Covid 19 When You Get Old

The Iceberg Solution

The standard title for a COVID 19 article these days is something like “Open up the Economy while Protecting our Elderly and Vulnerable Population”. That sounds like a plan to me. But then the article then goes on to talk about opening businesses with certain precautions and returning to regular activities then usually contain little about the elderly and vulnerable other than that they should stay shut up. They rarely address the biggest problem for the elderly and vulnerable and that is stopping the spread in nursing homes and other elderly care facilities. These facilities are the perfect spreading ground for the virus and I hear of little concerted effort to address that. 43% of virus deaths have been in homes. Some states have even been forcing nursing homes to accept still infected patients released from hospitals. Why is the nursing home problem not a major component of every opening up plan?

There is an old myth that Eskimos used to abandon their elderly on icebergs so that they would no longer be a burden on society. What I detect in all these articles and plans is what I call the iceberg solution. Let the expendable elderly population die as they will soon anyway. I even saw one comment that many of the people dying are over their life expectancy anyway. Well, I am one of those over their hill folks. I’m not dead yet and still have lots of plans for things I am going to do in life. I fully support my younger friends getting back to normal lives but don’t except being a human sacrifice to get there.

There are many things we could be doing to make nursing homes safe. I am no epidemiologist, but a few things are obviouse to me:

  • 100% COVID 19 testing of residents and employees
  • Frequent temperature checks of everyone
  • Test people before admission
  • No admission for infected people
  • Find or create comfortable facilities to isolate infected patients- most homes will need outside help for these.

I don’t care how much compassion I see for the elderly until concrete plans like these are in place I to believe that the mainstream plan for the elderly is the iceberg solution.

40,600 deaths tied to U.S. nursing homes

Covid 19

Who’s Right About All This

I’m on everyones email list. Left and Right, smart and whaky, serious scientists and conspiracy theorist idiots and sages. I follow them all. Our world is going through the COVID 19 crisis for which there are so many unknowns, I can not categorically say anyone is right or wrong. Even our top experts change their minds and its not because they are stupid. Reliable knowledge can only be built on data and this virus has only been known to the world for a few months. Despite heric efforts, that is just not enough time to gather all the data we need. We are having to make momentus life and death decisions based on best guesses.

Everyday web sites publish authoritative maps and charts showing exactly the number of COVID 19 cases in different locations. But in the U.S. we have only tested about 2% of the population and most of those tests have been focussed mainly on symptomatic people so really we have no idea how many cases there are. I don’t envy our leaders that have to make momentous decisions on fragmentary information. The last thing we need to do is attach political labels to these decisions. Self disclosure – I am politically on the right. But I see no logical reason that should influence how I think about what we should do.

On the one hand, I see the terrible things the disease has done and how little we know about what it might do. As a society we a balance life and death decisions all the time. For example, driving speed limits, whether to release new drugs that have potentially deadly side effects, allow activities – such as sky diving, that are dangerous. Though these decisions can be difficult and contentious, they are usually based on a sound body of data. While we are learning quickly about COVID 19, we are still largely groping in the dark. The worst predictions could come true and the most flippant naysayers could be right. For this reason, I think the more cautionary approach we have taken is justified and we can become more nuanced as we gain more knowledge and tools.

I also see how people are very anxious to get back to normal life – especially people who need to get back to earning a living. So many businesses were shut down to prevent the spread of the virus but many families have been economically devistated. As a generaous society we have taken a number of actions such as the relief checks – but that can only go so far. Over time the wealth of society can only continue if people make things and provided services. The economic impact is hadest on the poorish and least privilaged in out society. For these reasons I am in favor of cautiously returning the work world gradually back to normal.

Some prominent people have said very wise and very stupid things at various times. I don’t see the point in pointing fingers. Both many prominent Republicans and Democrats at first dismissed the danger and later panicked in the other direction. And then, of course, called each other stupid, unsympathetic, evil, or whatever. Sometimes I think one side takes a position only because it is the opposite of the other side’s position. The way I see it, everyone, including me, has had to react with incomplete and in some cases inaccurate information so I place no blame on anyone.

So let’s start discussing like grown ups. We can shout and argue, but it should be about the true issues and the life and death decisions we need to make, not trying to advance our own petty causes.