Herd immunity: We keep hearing this term from many, including from Katherine Kersten of the Center of the American Experiment (“Minnesota must recover from its pandemic of fear,” Opinion Exchange, May 8). I must wonder if others who read this truly understand the concept. This immunity assumes that likely 60 to 70% of the entire population will contract COVID-19. All of those who survive will likely be immune for some, currently unknown, period of time.
This means that each time the coronavirus reappears, as experts say it will, our herd immunity could have to be re-established.
So how many die each time? According to those who would like us to use herd immunity as a plan, the dead will be the dispensable citizens who were going to die anyway. The old, the infirm, the sick, the poor, the imprisoned and the addicted will bear the brunt. Their “sacrifice” will allow the rest to survive but, more important, get a haircut, go out to dinner and see a show. But don’t forget, the virus also kills some who are otherwise healthy. Kersten points this out with her statement that “the COVID-19 death rate for people ages 18 to 45 in New York City, the American epicenter of the pandemic, is only 0.01%.” I suppose this is acceptable to those who want to use herd immunity as long as the few healthy ones who die are not their children, spouse or loved ones.
In New York City, those 20 to 49 years old are 45% of the total population. That equals almost 3.9 million people, of which 60% will need to contract COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity. So if my math is correct, about 2.3 million otherwise healthy people will be infected. That means 230 healthy people will need to die in New York City to reach herd immunity this time around.
So, to open or not to open? How to open safely? And where does my right to a haircut begin and your right to life end? The questions should be, how many of our vulnerable and healthy neighbors must die, and how many are we willing to sacrifice before we have a viable treatment or vaccine? I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think anyone does right now. I need a haircut, but I am just not sure I am ready to potentially sacrifice my children’s or grandchildren’s lives to get it today. Are you?
Robert Heuermann, Hudson, Wis.
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Kersten is spot-on in her commentary regarding the pandemic of fear. Difficult as it may be, it is time for the responsible media to dial back the hysteria and to give rational approaches fair coverage. I cannot say it better than Kersten in her commentary: “We must continue to take prudent precautions to minimize the virus’s impact and shift our focus to a diligent, targeted effort to protect the vulnerable. But the shutdown calamity must end.”
William Conway, Vadnais Heights
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Kersten’s opinion piece begins with a flawed thesis and heads downhill from there. She states that current restrictions and the crashed economy are “all because politicians, experts and journalists have warned we face an apocalyptic scenario.” No, it’s because we actually face an apocalyptic scenario. She then blames efforts to mitigate the catastrophe for the catastrophe itself, suggesting we should all just go back to doing what we did before the pandemic. It really brings to mind the Facebook meme that says, “ ‘The curve is flattening; we can start lifting restrictions now.’ = ‘The parachute has slowed our rate of descent; we can take it off now.’ ” Maybe we should wait until we touch the ground, when widespread vaccination is a reality.
Daniel P. Burbank, Minneapolis
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More than 80% of deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota are coming from residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, yet people in these facilities make up less than 1% of our population, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Wouldn’t it make more sense to target these facilities with better testing and screening of people entering them, rather than shutting down our businesses, schools and outdoor activities?
Bruce Blocker, Burnsville
• • •
Kersten asserts that the high incidence of asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers limits the value of testing and contact tracing for stopping the spread of the virus. Nonsense. Testing and contact tracing are essential precisely in order to identify people who have the virus, regardless of whether they have symptoms, so they can isolate and not infect others. Without testing and contact tracing, people who return to work will not know if they get the virus until they develop symptoms. By that time, they will have brought it home to vulnerable family members.
David Aquilina, Richfield
By the numbers, Sweden is failing
The article by Karin Olofsdotter describes Sweden’s alternative approach to the pandemic, based on trust (“Why Sweden refused to impose a lockdown,” Opinion Exchange, May 8). Unfortunately, their results are not encouraging. As of Friday, Sweden’s death rate from COVID-19 is 314 per million people and is ninth in the world for per capita deaths. Sweden’s neighbors, however — Denmark, Finland and Norway — stand at 90, 47 and 40 deaths per million respectively.
If Sweden is hoping for less economic pain as a result, that’s not working out either. The International Monetary Fund predicts that Sweden’s economy (real GDP) is expected to contract by 6.8% in 2020. This is little different from the predicted contractions of 6.5% for Denmark and the United Kingdom, 7% for Germany and similar numbers for the rest of Europe.
I wish Sweden well in the long run and hope things work out better for them with their approach, but at the moment their numbers are not good.
Mark Pipkorn, Minneapolis
Let us determine that adjective
The headline in today’s Star Tribune — “DOJ seeks to let disgraced Trump adviser Flynn walk” — is, itself, a disgrace. The article provided by the Washington Post does present the pro and con views of the Department of Justice decision, but the headline presents an editorial conclusion that is unwarranted. Let readers draw their own conclusions as to who or what has been disgraced.
Robert Charles Muschewske, St. Paul
Nine weeks, zero arguments
It has now been nine weeks that I have been in lockdown. Over this time my wife and I have been within 30 feet of each other for approximately 22 hours out of each day without one significant argument. I had not thought this possible except for those prescreened for the space shuttle crew. This is a partial list of some of the things she is doing right:
1. She has suspended judgment on my jokes.
2. She mostly accepts what I suggest for the menu.
3. She has not complained about seeing more or less the same pair of sweatpants for 63 straight days.
4. She has encouraged (but not overly) some exercise.
5. She has counseled against TV that is “too dark.”
6. She has been mostly pleasant and upbeat.
While there may be a list of things she could do better, in the interest of family peace I am not maintaining it.
Jay Boekhoff, Apple Valley
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