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This came in my Facebook feed today. The National Post in Canada is basically the Wall Street Journal here, and having them post an article like this is a big deal. You couldn’t post this on YouTube:
In Canada, the individual rate of death from COVID-19 for people under 65 years of age is six per million people, or 0.0006 per cent. This is roughly equivalent to the risk of dying from a motor vehicle accident during the same time period. In other countries where data are available, 0.6-2.6 per cent of deaths in people below age 65 have occurred in people without known underlying health conditions. Although the risk of death is small in this group, ongoing research to discover the critical risk factors for death from COVID-19 in younger age groups must remain a top priority. This will permit us to better protect those at risk, while loosening restrictions for the majority.
It is also time to continue releasing lockdown measures. Remember, the original approach of “flattening the curve” was to relax restrictions if the system was not overwhelmed. That is still the appropriate goal. It is unlikely that zero infections can be achieved for COVID-19, which fundamentally spreads like influenza or the common cold, including from those without symptoms. The virus causes disease so mild in many people that it can circulate without detection, until it is introduced into a vulnerable population. While some advocate waiting for a vaccine, that would mean continuation of a lockdown for an unknown period of time. This approach ignores how complicated and difficult vaccine development can be. It is entirely possible that in two years we will still not have a vaccine, and very probable that a vaccine will not eliminate the virus entirely. Hence, we need to come to terms with the fact that we cannot eliminate this virus. At best, we can continue to slow its spread, and protect the frail and elderly.
Will this approach cost more deaths? Sweden, which allowed for more community transmission, is the measure of this strategy. More deaths per capita did occur than in Canada. On the positive side, Sweden’s number of new cases has peaked and Sweden will be better protected against future waves and the need for future restrictions. In the absence of a vaccine, it is a question of paying now or paying later. While the realistic goal of Canada’s lockdown was to delay deaths, it was never going to avoid them entirely. One year from now, Canada and Sweden may well have the same number of deaths per capita, but Canada may have had significantly more economic and social impacts.
I added the bold for emphasis.
Dr. Neil Rau is an infectious diseases specialist and medical microbiologist in private practice in Oakville, Ont. He is also an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Susan Richardson is a retired infectious diseases physician and medical microbiologist and professor emerita at the University of Toronto. Dr. Martha Fulford is an associate professor at McMaster University and an infectious diseases physician at Hamilton Health Sciences. Dr. Dominik Mertz is an associate professor at McMaster University and an infectious diseases physician and hospital epidemiologist at Hamilton Health Sciences.