7/27/2020 3:23:00 PM COVID -19 Concerns To the Editor:
Bill Pilacinski and Tal Hess
We are two Longville residents who have become increasingly concerned regarding the confusion we are seeing in the community on how to deal with COVID-19 disease.
One of us (Bill) is a native Minnesotan and has owned lake property in the area for over 30 years. He also has a PhD in Microbiology from the UMN Medical School and had been involved in viral vaccine development in his research career.
The other of us (Tal) has roots in the community tracing back to her great grandparents a century ago. Retired from a career in Immunology and Infectious Disease, she has enjoyed participating in a variety of community efforts and organizations.
We both have been following the scientific literature on COVID-19, and reports by the popular press on its impacts across the country and here in Minnesota, and hope, with our background and experience, we could provide some important information and a useful perspective.
The world can be a risky place and we understand that deadly things happen. In the US, about 38,000 die in automobile accidents every year, and on average, 37,000 die of the flu each year. Some feel COVID-19 is just another type of flu and we shouldn't be especially concerned. Sadly, it's not. Thus far, since early February, over 140,000 have died here in the US. This is almost 4 times the number that die of the flu in a full year - and this is after only 6 months! How many more will die by the time we reach a year into the pandemic next February? The reality is that this will depend on how we behave.
From an analysis of CDC data, if infection rates continue as they have been, by February 1, 2021, we may have 320,000 additional deaths. However, if we are careful with mitigation and do what we did early in the outbreak, we may be able to significantly reduce that number.
Thus far, Cass County has had only 32 cases of COVID-19, but the summer season attracts people from all over the country and it is likely that some of them will unknowingly bring the virus with them. When we go into town, we see very few masks and little social distancing. We know that what the public, and our businesses, are being asked to do is not sustainable, but we fear that when the season is over, our summer guests will be gone, but COVID-19 will remain.
Our few local health care providers cannot be expected to deal with an outbreak here in Longville because we failed to act responsibly. Please give researchers the time they need to do their jobs. New drugs and therapies are showing great promise and medical researchers are very hopeful that an effective vaccine will be available by early 2021. Let's take some simple precautions for them as well as ourselves and loved ones. We know how to do this: avoid crowds, wear masks and social distance (see the CDC website for guidance @ https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html).