The state health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, recently acknowledged that 95% of those known to have contracted the COVID-19 virus have recovered. Some of the five percent are still hospitalized or have been free of the disease for less than two weeks and therefore are not deemed to have recovered.

As of last week the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus is listed as 399 out of 10,779 persons who have tested positive. The mortality rate is therefore less than four percent. This is about the same as the “regular” influenza virus against which we receive annual inoculations.

The vast majority of those who succumb to the coronavirus are elderly persons living in confined quarters like nursing homes and those with “pre-existing health issues” such as congestive hearth failure, diabetes and respiratory problems.

Politicians and public health officials made the decision to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus outbreak. This means extending the pandemic to avoid overwhelming hospitals and protecting the vulnerable segment of society.

The alternative is to let the disease spike and allow “herd immunity” to take effect. This is what happened to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 that killed up to 100 million people world-wide and simply disappeared after infecting 25% of the population.

The only other way to fight a pandemic is by developing a vaccine to combat it. This might take as long as two years and no politician facing re-election wants to have images of people dying on his or her watch.

The trade off to flattening the curve is causing the regional and national economy to collapse into a second Great Depression. Three months into “sheltering in place” there are thirty million “non-essential” employees out of work. The restaurant, travel, hospitality and entertainment industries have been brought to a standstill. Major retailers like J. Crew and J.C. Penney are declaring bankruptcy. Even hospitals are suffering financially by declining revenues from the suspension of elective surgeries and a ER admissions decline.

This suits the never-Trumpers — who see this as an election wedge issue — just fine. Democrats and some Republicans want to shovel money at the problem. States and cities mismanaged by Democrats for decades now see a way out of their self-imposed financial difficulties — mountains of federal aid.

The government has no money stockpiled in a rainy-day fund. Its only sources are the taxes confiscated from the productive element of society, borrowing from the public or foreign governments or printing paper currency.

Forty percent of our debt is held by foreign governments mostly China and Japan. There are suggestions that we ask the Chinese Communists to forgive $1 trillion of that debt. This would undermine the “full faith and credit” of the U.S.

If we continue to print money, get used to the term “stagflation” coined during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. This means high unemployment and raging inflation.

Richard J. August

North Kingstown

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