appears that Fayette County is already very red, requiring strong preventive measures like long distance learning before school opens.

• What is the percent of Americans who get virus and die from COVID-19? 3.7%overall as of 7-21-20. 

• What percent of seniors who have the virus die? It’s difficult to obtain CDC’s figures for the USA (objectively, it should not be, the reader can surmise why it is hard to get here in the USA and not in other nations); in Italy, for instance, the rate is 12.8% for those 70-79 and 20.2% for those 80+;

• What’s “Herd Immunity” for the USA? This usually means 60%-70% of the American population getting the disease;

• Which Americans are at high risk? Seniors plus those with diabetes, asthma, lung disease, obesity, and many other medical issues;

• What’s the US Population of seniors (over 60)? 73 million Americans are over 60 (another 22 million are 55-59).

• How many other Americans are at high risk? KFF estimates the number to be 41 million (not readily available on the CDC site but it should be, again, the reader can surmise why it is not in the USA but is for other nations)

• What is the rate of “persistent symptoms” for those recovering? Per a recent JAMA article, 87%.

• Was there a pre-existing national strategic plan to confront the crisis? Yes, the previous administration’s National Security Council constructed a 69-page “Playbook for Early Response” regarding how to prepare for and contain pandemics. However, it was never used by the current administration.

• What could the USA have done much earlier to prevent the spread? Many things, including but not limited to: establishment of a national strategic plan to fight the epidemic; accurate, coordinated, and consistent information dissemination at the Federal level; early testing, tracing of those infected, isolation of those exposed; national directives to businesses prohibiting them from selling preventive equipment overseas and mandating that they convert production capacities to produce COVID-19 related items (masks, gloves, ventilators, and so forth); and centralized, rational national purchasing/distribution by the Federal government of PPE and supplies used to fight the virus;

• Is a mask effective? A mask will help to prevent other people from catching the virus from you;

• Is social distancing necessary? Social distancing is designed to prevent you from being close enough to an infected person to catch the illness;

• Why isolate young people with the virus? Young people are spreading COVID-19, sometimes to high risk groups (parents, grandparents and those with pre-existing conditions);

• Are there drugs proven effective in treatment of COVID-19? Numerous trials are under way, but there is no medically accepted “miracle cure” (and that includes hydroxychloroquine);

• Are there any home remedies that can prevent or cure COVID-19? No, including ingesting/shooting bleach, using hand dryers, rinsing with saline, taking antibiotics, bathing, and going out into the sun or cold.

There are many other common misconceptions about the virus. Surprisingly, these misconceptions still exist six months after the virus hit our shores. The reader can make his or her own conclusions about why these incorrect assumptions are so wide spread based on the facts listed above.

The reader must also make a non-partisan evaluation of where we in the US stand versus other developed nations regarding our virus preparation and response. It is critical that your unbiased assessment be factored into your vote in November if we expect improvement in both the response to this virus, which will be with us for many years, and other national emergencies.

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.