More Perspective on The Virus and Addressing the Harm


Over the past few days, my morning news collection tends to start the day on a footing of concern about the trajectory of the coronavirus.  This concern is helped along by the fact that a few people have taken to ensuring that I see the latest scary article, given my efforts to sow calm and perspective.

When I come across a new article about, for example, the scientific projections that sparked the West’s crackdown, or when my wife reads out loud a Facebook post from a nurse about how COVID-19 is scarier than the flu or H1N1, I pause and consider whether it’s time to adjust my view.  To assist in that process, I go in search of other new information, most especially the raw data concerning the virus.  For that purpose, Worldometer’s coronavirus page has become indispensable, and this morning they’ve added new breakdowns by U.S. state.

So, what perspective does this add?  Well, Rhode Island is still at 23 cases.  In Massachusetts (where one of this morning’s scary articles came from), the number is 218.  In neither state has there been a single documented death.  Graphing the states by cases per one million people produces the following:



Last night on Facebook, Matt Allen posted that Rhode Island has an excess of 66 immediately available intensive care beds, so let’s put that in perspective.  Washington state has arguably been the epicenter of U.S. cases, with 1,014 cases and 55 deaths.  That’s 133 cases per million, or six times worse than Rhode Island at the moment.  If we go with 5% of all cases’ needing intensive care, and assume they all happen at the same time, that means the epicenter of U.S. cases is using six beds for this purpose.  Because Rhode Island’s population is roughly one million people, that’s how many ICUs we’d be using if things were as bad here as they are in Washington.  Even if we go with the upper bound of 20% of all cases’ requiring hospitalization, that’s still only 27 beds. In short, Rhode Island would probably have more than enough hospital beds even if things got as bad here as they are right now in Italy.

Of course, the situation could become ten times worse in Washington and sixty times worse in Rhode Island, and it could happen pretty quickly, but the question we’re addressing right now is what circumstances justify what measures at what cost.  Take out the scary studies based on data from China and Italy.  Take out the “whatifs.”  Look at the data, and consider the very real economic harm being done, and it’s difficult to conclude that the trade-off is obviously worthwhile at the moment.

On Monday, almost 7,000 Rhode Islanders applied for unemployment insurance.  That’s more than the entire town of Exeter.   In the past eight days, the number is approaching 20,000.  That implies an unemployment rate around 6.7%… almost doubling what it has been.

Shutting down our state was a political decision, which I mean neutrally, and it may yet prove to have been the right call.  But as citizens in a representative democracy we need to figure out how we should gauge such things.

In any event, inasmuch as the most harmful thing about COVID-19 so far has been the reaction to it, our governments have some obligation to address the consequences of their decisions.  The steps that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is today encouraging, such as suspending the Internet sales tax, would be a good start.

  • Guest

    As of today, Hawaii has 14 COVID-19 positive confirmed virus cases all of them related to out of Hawaii state travel as none of them are related to community person to person virus spread. Three of the cases are mainland tourists. All were caught before they could spread vrius community wide. All are under trreatment in medical isolation either at home or in hospital.

    Two are a husband & wife from Indiana who had close contact with a COVID-19 case and wife was not feeling well but still decided to vacation in Hawaii where they both became sick and tested positive for COVID-19.

    The other one is a airline stewardess who was exposed to a COVID-19 case but still decided to vacation in Hawaii.

    Hawaii Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency and activated the Hawaii Emergency Management Pandemic Medical Response Team which mustered together the two CDC certified hospitals COVID-19 testing laboratories in hawaii, 64 state-wide medical clinics some with drive through testing and all doctor’s offices for screening with additional needed supplies. Hawaii Department of Health is seperately state-wide random screening all neighborhoods and residents for any coronavirus that has not been detected.

    Hawaii Department of Education public school system is currently on three week spring break.

    Gov. Ige is requesting businesses to shut down for 15 days and has closed all parks. Honolulu mayor has followed suit. Restaurants and bars have closed but are open for take-out or home delivery. Shopping mails have shorten hours and supermarkets are offering seniors 60 and over special shopping only hours. Gov. Ige has requested all tourists cancel plans to visit Hawaii for next 30 days rescheduling to later dates.

    Hawaii residents are largly heeding the Governor because we fully understand whats at stake; over 10 million tourists that bring in annually $17.6 billion into state economy.

    HEMA requires all Hawaii residents to have supplies for self-sutainability for 15 days in case of natural disaster so people are not panicking however there was a run of toilet paper but I don’t need toilet paper because my toilet washes me clean and blow drys plus self cleans and sanitizes itself
    Sorry to read this morning RI Gov. announcing COVID-19 positive cases are now up to 33.

  • Guest

    In Hawaii the mayor of each of the 4 counties can call and enforce “shelter in place” order as it does not require the Governor to make the order. All Hawaii counties are operating at “shelter in place” level to stop person to person spread of coronavirus.

    In this morning news RI governor indicated she has no plans for a “shelter in place” order at this time because of what it would do to state’s economy and coronavirus is under control but RI needs more medical supplies.

    She also reported 11 new COVID-19 cases bringing RI total to 44.

  • Guest

    Hawaii now has 16 COVID-19 cases all travel related out of state.
    Hawaii officially as of today is on “shelter in place” order to stop spread of virus. Tourists are advised not to visit Hawaii for next 30 days. Screening for virus will start at airports.

    RI gov announced 10 new COVID-19 cases bringing RI total up to 54.