Posts Tagged ‘politicians’

WHY THE SCHOOLS REMAIN CLOSED

October 14, 2020

It is well established that the risk of serious infection and complications in school-aged children is less than the seasonal flu. It has also been established that child-to-adult transmission of disease is much less common than adult-to-adult transmission. Europe, taking into account the data, has reopened schools without a reported uptick in child mortality to date. It’s been shown that school closures have resulted in a 30% decline in reading capacity, that in some areas only 50% of children are participating in remote learning, and the incidence of child abuse has significantly increased due to school closures. Some have expressed concerns that the nutritional health of the poorest children may be impacted by the loss of school meals. Older teachers might have to have special social distancing measures instituted or teach remotely, but for the rest, the risk is no greater than the seasonal flu. Parents without resources are struggling to return to work without daytime assistance with the kids. With all this, reopening for the children is a no-brainer, right? But politicians have no brains.

In fairness, it’s not that our political leaders lack brains (although one could make a valid argument for some exceptions), it’s just that they have political brains that overwhelm all other higher functions. Overarching policy since COVID-19 has considered mostly medical mortality risk over all other variables. While sensible policy would dictate a simultaneous and sober assessment of COVID deaths versus deaths and years of life lost due to lock-downs, the latter has been viewed largely through the lens of a solution, even though a very good argument could be made for the cure, namely lock-downs, being worse than the disease. For a politician, the political argument for school lock-downs is even more compelling than the for the population at large because, well, they’re kids.

The media gain eyeballs and clicks through hyperbole, and in this case it’s taking a threat and fanning the flames of fear. It’s a form of low-grade terrorism with real cost. The larger price for keeping schools closed is not apparent, except via actuarial table and postmortem (in the larger sense of the term) analysis that likely won’t happen for years. Imagine the heyday the media will have with each schoolchild death, inevitable in any wide-scale infection. An example of this is already out there with respect to the rare complication of Kawasaki-like disease, a serious inflammatory illness that can affect the blood vessels of children. No politician is willing to weather this assault in the name of science or for any other reason.

As long as we continue to have politicians without backbones and an ill-informed and agitated electorate, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

HOW’S UNCLE SAM?

April 8, 2012

No one likes a pessimist, a chronic doomsayer, a bearer of ill-tidings. So, with the news over the past couple of weeks of a recovering economy I risk driving you, dear reader, away, into the arms of the ever-present optimist. After all, unemployment dropped a tad, the stock market swung up (before it swung down a bit on the news of a less than anticipated increase in jobs) and the economy always bounces back, right? Even House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican no less, huffed how things, indeed, are improving (qualifying, of course, that it wasn’t fast enough, owing to Obama’s lame economic policies). Generally conservative Ben Stein admitted on Fox that the president was doing all that he could. High oil prices are, after all, determined by the world economy, not Mr. Obama.

Why can’t I see the light? Let me illustrate with a rough analogy from my experience in the medical field:

Uncle Sam is a drug addict. He’s shot up one too many times and infected his blood stream with a life-threatening illness known as sepsis and is in the intensive care unit with dangerously low blood pressure. He’s being given large doses of intravenous fluids and powerful blood pressure raising drugs we call inotropes which are effectively buoying his BP. He looks much better than when he came in. But he’s dying. He has to be kept alive long enough for antibiotics to kick in and reduce the bacterial load that is ravaging his body, and this will take about two days. However, even antibiotics are useless in the absence of an immune system that will fight the final battle to eradicate the enemy. If successful, we will be left with an intact drug addict free to inject another day, until the next battle. Sam leaves the ICU, then the hospital. He returns a year later and survives, than six months after that. This could go on forever, or so it seems. But it doesn’t, because drug addiction is terminal. Uncle Sam dies two years later from complications of his addiction.

The analogy is complete. If we substitute money for heroin; fluids and BP meds for printing money (the so-called “quantitative easing”) and borrowing; and cutting spending and revising the tax code for antibiotic therapy, you get the idea. Reducing corruption and the size of the government is analogous to stopping the addiction and bolstering the immune system. From this perspective, it’s clear that all we’re doing at the moment is treating the symptoms with fluids and inotropes—the illness be damned. In my world, this would be malpractice.

But it’s not my world. It’s the world of entrenched bureaucrats trying to buy votes to eke their way through the next election, and an electorate hoping against hope that we can make it through this ICU visit one more time.

How many more visits do you think we have left?