Commentary: Coronavirus math

By Jim Schout | It seems to me that most of America needs to go back to work. We are faced with a conundrum of monumental proportion. We must weigh our personal health versus our personal wealth. But, it all comes down to mathematics in my view.

If we look at the math, the solution has always come down to distancing. The President asked us to distance ourselves for 15 days to allow for the virus to be evaluated through testing and the isolation of infected persons. This was an excellent plan because it allows us to see what is needed to solve the problem. And, the way to solve any problem is by defining it properly. May I try to do this for us?

If we look at New York City where the problem is most severe, we find that (as of March 24th) there are 12,305 cases in an area of 469 sq. mi. This is 26.2 cases per square mile.

For the entire state of New York, which has an area of 54,556 sq. mi., there are 23,230 cases or 0.42 cases per square mile. This is also a bad situation, but a fraction of the problem seen in New York City. Instead of 26 cases per mile, the State sees one case in every 2.35 square miles. The difference is an infection density of 600 times. So, distancing is key. High population density begets high infection rates, and that makes complete sense.

What about us? According to the State of North Carolina’s Health organization, there are 398 cases known. We are still testing and the number will likely rise,, but if we stay at about this level, that equals one case in every 135 square miles of our state of 53,918 sq. mi.. But, remember, New York is at one per 2.35 sq. mi. This is a huge difference in infection density, a ratio of 57:1. And, in Craven County we have two known cases in 774 sq. mi. of area. That is one case per 387 sq. mi. Based on this one fact, a person could spend years wandering  around trying to find a single place to become infected.

The math tells me we might be ready to go back to work here. Let’s see what transpires in the next few days, but if we have isolated the known cases and we have tested all known suspected cases for 15 days, why are we worried about the future risk? As more people come to this realization, I feel we will know the right answers. New York City is not even close to getting back to work, but we might be. All over the country local Health Organizations need to be making these determinations and telling us to stop hunkering down and go about business as usual. This is not a Federal Government nor even a State Government decision. This is a City/County Government issue. Our local health experts should already understand the problem and give us direction. Why destroy our local economy if the risks are minimal and the reward is great?

Think about this. Everyone in New York City has a completely different perspective about this problem that we do. The news media is concentrated there. So, everything we read and hear is tainted by their perspective of this situation. What they see is catastrophic and it scares them. What we see is completely different. Likewise, our Governor sees what is happening In Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte where the problem is amplified by the density. But, what is right for them is not necessarily right for most North Carolinians.

Let’s continue to acquire data and evaluate for ourselves. We have stopped our lives for two weeks and the data is coming in hourly.What we need is to evaluate it correctly.

Jim Schout lives in New Bern, North Carolina

Contributed commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinions of New Bern Post or its staff.


March 24th, 2020 by
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