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Freidman on The Swedish Approach

NYT Columnist Tom Friedman's thoughtful piece on how to deal with Coronavirus seems to make the most sense of anything we’ve seen.  In his 1500 word article he explores what Sweden is doing that may be the right balancing act. Below if our 500 word distillation. See full article. So what are they doing different? He starts by asking are we going to have a plan, like Sweden, or just have each of the 50 state wing it with their own approach. He spoke with Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency — the nation’s top infectious disease official and architect of Sweden’s coronavirus response. Herd immunity. having enough people build immunity (about 60% is the rate at which it kicks in. Key passages. This strategy posits that most people under age 65 who get the coronavirus — if they do not have major pre-existing medical conditions — will either experience it as a typical or tough flu, or completely asymptomatically, and the number who will get so sick that they require hospitalization or emergency care will reliably be less than the number of beds needed to care for them. So, if you do your best to shelter and sequester all of those over 65 and those with serious pre-existing conditions — notably heart and lung disease and diabetes — and let much of the rest of the population circulate and get exposed and become naturally immune, once about 60 percent of your population has gone through this you’ll have herd immunity and the viral transmission will be blocked. (This assumes that immunity for some period of time results from exposure, as most experts think it will.)

Sweden's Anders Tegnel

After all, herd immunity is our goal — either from vaccination or from enough people building natural immunity. Those are the only ways to achieve it. When the lockdown is over, your population largely has not developed immunity and so most everyone remains vulnerable to the virus, and to a second wave in the fall. So in Sweden colleges and high schools are closed, but kindergarten through grade nine are open, as are many restaurants, stores and businesses. Most important, it has encouraged everyone over 70 to stay at home and banned gatherings of more than 50 people and visits to nursing homes. As of April 28, the country’s Covid-19 death toll reached 2,274, about five times higher than in Denmark and 11 times higher than in Norway.” Tegnell told USA Today that such thinking undermines the argument for looking for a vaccine: “If you can’t get population immunity, how can we then think a vaccine will protect us?” We need to have measures in place that we can keep on doing over the longer term, not just for a few months or several weeks.” Friedman concludes: "Here’s the stone-cold truth: There are only different hellish ways to adapt to a pandemic and save both lives and livelihoods. I raise Sweden not because I think it has found the magic balance — it is way too soon to tell — but because I think we should be debating all the different ways and costs of acquiring immunity." Link to full article.

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