Inside the Numbers: Why Virginia is moving forward to Stage Two

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A reader asked why we’re moving to Phase Two when the front-page headline from the local paper just yesterday reported that the number of COVID-19 cases in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro had doubled.

It’s been many years since I’ve bought an actual print paper, so I hadn’t seen the headline, but I found the story online, and, turns out, yep, that was the headline.

In the past three weeks. Might need to point that out, for context.

More context: it’s not double – almost double, but not double – and the raw number of new cases we’re talking about here is 96.

And, more: the population of Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro is a combined 121,791, as of the most recent data.

So, 96 new cases in three weeks among a population of 121,791.

A total of 212 reported cases since mid-March among that same population of 121,791.

A total of 11 COVID-19 hospitalizations from among that population of 121,791.

And we were told that May’s the month that COVID got real for a lot of people in the area.

What got real was just how hard those who were wrong on COVID from the outset are intent on doing whatever they can to massage numbers to keep you scared out of your wits.

This from the same folks who had us quaking at the characterizations at the outset of the lockdowns about local hospitals overflowing with patients to the point where doctors would have to ration care.

That’s what led to the sudden and unthinking acceptance of the “flattening the curve” concept, the idea that submitting to quarantines of the healthy would limit the spread of a virus with an unprecedented ability to transmit through the population, to allow hospitals time to increase capacity and prepare for the onslaught.

Outside of the New York City metro area, which saw its hospitals stretched to capacity, but not beyond, it was never near onslaught territory, and it was obvious as early as the first of April that this was going to be the case.

The news media, by and large, has yet to allow itself to be dragged into that particular perimeter of wisdom, even as the available data continues to demonstrate that hospitals are nowhere near being overwhelmed – again, we’re at 11 total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro – and that the virus is nowhere near as deadly to the general population as we were led to believe from the early numbers from China.

To wit: we’re at two deaths combined in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro, from among our 212 reported cases.

You could point to a case fatality ratio of roughly 1 percent there and say, OK, 1 percent is a pretty high CFR, when the CDC pegs the death rate from the flu at around .1 percent, roughly a tenth of what you’re seeing in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro right now.

You’d be comparing apples and oranges there, though. Because even the most conservative estimates of actual infections per case at a 7:1 ratio, which, back of the envelope math, you get what is called the infection fatality rate in our local area of .13 percent, which, that other number from the CDC, for the flu, at .10 percent, compare and contrast.

These numbers, incidentally, jibe with recent guidance from the CDC, which pegs the IFR at between .1 and .4 percent, settling on .26 percent as a best guess estimate for the purposes of moving forward from a public-health planning perspective.

Which, this should be great news, right?

We were told three months ago about a killer virus that was going to kill 1 or 2 or 3 percent of us, and how people were going to be left to die in hallways in hospitals, how everything was going to up and collapse.

And that turned out not to be the case.

We should be jumping up and down happy that the world isn’t actually coming to an end because of COVID-19.

And, when you break it down, this is why you’re seeing Gov. Ralph Northam, and really, governors everywhere, from even hard-hit New York, where Andrew Cuomo is moving things in the direction of a reopen, are taking the steps that they’re taking.

Specific to Virginia: 1,311 current COVID-19 hospitalizations, representing 7.9 percent of the state’s hospital capacity, with 25.3 percent of our hospital beds currently open.

That number, you need to know, is down 213 over the past five days, and is at its lowest point since April 20.

Bottom line: it’s time.

We’ve been told for months to trust the science, trust the numbers.

And now that the governors are doing so, you have the dolts in the media clinging to their narratives.

It’s almost as if these folks are miserable that the predictions they put to paper and cyberspace three months ago about the world coming to an end didn’t come to be.

There might be other things at play here, but it ain’t the numbers.

There’s no way you can look honestly at 96 new cases of anything in a population of 121,791 in a three-week period and come to the conclusion that this is anything other than a nothingburger best served cold.

Story by Chris Graham

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