The Press-Dispatch

April 29, 2020

The Press-Dispatch

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The Press-Dispatch Wednesday, April 29, 2020 B-9 OPINION Submit Letters to the Editor: Letters must be signed and received by noon on Mondays. Email: or bring in a hard copy: 820 E. Poplar Street, Petersburg I finally had a chance to have a sit down dinner and listen to great music. Just the two of us, Rose and myself. We went to a drive-thru restaurant, ordered hamburgers and fries, then parked in a nice ar- ea overlooking a fairly busy road. We enjoyed sitting in our comfort- able driver and passenger seats. Then I tuned in to our favorite radio station. To stay within our healthy nutrition guidelines, we drank unflavored bottled water. It was a great experience. Before the dinner, I had my car- dio workout, pushing a shopping cart while wearing a mask and hav- ing my gloves on. That is the new social life we are experiencing. People call it the new norm. It's amazing to see the pathway going into the store where you can only enter a certain set of doors, marked by yellow barriers, signs on the floor about where you can proceed, and the need to observe safe distancing. I thought for a while I was entering a crime scene. Now all the cash reg- isters have plexiglass barriers. I wonder if they are really helpful. A fter the great out- door experience, we headed home. Traf- fic was rather sparse. We tried to soak in as much enjoyment as we could, discovering what we used to take for granted. We started noticing little things like the trees and the fields and the birds along the way. Looking at the gas prices at the various convenience stores along the way, showing surprising low gas prices was another unheard of phenomenon. We have not seen that in a very long time. It gives you a mixed feeling of a sense of relief but also an alarm. Because businesses have slowed down, a lot. I mean a lot. • • • My classmates from Medical school have been posting pictures taken from half a cen- tury ago. I suspect they are all starting to get antsy and have dug up many they have kept for posteri- ty. The class pictures show how much we have changed, from young, good-looking "kids" to now so different "aged" fogies, based on pictures taken of reunions of the past 20 years or so. I did not delight in seeing the lat- er set of pictures because the real- ity of journeying to the senior cit- izen era hit me . Some classmates were easy to recognize, some I could not identify. Thank good- ness the names were posted with My Point of View By Dr. H. K. Fenol, Jr., M.D. The new normal Minority View By Walter E. Williams Benefits vs. costs and COVID-19 Continued on page 10 Continued on page 10 Continued on page 10 One of the first lessons in an economics class is everything has a cost. That's in stark con- trast to lessons in the political arena where politicians talk about free stuff. In our personal lives, de- cision-making involves weighing costs against benefits. Business- men make the same calculation if they want to stay in business. It's an entirely different story for pol- iticians running the government where any benefit, however minus- cule, is often deemed to be worth any cost, however large. Related to decision-making is the issue of being overly safe versus not safe enough. Some- times, being as safe as one can be is worthless. A minor exam- ple: How many of us before driv- ing our cars inspect the hydraulic brake system for damage? We'd be safer if we did, but most of us just assume everything is OK and get into our car and drive away. The National Highway Traffic Safe- ty Administration estimates that 40,000 Americans lose their lives each year because of highway fa- talities. Virtually all those lives could be saved with a mandated 5 mph speed limit. Fortunately, we consider costs and rightfully conclude that saving those 40,000 lives aren't worth the costs and in- convenience of a 5 mph mandate. With the costs and benefits in mind, we might examine our government's re- sponse to the COV- ID-19 pandemic. The first thing to keep in mind about any crisis, be it war, natural di- sasters or pandemics, is we should keep mar- kets open and private incentives strong. Markets solve problems because they provide the right incentives to use resources effectively. Federal, state and local governments have ordered an un- precedented and disastrous shut- down of much of the U.S. econo- my in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There's a strictly health-related downside to the shutdown of the U.S. economy ignored by our lead- ership that has been argued by ep- idemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly the head of the Depart- ment of Biostatistics, Epidemiolo- gy, and Research Design at Rocke- feller University in New York City. Wittkowski argues that the lock- down prolongs the development of the "herd immunity," which is our only weapon in "exterminat- ing" the novel coronavirus — out- side of a vaccine that's going to optimistical- ly take 18 months or more to produce. He says we should focus on shielding the el- derly and people with comorbidities while al- lowing the young and healthy to associate with one another in or- der to build up immu- nities. Wittkowski says, "So, it's very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible, and then the elder- ly people, who should be separat- ed, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back and meet their children and grandchildren after about four weeks when the virus has been ex- terminated." Herd immunity, Witt- kowski argues, would stop a "sec- ond wave" headed for the Unit- ed States in the fall. Dr. David L. Katz, president of True Health Ini- tiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Re- search Center, shares Wittkows- ki's vision. Writing in The New Race for the Cure By Star Parker Points to Ponder by Rev. Ford Bond An odyssey of hope and faith A lot has happened in the last few weeks that have shoved wor- thy news items off the front page. The celebration of one histori- cal event that was eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic has a par- allel to our current situation. Fif- ty years ago, Apollo 13 for a few days was in the death grip of un- certainty. To remember the odyssey of Apollo 13 allows us to consider that the human spirit in times of great adversity can meet the challenge, and this event is an excellent illus- tration to how we should cope with the effects of the Covid-19 virus. On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13' left the Kennedy Space Center for a mission to the moon. Aboard were three veteran astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert, and Fred Haise. Fifty-five hours into the mis- sion and 200,000 miles from Earth, Jack Swigert was asked by Mission Control to conduct a routine "cryo stir," to stir the two oxygen tanks. Ninety-five seconds after Swigert activated those switch- es; the astronauts heard a "pretty large bang", accompanied by fluc- tuations in electrical power and the firing of the attitude control thrusters. Swigert radioed 26 seconds lat- er, "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here," echoed by Lovell, "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a Main B Bus under- volt." In the early moments of this "problem," there was a lot of con- fusion as the astronauts and Mis- sion Control struggled to get a han- dle on what had just happened. Slightly more than one hour af- ter the explosion, the only option left from Houston was to close some valves on the damaged tanks, which meant there would be no moon landing; however, this did not solve the problem. Apollo 13's electrical system was dying. Now the mission went from land- ing on the moon to survival. The issue was not running out of oxy- gen-it was running out of power. What began as a routine mis- sion to the moon suddenly became a wild Odyssey! Just like the name of their ship, their journey now be- came one filled with uncertainty, danger, and the possibility of dy- ing in space. Allow me to pause here and call your attention to one of the central figures of our faith—ABR AHAM. Genesis chapter 12 tells us how Abraham's odyssey began; Now the Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kin- dred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Abraham was asked to begin an Odyssey of faith, which included a series of wanderings, adventures, and hardships. Two words became synonymous with Abraham on his Odyssey: FAITH and HOPE. What we discover is hope and faith are joined together. Faith proceeds hope. Faith is, do you believe? So, when God said to Abraham: leave the comfort of your home and your relatives and go into a strange land that you've never heard of, you don't know exists, you don't know how far away it is, and I will give you this land. Abraham said yes! The reason I keep referring to Abraham's leaving his homeland as an Odyssey is that the scrip- tures make it very clear Abraham didn't know "where he was going and he confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." We are like the Apollo 13 astro- nauts. We have just experienced a problem. A BIG problem. It's called the cornovirus-19 pandem- ic. Our routine has been disrupted. Perhaps a better word is shattered. We are still in the early stages of this pandemic and nobody knows how this coronavirus is going to play out. It has been more than six weeks The devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is compound- ed by the possibility—some would say likelihood—that it could have been averted or its impact mitigat- ed. If, for example, China failed in a timely manner to disclose the threat of the new coronavirus or misrepresented its cause or sever- ity, there could be political or eco- nomic consequences. But could China actually be sued by COVID-19 victims? Mis- souri appears to think so and filed suit in federal court Tuesday. Suing a government is different than suing private individuals or companies. The first, and biggest, hurdle is the legal principle, often called sovereign or state immuni- ty, that a government cannot be sued without its consent. In the U.S. Constitution, this principle is the basis for the 11th Amendment, which prohibits law- suits in federal court "against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." Sovereign immunity, however, is not absolute. A gov- ernment can give its consent to be sued in certain circum- stances or can waive its immunity in dif- ferent ways. Congress enact- ed the Foreign Sov- ereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in 1976 to clarify the cir- cumstances in which a foreign government can be sued in Amer- ican courts. It says that "a foreign state shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the States except as provided in" that law. The Supreme Court has said that the FSIA is "the sole ba- sis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state in the courts of this country." China, therefore, can be sued by COVID-19 victims only if the suit fits within one of the excep- tions in the Foreign Sovereign Im- munities Act. On April 21, Mis- souri filed suit in U.S. District Court against the People's Republic of China, several Chi- nese government enti- ties, the Wuhan Insti- tute of Virology, and the Chinese Commu- nist Party. Missouri alleges that China misled the World Health Organization about the nature of the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, al- lowed it to spread, delayed report- ing evidence of human-to-human transmission, and even censored information about it. Those actions, Missouri says, allowed the virus to spread rapid- ly around the world, into the Unit- ed States, and into Missouri. The lawsuit claims that these actions violated Missouri law and harmed Missouri residents. Continued on page 10 Continued on page 10 At this writing, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. is 42,425. This is just a little higher than the number of deaths in the U.S. each year from auto accidents. It's no mystery how to reduce those 40,000 auto accident deaths to zero. Simply prohibit driving. How many Americans would agree to this? Not many. Most Americans pre- fer their freedom and the benefits they get from driving, and are pre- pared to accept the risks associat- ed with driving. If there were a million traffic- related deaths each year, for sure Americans would become less wedded to their cars and more open to intrusive regulations that would make it much more difficult to drive. When the news first broke about COVID-19, we were hearing esti- mates of a death toll of 2 million- plus for the United States. Knowl- edge of the nature of this threat was very limited. There was great fear of waves of casualties, and of hospitals with- out space and equipment to deal with patients. Under these emergency cir- cumstances, many were open to compromising their freedom and agreeing to lockdown policies. But the picture has changed dra- matically. By the end of March, Dr. Anthony Fauci was estimat- ing 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, and less than two weeks ago, he revised this to 60,000. A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal reported CO- VID-19 research results from a Stanford University team. Based on a sampling from Santa Clara County, the team estimates fatali- ty rates of COVID-19 in the range of 0.12 % to 0.2 % , approximately the range of seasonal flu fatalities and less than a 10th of the initial COV- ID-19 estimates. Certainly, this is no final word. But data and what we are observ- ing points very strongly to the se- verity of this threat being nothing like what we were initially led to believe. If indeed the risk involved is not all that much higher than the risk of getting into a fatal auto accident or the seasonal flu — which could well be the case now — how many would tolerate what is going on? We're also seeing that nation- al averages don't tell us much. Re- gional differences are huge. Of the 42,425 casualties nation- ally, 45% are in New York. Without New York, the nation- al number would be 23,334. So to- tal COVID-19 casualties in 49 of 50 states now total far less than our total annual auto casualties nationwide. Two conclusions jump out, and they are both consistent with Pres- ident Donald Trump's latest guide- lines. First, local realities are so dis- parate that governors and local au- thorities must lead management of this crisis in their region. Second, the risks are far less than what was initially thought. We must adjust and prudently start opening our economy. The price of what we are now do- ing is astronomical. Per Hoover Institute economist John Cochrane, "20 million people, more than 1 in 10 US workers, lost their jobs in the first month of this shutdown. That's more than the entire 2008 recession." "Most guesses say that compa- nies have one to three months of cash on hand, and then fail," he added. And in the end, the government lending and spending programs designed to get us through this will add, according to Cochrane, $4 trillion of new debt on the Amer- ican people. That's $12,121 for ev- ery man, woman and child in the country. We never have perfect informa- tion. The point in life is always to make intelligent decisions under uncertainty. Just as one-size-fits-all policy Heritage Viewpoint By Thomas Jipping Missouri's lawsuit against China Why we should start going back to work

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