Bepsy Strasburg: Lessons learned from coronavirus

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Phase 1 of reopening Nevada began May 9. Thank you to everyone who made this first step possible. I was glad to get my haircut and my self-employed stylist said she had the best single day earnings for quite some time. This is the rebound we need. I was so happy for her especially since she did not qualify for unemployment being self-employed. There is still a lot of work to be done as details to reach the next phase are still not communicated.

So, what have we learned from our recent experience? First, a complete lockdown of the economy is never a sustainable proposition. We rely on each other for our well being. Emotionally we depend on the connection we make with each other every day, with family, and even with strangers. Economically, we are a service dependent society – consumers and service providers create the equilibrium of social order. We need each other.

The complete lockdown mandate came because of imperfect and incomplete information. A strain of coronavirus, known as SARs-CoV originated in the Guangdong province of China in November 2002, and spread through carriers (“spreaders”) travelling worldwide. COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan province of China, and predictably, China followed the same pattern of misinformation. Governments reacted similarly in their initial response with lockdowns and travel bans. SARS caused 8,096 positive cases worldwide with 9.6% fatality. Comparatively, COVID-19 caused over 4.8 million positive cases worldwide with 6.6% fatality or 319K deaths. 1.75 million people has recovered worldwide. Clearly, the same response policies applied after SARS is not appropriate since the scale and scope of this pandemic affected so much more of the world population.

The main lesson was behavior modification and good hygiene practices. For example, Hong Kong is a highly congested city like New York with 7.5 million people but everything is open except restaurants and schools. Wearing masks daily is part of their normal wardrobe.

Sweden, praised for their COVID-19 response, has a population of 10 million and did not have a lockdown. They relied on good hygiene practices. A direct result of the social mingling, the Swedish population has improved their percent of their population with COVID-19 antibody. There is no perfect solution when we have imperfect information.

We need to overcome this COVID-19 pandemic just like the SARS coronavirus epidemic in 2002. Everyone who have gone to a grocery store have been exposed to asymptomatic people. Like Sweden, we can improve the percent of the population with the antibody by this limited exposure. In fact, that is what a vaccine does – exposes the person to a small dosage of the virus so antibodies can be created to fight the disease in the larger population. We should remember that we did not have a vaccine for SARS; we had medical therapies to treat SARS as we do now with COVID-19.

Without a well communicated plan soon, the economic and human crisis would be unimaginable. It would be like watching a disaster movie when a handful of survivors looking hopefully at the dawn of tomorrow as the credits roll on. We need to open businesses by all means. Let the legal professionals draft an indemnity contract to protect businesses and governments so lives and livelihoods can be saved. Long-term residents of Carson City know that many businesses never reached their pre-recession 2008 levels. We cannot let this happen again.

Bepsy Strasburg is a Carson City resident.


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