As the world attempts to return to normal, we need to keep a few things in mind… this isn’t just about death tolls. At the moment about 40% of people age 25-44 coming off ventilators after coronavirus have permanent lung scarring that may lead to permanent disability. There is also evidence that this might be happening in some of the minor cases that didn’t require ventilators. Furthermore, it’s a virus and the full extent of damage may not be felt or even known for decades.
In the 1960s, doctors didn’t know measles could erase immunity to other viral infections such as chicken pox despite it being around for centuries. But by the time I had measles in the 1980s it was common knowledge. Furthermore, in the 1980s no one connected my sudden plethora of illnesses to my bout of measles. I would be in my 20s before the suggestion was made that they might be related.
And it was 2017 before I got confirmation the measles had permanently damaged my immune system and that was the reason every time the wind blew wrong I got some infection.
The 25-44 age group is the second group hardest hit group of people by coronavirus and it took us millennia to figure out the extent of damage the measles virus did to the human body. The learning curve for coronavirus is much steeper.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t open back up, but we all need to continue to be careful once it happens. It is better to never get the virus than to recover from it, especially now that we have cases of reinfection in China, Italy, and Spain meaning having the virus once does not guarantee immunity from it.
As out meat processing industry shows, we cannot afford for a large portion of the 25-44 age range to get coronavirus and not because 30% will die but because we have no clue what that means for our workforce in the long run. What if they get sick and it turns out coronavirus makes you more prone to lung cancer as some viruses do and in 15 years 1 million extra people end up with lung cancer because they got coronavirus.
Or what if coronavirus is more like a different zoonotic virus; HIV. HIV has a period at the beginning where the infected experiences flu-like symptoms before it begins destroying their immune system. They then become symptom free for months and sometimes years, before the devastation of their immune system begins to make them consistently sick.
We are still basing all our decisions on the idea that this is a one and done virus, but the evidence is starting to mount that this isn’t the case and it just hasn’t been around long enough for us to understand the long term repercussions. There are currently 1 million+ COVID-19 cases in the US. And we have no idea what sort of challenges those 1 million+ are going to face in 2 years or 5 years or 10 years.