Lives are at stake, we are all in this together

To the Editor:

With the coronavirus racing through Italy at a whip-crack pace, even a 10-minute scan of today’s numbers of those affected startles enough to force some measure of full or nascent recognition that this nation is in uncharted territory. This is no time for propaganda campaigns on social media or any type of false claims.  To propagate lies is irresponsible and must stop. Lives are at stake.

The University of California’s Bryan Leach of the San Francisco BioHub Panel on COVID-19, a microbiologist affiliated with Joe DeRisi, a top infectious disease researcher involved in the previous SARS outbreak of some years ago, recently released some hardcore data and findings.

From the BioHub panel’s studies, they concluded 40 to 70 percent of the United States population will be infected over the next 12 to 18 months. Estimates are that 1.5 million Americans may die.

This compares to the seasonal flu’s average of 50,000 deaths per year. The fatality rate is in the range of 10 times the flu. They state that no drug has yet been found to be effective against the contagion and certainly none is widely available.

Death rates vary by age. Those over 80 are at highest risk. Those over 70 and above with underlying immune or disease processes face a similar challenge.

It remains unknown whether the corona virus is seasonal. Researcher Leach states that if it is “and subsides over the summer, it is likely to roar back in the fall as the 1918 flu did.”

Leach advises that a person can be infectious before being symptomatic and that “the highest level of virus prevalence coincides with symptoms.” He states: “We currently think folks are infectious two days before through 14 days after onset of symptoms.”

In the same vein, he warns that, on surfaces, the viability of the virus varies from four to 20 hours to maybe a few days but “there is no consensus on this.”

As seems widely accepted and known, Leach agrees that “the virus is very susceptible to common antibacterial cleaning agents: bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol based” products.

Such are the pronouncements of scientists on the frontlines of this new and ongoing challenge to our national and personal wellbeing.

An economic stimulus bill and a temporary paid leave bill looked to be passed by both the United States House and Senate just recently but, never fear, the flamethrowers surged to scorch these plans, even after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had hammered out a critical agreement on how to move this nation forward through this first stage of uncertain months ahead of us.

Many among us note the folly of the flamethrowers as well as the unabashed arrogance of the issuance of no early federal warnings on the first sense of the coronavirus’s threat to this nation, no federal guidelines issued in time for the containment of this virus when, to have done so, most likely would have spared many of us untold harm and heartache in the near or more distant future.

No, this is not the time for self-indulgent and harmful conspiracy theories. It is the time for clear and thoughtful conversations on what can be done to help and save people.

That said, thousands upon thousands of public-health and medical institution workers are returning to work every day and,m while taking the prescribed and necessary precautions, they appear in the midst of patient wards and emergency rooms, regardless, on a continuing and daily basis and I am grateful.

And parents who hold two and three jobs, who have had, before this pandemic, a cobbled arrangement for child care for little ones at home, now have to face dramatically reduced hours or no work at all with a very questionable safety net on the bottom.

Many among us will suffer loss of some nature. For sure, this loss is great, already. Those parents, for example, who can return to a workplace scramble for childcare or do not find help at all while they work.  What do they and their children do? There are no easy answers.

Kudos to those who are helping the Albany school system’s effort to reach food-insecure families whose children relied upon school to get needed nourishment. A most commendable program that must have gone up overnight pulled together the required volunteers and made this program a reality.

But what of the lost jobs? What of the thousands of food-service workers, the motel and hotel cleaning employees, the entire range of the service industries? One’s mind goes to the travel and hospitality industries, hard hit because flying has been and will be dramatically curtailed. Unemployment insurance guarantees will be strained as never before.

There are no easy answers of course. Assistance to our nation’s children is primary. Reaching out to one another in our communities, whether it be neighborhoods in Guilderland, Los Angeles, New York City, or other places is one of the most vital actions to take because we are all in this together.

Spring is coming and there are many backyards that can grow fruits and vegetables. With canned and frozen food having flown off the shelves, human ingenuity needs to flourish and spring once more from the ground up. Seeds can be planted and seedlings started in people's kitchens and pantries.

We can and must help one another. Whether it is solving the incredible vexing question of the coming high unemployment numbers or where to care for and feed children whose parents must and can find work, this nation is a community at every level and we must not fail our children.

The facts and science are on full display before us.

Betty Head


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