Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in early April questioned the effectiveness of a shelter-in-place order. He said, “The question is, ‘Are you accomplishing anything by doing that order?’”
On all the website scoreboards rating states based on their COVID-19 response, Arkansas was consistently on the bottom with “F” ratings.
Yet Arkansas is doing much better than its shutdown neighbors with far fewer COVID-19 deaths per million residents.
Arkansas is not the exception. Seven other states never issued shelter-in-place orders. These eight states are experiencing half the death rate of the neighbors that did shut down.
There are millions of factors that can skew these results. But it is significant nonetheless.
Not surprisingly, Arkansas has lost far fewer jobs. Its April unemployment rate is 10.2 percent versus 15.4 in Mississippi, which shut down.
Most people think astrophysicists understand almost everything about the universe. Not true. They understand a tiny fraction. Ninety-five percent of the universe is composed of dark matter and dark energy. What’s that? We have no earthly idea.
Likewise, we probably understand, at best, only a tiny fraction about the world of viruses, 380 trillion of which inhabit the average human body.
The entire world is engaged in a global science experiment. The experts are guessing and disagree with one another.
The scientific method involves making a hypothesis and then testing the results. If the results disprove the hypothesis, then maybe the hypothesis is wrong.
Hypothesis: If we don’t shelter at home, more people will die. Result: Fewer people died, the opposite result than anticipated. Conclusion: The hypothesis must be flawed.
I finally got my teeth cleaned at my periodontist. (And finally managed to get a haircut, too.)
My periodontist deals in the world of germs. I asked him his thoughts on sheltering at home. He believed it would weaken our immune systems and make us more vulnerable to infections later on.Your immune system is like a muscle, he said, if you don’t exercise it, it grows weak.
I asked another doctor friend about shelter at home. He’s one of the smartest guys I know. He thought it was a good idea.
There’s no way you’re not going to encounter the virus, he said, but social distancing will reduce the number of particles you contract, giving your body a chance to fend it off and develop resistance. He called this self-inoculation. The thing to avoid is the big sneeze from an infected individual right in your face. That could kill.
In the old days, smallpox was such a killer that people would intentionally infect themselves in a small way to develop resistance to avoid getting infected in a big way. It was a crude form of self-vaccination. Perhaps that’s what’s happening now throughout the world.
We know this, death rates are dropping rapidly in Italy, Spain and throughout Europe. Something is stopping the virus. Maybe isolation, maybe herd immunity, maybe something else.
Russia and Brazil are seeing skyrocketing infection rates, but the death rate is a tiny fraction of what Spain and Italy experienced. Hypothesis: The virus is mutating and becoming less deadly. Maybe.
Grocery store sales are up 30 percent. We know that at least half, maybe 95 percent, of those infected with the virus have no symptoms. The virus can live for days on metal and plastic. The virus is everywhere in the grocery stores.
Hypothesis: Grocery store workers must be dying from COVID-19 at a very high rate. But they aren’t.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing 900,000 grocery store workers, has reported 30 deaths. That’s 33 deaths per million compared to the national COVID-19 death average of 288 deaths per million. Working at a grocery store makes you 10 times safer. What are we to conclude form this?
The state of Tennessee tested 5,000 prisoners for COVID-19. One-third tested positive. Ninety-eight percent of those infected had no symptoms. What do we conclude from this?
A reader emailed me chastising me for not listening to the experts. “Would you operate on your own brain tumor,” he asked?
In fact, I am an expert. I am an expert reporter with 46 years experience. I know nothing myself. I simply report. The reports show that the experts disagree. We are in unknown territory. It’s a big science experiment.
So let’s observe and not be biased. Let’s follow the scientific method and learn.