With Facts As Guide, Let’s Start Reopening

EDITORIAL

With Facts As Guide,

Let’s Start Reopening

As the headline has it, that’s what Governor Cuomo is doing. And he’s convincing.

When on April 16, Cuomo announced he was extending NY PAUSE from April 29 to May 15, most of us probably thought that it would then be extended to the end of May, then mid-June, and so on.
Upstaters, given the daily reports of New York City’s spiraling death code, were in that frame of mind.

So it was a pleasant surprise, Sunday, April 26, that the governor, in response to a reporter’s question at the daily briefing, said he planned to start “phase one” of the move to the “New Normal” on May 15 in three Upstate regions – including the Mohawk Valley, which includes Otsego County.

It wasn’t an unalloyed pleasant surprise; after all, who isn’t worried about our future relationship with the coronavirus.

Since then, Cuomo’s continued to sketch out a fact-based process.

Before the “New Normal” begins, regions must experience 14 days of sequential reduction in infection rates and less than 70 percent occupancy of hospitals.

Also, and less than a 1.1 percent infection rate; in other words, more people need to be getting better than are getting sick.

Tuesday the 28th, he announced isolation facilities will be established, so if a husband, wife, son or daughter gets sick, he or she doesn’t have to go home and infect the rest of the family.
To go back to the beginning, the sheltering in place and social distancing was required to “bend the curve” to achieve a declining infection rate, and that’s happened.

Cuomo’s decision comes amid a better understanding of the imperfection of
predictions.

You may have read recent op-ed pieces or seen TV clips in the past few days of Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford professor – Politico, The Hill, U.S. News, Real Clear Politics, Forbes, C-Span, etc. –
reporting on the emergence of five “key facts”:

1. The vast majority of us are at no significant risk of dying from COVID-19
2. Protecting older, at-risk people keeps hospitals from getting overcrowded
3. Total isolation slows population immunity, prolonging the threat
4. People are dying because other medical cases aren’t being treated
5. There’s a “clearly defined” population at risk that can be protected with “targeted measures”
With hundreds of people still dying daily in New York City, we can still say, but, but …

Still, the governor himself said Tuesday many Upstate counties resemble “Midwest and Western states” more than they do New York City and its suburbs.

Another report, in the Wall Street Journal, on Sweden’s experience suggests the benefits of targeting: Since 80 percent of people infected are over 65, Sweden only required those people to shelter in place. And since there were no pediatric deaths, elementary and middle schools stayed open.

That kind of strategic thinking makes sense.As it turned out, Sweden’s death rate was 80 people per million, less than the United States’ seven hardest-hit states. And since steps were less Draconian, they could be maintained for a longer period without blowback.

Cuomo’s “phase one” plan has another sensible twist: The state isn’t telling individual construction firms and factories how to open, reasoning that individual companies are better able to craft effective plans for themselves, plans that protect their workers and limit their liability.

Our reporter Libby Cudmore spoke to stalwart Eastman Associates, the Oneonta construction firm: It had already developed such a plan. In the Town of Oneonta, Burt Rigid Box is preparing one.

“A businessman called me this morning,” said County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, who chairs the county’s Coronavirus Task Force. “Here’s my advice. Make a business plan: This is how we can open safely. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell everyone.”

The goal isn’t to replace safety concerns with economic ones. The goal is to address safety concerns AND economic ones.

Governor Cuomo’s step-by-step process, it seems as we approach the “New Normal,” meets that criteria.
Both disease and economic depression would be devastating.


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