Letters for Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Open the lighthouse on weekends

The Kilauea Lighthouse is closed on Sundays during normal times. I’ve twice made the mistake of taking guests there on Sundays and when you get there you’ll find a lot of cars parked outside the gate and lots of disappointed folks standing at the fence looking at the distant lighthouse. You may also see a few sneaking around the gate taking the walk down the road to the lighthouse.

With things reopening it would make sense to have this beautiful and historic landmark open on that day most people are off of work so they can enjoy it.

Some of the folks that work there are volunteers so the cost wouldn’t go up much and the excellent gift shop might cover the added expense.

As a National Wildlife Refuge run by the Federal Government our residents and guests would truly appreciate our island’s leaders contacting the appropriate authority to allow visitors on Sundays.

Wally Wilson, Princeville

COVID-19 risks are not so unusual

As of June 14th, weekly new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are down 6% from one month ago. Meanwhile, weekly new deaths are down 46% from a month ago. Deaths from COVID-19 are dropping seven times faster than the reduction in the spread of new cases.

The fact that COVID-19 continues to spread while the deaths are dropping may be good news on both counts. It seems better for our nation to build up more immunity now, rather than to go into next year’s flu season without immunity.

The U.S. has had 2.2 million total reported cases. By December, when the flu season is above-average again, this number is tracking to be around 6 million. A recent study indicated that the true number of cases is around 7 times the reported number. If so, our herd immunity in the U.S. may be around 14% by December.

14% herd immunity is not high, but fortunately, it will be distributed where it is needed most. Those groups with the highest chance of spread (due to their environment or their choices) will have the highest levels of infection and immunity. Immunity may be 25% to 50% where it is needed most. Along with the use of face masks, this should be enough to manage COVID-19 through next year’s season.

COVID-19 has not been nearly as dangerous as we feared it might be. The risks are in the same ballpark as many other risks we face – such as bad flu years, suicides, automobile accidents, etc. Two years ago, we lost 80,000 lives in the U.S. from the flu – almost as much as COVID-19.

Thankfully, Kauai has had no COVID-19 deaths. The U.S. average for our population would have been 26 deaths. A healthy person the age of the average age of COVID-19 death would have a life expectancy of around 10 years. When we factor in the co-morbidities, the average number of years of life lost from COVID-19 would be around 7 years. This would be 180 life-years saved from COVID-19 on Kauai. Compare this to suicides. This year, we have had 5 suicides on Kauai. The average life expectancy of these young people was around 50 years each. Therefore, we lost 250 life-years this year from suicides on Kauai, which is worse than what COVID-19 might have been.

The U.S. loses around 1.6 million life-years per year to auto accidents. So far, COVID-19 has cost around 0.8 million life-years. With the declining COVID-19 death rates, it is quite likely that COVID-19 will finish this year with fewer years of life lost than a typical year of auto accidents.

Let’s continue to wear masks as appropriate. But let’s not be full of fear. Also, let’s open our economy. The cascade of economic and social damages from closures will likely far exceed any reductions in COVID-19 risks.

Mark Beeksma, Koloa

  1. I saw Vampire once June 16, 2020 10:00 am Reply

    Excellent analysis. By Mark Beeksma. I really am not paying any attention to how long a person lives due to the COVID-19. But 7 or 10 years old to death is saying the immunity built up certainly has affected prolonged life expectancy. We need good like this. Thank you for reminding us of this statistics.

  2. Frank Kelly June 16, 2020 10:05 am Reply

    Mahalo for a non emotional perspective. Many seem to take pleasure in stoking anxiety among us.

  3. Off the June 17, 2020 4:21 am Reply

    “14% herd immunity is not high, but fortunately, it will be distributed where it is needed most. Those groups with the highest chance of spread (due to their environment or their choices) will have the highest levels of infection and immunity. Immunity may be 25% to 50% where it is needed most.”

    I don’t think this works like you think it works. For those within a community who are less susceptible to gain immunity, those who are at higher risk will die.

    Remind us again, Mark, what type of Dr. are you?

  4. Alohilani June 17, 2020 8:01 am Reply

    Strengthen our immune system by weary masks?
    Think !!

  5. Michele Dillberg June 17, 2020 11:02 am Reply

    Dear Mark,
    Many MAHALOS for your intelligent perspective. It is important that we move away from the sensational perspectives promoted by the media, and the worrisome attitudes that the media and many officials have created. We as citizens need to base our understanding on the readily available statistics (Looking at hospitalizations not just case numbers!), and recognize that each one of us have a wonderful opportunity to be responsible in our health practices. Not just to wear a mask and wash hands (which may have a negligible effect), but take care to boost up our immune systems with things we can all do easily. We can eat well, reduce sugars, exercise to our ability, and focus on all of the blessings in our lives. The folks that suffer with the virus are all people that have compromised immune function. Those with strong immune response can be exposed with little or even NO SYMPTOMS. Do not live in fear! Fear is a stress that in itself can compromise immune function. Find the good! – we are so blessed to live here on Kauai! – Count your blessings!

    1. Mark Beeksma June 22, 2020 10:32 am Reply

      Great Comment Michele! I am a big believer in kinds of more wholesome approaches to health that your family promotes. Continue to speak up and submit letters. My mother-in-law has urinary problems. The doctors have not helped much. We accidentally discovered that eating Tongan spinach fixes her urinary problems. We could be wrong, but it works. We as a society should continue to develop alternative medical approaches that are healthier, cheaper, and more effective. Aloha

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