We Cannot Control COVID-19 at All Cost

By Senator Lisa Keim

As the pandemic grinds on, we now have nearly one year of data and experience. The narrative should be evolving, as increased knowledge replaces shadowy fear with fact. However, rather than focusing on ‘good’ news, media and government public relations outreach continues to drive a sense of hopelessness, having shifted attention from fatality rates, which are so much better than originally forecasted, to ever increasing infection rates, which are a much smaller concern.

Readily accessible data on the CDC website shows that persons 0-19 years have about a 99.997% likelihood of survival, those 20-49 have roughly a 99.98% probability of survival, and those 50-69/70 years an approximate 99.5% chance of survival. The CDC notes that these estimates are not predictions, but the current best estimate, based on numbers of people who “died with COVID-19,” though not necessarily because of it. Why isn’t this data making bigger headlines? 

Additionally, asymptomatic transmission, originally a largely unknown fear factor, has also been better quantified. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that so-called “asymptomatic” or “presymptomatic” spread of COVID-19 is rare. A World Health Organization (WHO) review published in early July found that between 0% and 2.2% of infected but asymptomatic people infected anyone else, compared to 0.8%-15.4% of people with symptoms.

This virus can be catastrophic for the elderly. However, the vast majority of reasonably healthy persons do not have a substantial risk of dying from COVID-19, and people who are feeling well are less likely to be virus spreaders. So, while this virus should not be downplayed, prudence demands we consider it realistically.

By focusing only on the suffering from COVID-19, while ignoring the catastrophic harms caused by the government actions intended to stop virus spread, we continue to live with myopic response measures. 

As one elected voice of the Maine people, I do not believe the Maine Legislature should allow a continued state of emergency that blocks legislative decision-making on policy.

Data backs up what we all have experienced and seen; that the strategies employed to stop COVID-19 have inflicted considerable harm on our communities and have had very damaging effects on our population socially, economically, psychologically, and health-wise. Businesses have closed with many never to return, jobs have been lost, and lives ruined. At the same time, we have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, dependency, suicidal ideation, financial ruin, and deaths of despair. Drug overdose deaths have reached record levels.

Our children may be paying the highest price of all. School closures have left them, many already disadvantaged, at greater risk of abuse, without proper medical care, isolated from friends and healthy connections. Our older children despair achievement of life ambitions. With increased truancy and decreased college enrollment, our kids are becoming further uneducated in a system that already ranks low internationally. The ill effects of this indirect harm will cast a shadow long into our children’s future. 

We can’t control COVID at all cost.

Many knowledgeable scientists continue to suggest less destructive COVID response measures, that target the at-risk and allow the rest of society to function with reasonable precautions.

These scenarios suggest herd immunity, where the younger and healthier among us would become infected naturally and spread the virus among themselves. This is not heresy, but classic biology, our natural human defense that has protected us from millions of viruses for tens of thousands of years. This, among other logical arguments and response measures, deserves a place in the public debate.

Can government leaders be ‘following the science’ but refuse to engage with rational arguments that run counter to the current narrative? Should big tech help government become ideological enforcers, shutting out any discussion that does not support the policy pathway on which we have already been placed?

If legislators were involved, we would assure a more complete accounting of the societal costs as response measures were given consideration, with transparency. The people would know the options being deliberated and have a voice in the debate.

As we continue under the lifestyle realignment required by the Governor’s executive orders, consider that our form of government requires that policy be honed in the halls of the Legislature for good reason. In the People’s House, ideological opposites force consideration of impacts that would not otherwise face robust debate. Good policy is not made in an echo chamber populated with like-minded ‘experts.’

Disagreement is cause for digging in, fact-finding, and debate, not calling out attack dogs to silence dissent. None of us has the right answer. But, when government is working well, together we find a better path forward than can be done alone.

COVID-19 is not going away. We must return to democratic policymaking.

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