Response to Coronavirus in Oregon Has Entered the Surreal

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by Econimica

Today, as Oregon’s official count of positive Coronavirus tests nearly tops 100,000, Governor Kate Brown made the determination to extend the current economic lockdown through February…at the very least.

Brown stated, “As we near 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, and with hospitals and health care workers stretched to their limits, there is no doubt that COVID-19 continues to pose a public health threat,” she said in a statement. “These are the darkest days in the pandemic”.

The governor determined that the public health risk is so severe that she is compelled to lock down the economy and strip select citizens of their ability to run a business or make a living as an employee. Similar to eminent domain, wherein the government can force the compensated sale of land for the “public good”…in this case business owners are being stripped of their right to earn a living, pay their bills, provide employment…but the state is offering no compensation. Worse still, the state is offering marginal tax breaks, the equivalent of a band aid to someone whom you’ve just decapitated.

Yet, I struggle to see within the publicly available data from the state, a pandemic that rises to the level of economic lockdown and stripping citizens (uncompensated) of their right to earn a living. Not that I want to speak of death…but to gauge the severity of the situation, the number of annual deaths rise nearly every year in Oregon, thanks to a growing and greying population. The chart below shows total annual deaths through 2020, looking rather inline with normal expectations (official data available through Oct., Nov/Dec deaths are estimated and included, as shown in lower charts).  Link to Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

Again, so we can gauge the seriousness of the situation, consider the changing deaths on a year over year basis from 2010 through 2020. To this point, the rise of deaths in 2020 does not look particularly out of the normal increase.
Attempting to leave no stone unturned, chart below puts 2020 monthly deaths in perspective against the past four years. While July and August deaths were abnormally higher, deaths returned to trend by September and October. Obviously, November and December deaths are my guess-estimate.
As for Oregon hospitals “stretched to their limits”…please consider that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (updated last 12/15, link HHS), Oregon is among the states with a lower percentage of Covid patients in the hospital (10.6% of beds occupied by Covid patients), among normal total hospital utilization (75% of available beds are filled), and among slightly elevated ICU utilization (about 75% of ICU beds are occupied). I do not minimize the terrific and tough job the doctors, nurses, and front line responders are doing…but the data does not show a crisis to the degree of locking down the economy and striping individuals of their rights.
Below, considering Oregon’s Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations (severe cases), and deaths, by age groups. When compared to Spanish Flu, which hit young children and healthy 20-40yr/olds with high mortality rates…the profile is entirely reversed here. While young and young adults are the majority of Coronavirus cases, they are at very low risk of severe illness (requiring hospitalization) and at statistically infinitesimal risk of death. The young are the future and have so much to live for…and they are my greatest concern. The data shows their immune systems have been up to the task, thus far (data OHA).
So, the concern is among the elderly and those with well understood at-risk factors.  The rational course of action would be to minimize the elderly/at-risk interaction with the general public, focus the vaccinations on them (alongside health care workers), and utilize the tax base to support these people to help them manage their risk…rather than destroy the tax base and ask for more handouts from the federal government.
I doubt the governor nor the governors advisors will read this letter…or care much for my opinion formed from the states data. But I do wonder where these people are getting their data to form their opinions…because nowhere do I see a risk level that corresponds with economic repression, uncompensated loss of income, and for many, the ultimate loss of their business & means of self sufficiency.






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