TOM WARD - Virus logjam breaking

TOM WARD - Virus logjam breaking

I’m glad to see – as many people are – that in the last week we are beginning to see some glimmers of light at the end of the COVID tunnel. Last week, I wrote that government officials were offering little hope to small businesses, with mentions of very lengthy shutdowns into the fall. Now, things are improving.

My concerns were based on economic figures and what I was reading about our country’s huge acceleration in joblessness, now on its way to Great Depression levels. While pandemic-based unemployment began with the hospitality and retail sectors – restaurants, travel, hotels, malls, and those vendors who serve them – it was rapidly growing to others.

Wrote The Wall Street Journal on April 15, “A second wave of job loss is hitting those who thought they were safe. Businesses that set up employees to work from home are laying them off as sales plummet. Corporate lawyers are seeing jobs dry up. Government workers are being furloughed. ... And health care workers not fighting the pandemic are suffering.”

My concern is that the longer this goes on, the more government revenue will suffer. And the longer that lasts, the more indebted our children and grandchildren will be. We have not even begun to discuss the state’s economic fallout from this disaster. What cuts may be coming to state and local government services? What taxes will be rising? Will state retirees face a second round of pension cuts? All of this could be on the table, but for now, no one dares speak of it.

I understand the delicate balancing act now going on between the medical experts who might want to eliminate all risk before re-opening, versus those who are jobless – as well as small-business owners – struggling as they watch their dreams die, perhaps forever. I also understand that employees will have to be kept safe as they return to work. This suffering will have huge implications on society, with reverberations we haven’t even thought about yet.

If I may, I’d like to put Rhode Island’s number in perspective. In this, I’ll ask that we all pretend to be at the 15,000-seat Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, filled to capacity with screaming basketball fans as PC battles Villanova. Assuming there are about one million Rhode Islanders, this ratio amounts to about 67 residents per seat. According to state figures on April 20, 4,706 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. In the hospital are 254 residents, with 70 in Intensive Care. Since the start, 150 have died. Also, since March 9, 162,582 initial claims for unemployment have been filed in the state. Likely, that number is still growing fast.

So let’s draw the picture. If every Rhode Islander is in “The Dunk” at the same ratio as the population, here is where we stand as we look around the arena: Since the outbreak began, 71 fans have tested positive for COVID-19. Today, four are in the hospital, and one is in Intensive Care. Two-plus fans have died.

Finally, 2,439 of the fans – one-sixth of the arena – have filed for unemployment in the past five weeks.

I’m pleased that Gov. Gina Raimondo began to speak in the past few days of re-opening beaches and businesses. When we do, we know employees will need to be kept safe. We’ll have to move gradually, and act with great care.

But begin we must, or I’m afraid we’ll suffer in ways few of us have ever seen in our lifetimes.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze

Comments

Thank you for putting this into perspective. It is very sad that some people are getting sick and dying.

if we had no restrictions or in our current case lift them too soon here is what would happen in your Civic Center example. 1st off we don't know how many fans actually have covid but the 71 that do would infect those next to them becoming 213 who would then infect those next to them becoming 639 which would lead to 1917 then 5751 and you should be able to see where this leads. Not everyone would have symptoms and mostly elderly folks are the ones really suffering and dying but are you willing to trade them for a few bucks? That doesn't sound very pro life to me.

Tom's high school math or algebra teacher would have given him an F for the Dunk analogy. If 71 fans have tested positive that is a meaningless statistic. There's still a big algebraic "X" where we don't know who's positive but asymptomatic and spreading the virus.

Honestly I wonder why Republicans all seem to want every college kid to get a STEM degree when Republicans no longer even believe in science, or apparently math either ("tax cuts that pay for themselves" and the like). I hope the next column doesn't parrot Dr. Trump's advice to inject oneself with disinfectant.

On the bright side, Rhode Island is the #1 state in Covid-19 testing! That's something we can be proud of. Thank you to CVS and elected officials.

In a Breeze April 21 2020 article addressing a restaurant owner's question to the Governor as to what would happen if contract tracing found one of their customers to be covid positive, the Breeze cited the Governor's Office response to be "This should not be a problem as direct contact is defined as contact within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more" I thought contact was to be avoided in any way as much as possible. If the 15 minute rule is true it would seem a lot more retail business could take place. Could the Breeze clarify if this 15 minute definition of direct contact is true? Thanks!

It's amazing how Democrats cherry pick their thoughts. Our Democratic state leaders continue to pat themselves on the back for completing the most tests per capita. But to your point of angst - the state has no idea on the number of asymptomatic folks walking around the state. Other states have done studies - have found that actual infection rates are high. The antibody tests are important in identifying who has the disease. The leaders you are so proud of have had 20000 antibody test kits for over a week now and still don't know how they're going to use them. As for nursing homes or "aggregate settings" - the source of ~80% of RI deaths - they are just now coming up with a plan to test all residents and staff - really - now - 6 weeks in?

Take a look at Sweeden and how they have handled the outbreak. We are just guessing that this isolation and destruction of the economy will help save lives. Somehow 5-6 weeks of isolation and RI and Mass numbers of positive tests results keep going up - can you explain how that logic makes sense?