Last week, when I was in Sioux Falls to discuss reopening schools with parents and superintendents, I saw a great bulletin board in a 4th grade classroom. It said, “Put your positive pants on.” That message reminded me of a lesson that is often easy to forget: an optimistic outlook can be tremendously helpful when responding to life’s challenges. That’s especially true in the fight against COVID-19.
As we get more and more data about this virus, it’s becoming increasingly clear that most of us aren’t at high risk. This virus has a clear vulnerable population; we know that elderly folks are far more likely to get seriously ill, especially when paired with certain pre-existing health conditions. That leaves about 95% of the population that is not at risk for serious infection. For these folks, we can continue getting back to normal, while making the best decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.
We need to make sure to take care of the vulnerable population, and that starts with good hygiene and social distancing. Our vulnerable friends and family should continue to take extra precautions and to stay home when they are able, and we can all take precautions to avoid spreading the virus to them.
We can also celebrate that we’re getting better at treating COVID-19. This means that even for those who do get seriously sick, our outlook is getting better all the time. Our case fatality rate is dropping, meaning that those who get sick are more likely to recover from the virus than in the past.
Data shows that the antiviral drug Remdesivir substantially reduces the mortality rate and cuts recovery time significantly. Similarly, a study out of Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System indicates that hydroxychloroquine may cut mortality rate for COVID-19 in half. And progress on a vaccine is moving along ahead of schedule.
As we continue planning to reopen schools in the fall, let’s remember that kids are less likely to contract the virus and far less likely to get seriously ill. In fact, science suggests that influenza is a greater risk to kids than COVID-19. If children do contract the virus, data indicates they are less likely to spread it to others.
There is a risk associated with everything that we do in life; more South Dakotans have died from accidental injuries than from COVID-19 in the past 5 months. We mitigate risks by taking proper precautions when we get in our cars, when we operate farm equipment, and when we make choices about what we eat and how much we exercise. The same should be true about life as we get back to normal.
So let’s remember to “put our positive pants on.” We need to emphasize facts, not fear. Let’s tell the story of what works in the fight against this virus, and let’s continue to get through this together.