News: CJ Exclusives

Ebbs and flows: We need to adjust, learn to live with the virus, experts say

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Shutterstock photo

COVID-19 cases in North Carolina may actually be decreasing, even as media hysteria and local mask mandates rage on. 

Cases, based on the seven-day rolling average, says Jon Sanders, appear to be dropping, considering rates in North Carolina and neighboring states. Sanders is a senior fellow in regulatory studies and research editor at the John Locke Foundation.

North Carolina reported daily new cases late last week at 5,464; they were 7,290 on Sept. 17, and the lowest they’ve been since Aug. 22, Sanders said, citing the seven-day average. Hospitalizations were at 3,388, compared to 3,627 on Sept. 17. Positive tests, at 8.1% late last week, were also down, compared to 10.4% on Sept. 17.

“The seven-day rolling averages of the major virus metrics we track in North Carolina — new cases, hospitalizations, percentage of tests returning positive, and deaths — are all lower at the end of this week than they were last week,” Sanders told Carolina Journal. “Most of these averages are at their lowest points in several weeks.”

Yet the mainstream media still leads with reports of people dying from COVID, including, most recently, a 43-year-old Greensboro pastor and an elementary school teacher from Apex, who, according to reports, wasn’t vaccinated. A local TV news program last week promoted a story investigating gym members allegedly ignoring local mask mandates, even though some experts argue about the efficacy of masks. 

Bad for business

Gyms, like bars, have been hit especially hard by the pandemic and ensuing government edicts. Gyms were closed for months, and bars were closed for more than a year, under unilateral orders by Gov. Roy Cooper. More bars and restaurants are closing every day, attributable to the lockdowns and restrictions last year, as well as government payouts that effectively gave people the option not to work.

In late 2020, Carolina Journal wrote that about 25% of gyms in the U.S. would close by year’s end, a study had predicted. 

The global pandemic is the biggest disruption the fitness industry has ever faced, wrote Nick Rizzo of RunRepeat, which specializes in shoes for athletes and studies the fitness industry.

It’s also estimated the gym and health club industry lost $13.9 billion from mid-March to Aug 31, 2020, according to data compiled by the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, CJ has reported.

The United States has had 43,540,062 cases, says Worldometer, which tracks COVID cases. The U.S. has reported about 703,000 deaths, including about 1.4 million cases in North Carolina and about 16,000 deaths. Of almost 34 million “closed” cases in the U.S. — including people who recovered or were discharged from a hospital — just 2% of infected people died.

Reported deaths lag behind peaks in the virus, Sanders says.

“An outbreak such as COVID often fizzles mysteriously,” wrote David Leonhardt in the New York Times. “[L]ike a forest fire that fails to jump from one patch of trees to another.”

This happened in India and the United Kingdom, and it appears that’s now the case in the U.S.

Michael Osterholm, the Times reported, runs an infectious disease research center at the University of Minnesota. Osterholm, the story says, “suggests that people keep in mind one overriding idea: humility.”

“‘We’ve ascribed far too much human authority over the virus,’” he told Leonhardt for the story, published in late July.

Meaning masks, social distancing, and vaccines, for example. Put another way, government intervention — except when we call on the military and courts — is not a solution to our problems.

The vaccine is a personal choice. So far, 69% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose; 64% are fully vaccinated. 

Ebs and flows. Adjusting to the virus, but probably never eradicating it. It’s an idea many local governments can’t seem to comprehend, as mask mandates continue in towns and schools throughout the state.

COVID behaves in mysterious ways, Leonhardt wrote. 

“But Americans should not assume that Delta is destined to cause months of rising caseloads. Nor should they assume that a sudden decline, if one starts this summer, fits a tidy narrative that attributes the turnaround to rising vaccination and mask-wearing.”

Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and Pfizer board member, last week told CNBC he thinks the end of the pandemic phase of COVID-19 is in sight, but the endemic phase is coming. 

“Or in other words, COVID is never going away for good,” the CNBC story says.

Gottlieb told CNBC businesses should be thinking about the long term. Adjusting to living with the virus, especially as flu season approaches.

“‘I don’t think that businesses have really undergone a very comprehensive approach to how they improve the work environment, the workflow,’” he said, according to the story. “We need to start thinking about this.” 

Confusion at all levels

On Friday, Sept. 24, Sen. Richard Burr, N.C. Republican and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said confusion still reigns throughout the U.S. regarding vaccines, booster shots, and the general approach to the pandemic from the Biden administration.

“For months, I, along with many others, have been asking the administration how they’re preparing for boosters and have gotten inconsistent answers,” Burr said in a news release. “The lack of a clear plan and consistent message is inexcusable.

“The administration needs to focus its efforts on improving vaccination rates and booster uptake,” Burr said. “On breakthrough cases and the need for booster shots, we need additional, better, and more timely data, so we can stop lagging behind other countries on decision-making. We should rapidly assess what information is needed for effective and efficient decision-making on boosters for the other two COVID-19 vaccines and the broader population and where we are in gathering that information.”