Open Letter to Governor Brown of Oregon Re: Current Coronavirus Shutdown

by C Hamilton

I’m a proud native Oregonian.  I’ve lived in Asia, Europe, and travelled most of the world, but I choose to live in Oregon. It’s that good.  Oregon is also great because it is a political and social dichotomy.  Ultra liberal Portland, Eugene, Bend vs ultra conservative rural Oregon. There is a little something for everybody…and I love every bit of it.

So, as I’m watching the states recent implosion…I’m heartsick. Like everywhere else, Coronavirus has found it’s way into Oregon. In March, the state chose to shut down and enter into a prolonged lockdown. I disagreed but couldn’t do so with great conviction, because the reliable data to prove the shutdown wasn’t warranted just didn’t exist. However, as reliable data has been growing…the state has chosen to keep schools closed, cancelling athletic and social clubs. alongside in person learning.  And now the state has now entered a second partial lockdown; shutting down restaurants, gyms, bars, and other select business’ (at the most critical business time of the year). This has been done to slow the spread of Coronavirus and avoid an overwhelming crush of patients in the states hospitals.

Like the Governor, I too want to keep Oregonians from needlessly dying. But I’m also cognizant that the state government is there to serve the people, not dictate to them. The state is there to educate to the risk factors and respect it’s citizens well informed decisions. Unilaterally taking away many Oregonians right to run small and large business’, send their children to school, etc. would have to be done based on some very hard and lethal evidence. It is this evidence I want to review.

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First, consider the total number of Coronavirus cases, per age group, and the associated deaths (chart below). It should be obvious that the under 50 year old population makes up the vast majority of positive cases (and actual cases are likely 5x to 10x higher due to asymptomatic &/or mild undiagnosed cases) but under 50 year olds make up so few of the Coronavirus deaths.

Looking at cases and deaths, by age group (chart below), consider…
  • Under 30yr/olds = 37% of cases, 9% of hospitalizations, & 0.2% of deaths.
  • 30 to 60yr/olds = 46% of cases, 34% of hospitalizations, & 9.1% of deaths.
  • 60+yr/olds = 17% of cases, 57% of hospitalizations, & 91.7% of deaths.

From the above chart, it should be abundantly clear who the “at-risk” population is and where the focus of attention and support should be directed.  Not school closures or business closures…but helping the primarily elderly population with at-risk maladies avoid the general public…not have the generally well public avoid contact with the generally well public! These interactions and potential infections lead to few hospitalizations and a statistically minute number of deaths.

To emphasize the point of who is filling Oregon’s hospitals, and who needs greater support and care in avoiding the general public…again, it is the elderly population that is utilizing the hospitals (chart below)…not the young. As for the young and concern of long term impacts from fighting Coronavirus, the numbers of severe cases requiring hospitalization as so rare that the percentage of those with long term issues will be statistically incredibly low.
Further, the CDC has made it plain that Coronavirus alone is very rarely the cause of death.  As per the CDC, “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.” The point of this that Coronavirus, on it’s own, is statistically so unlikely to cause death among the general public that they can go on with their lives w/out undue fear…and the focus should be safeguarding the at-risk.

The point of this article is not to create greater division or offer more finger pointing…it is to offer clear data that Oregonians who are healthy are at no great risk from Coronavirus. The economy should remain open while those in poor health (they generally know who they are; elderly, fighting cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, immunocompromised, COPD, etc.) should be offered support to help them to avoid contact with the general public. Households with at-risk persons should consider avoiding sending their children to school but be offered online schooling options.  And it is a shame that solutions to avoid the ongoing high mortality within nursing homes isn’t getting more attention (encompassing nearly 40% of all Coronavirus deaths).

Simply, those at risk should be supported to avoid general interaction until a vaccine is ready.  This is just common sense that the state would focus the quarantine on the small population of at-risk persons, and offer/focus their support there rather than harm the large, well, not at-risk population.
Oregon has long been an innovator and leader, and now it is time for Oregon to learn and lead again. It is time to re-open Oregon’s business’ and focus the state’s resources on protecting the at-risk population rather than harming the large at very low risk population.
The data for this article is taken from the Oregon Health Authority
I also offer the below national data from the CDC, generally mirroring that of Oregon, FYR.

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