Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing upstate construction and assembly-line businesses to re-open May 15, but other businesses have to stay shut longer. How long? That depends on how “essential” they are, he said.
But any business is essential if it’s how you earn your paycheck. People need to work, and new research indicates that for otherwise healthy, working-age people, the coronavirus threat isn’t nearly as grave as we first thought.
“People under 65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 deaths even in the hotbeds of the pandemic,” according to Stanford scientists John Ioannidis, Cathrine Axfors and Despina Contopoulos-Ioannidis. In New York, 70 percent of deaths are people over 65; in Michigan, 79 percent; in Washington State, 92 percent.
Though it is a pandemic in geographic scope, COVID-19 kills one age group gruesomely. In Delaware, 58 percent of deaths have been nursing-home residents and their caregivers. In Massachusetts, 55 percent; in Pennsylvania, 51 percent; New Jersey, 40 percent.
Shutting down the economy didn’t stop these deaths. They were predictable. In Italy and Spain, over half of deaths were nursing-home residents.
Yet officials in New York and most states rushed to equip hospitals but ignored nursing homes. Stranded, these facilities became death pits. Except in Florida, that is. There, Gov. Ron DeSantis rushed in medical supplies and deployed the National Guard to test residents. The result: a nursing home-death rate roughly half New York’s.
As for younger people, a minuscule 1.8 percent of Gotham coronavirus deaths are otherwise healthy people under 65. You’ve seen news reports of a young mother or middle-aged coach tragically felled by the virus, but those are exceptions. Plans to reopen should focus on the majority.
Step one is opening up large workplaces, including offices, where employers can erect hand-sanitizer kiosks every few feet, provide antimicrobial keyboards and desktops and install continuous disinfection devices in the central-air systems to reduce contamination. These technologies are already used in professional sports teams’ locker rooms and manufacturing facilities. The side benefit: a healthier workforce and lower absenteeism.
Air travel can be made more hygienic by installing hand-sanitizer dispensers near the touch-screens, jetways and security lines. Airlines are requiring masks, but the airport is the problem, according to MIT researchers. They estimate that installing hand sanitizers at the world’s top 10 airports could reduce pandemic risk by 37 percent.
If all airports had them, the risk would go down 70 percent. New York’s Port Authority could take the lead at the region’s three airports.
Similarly, hand sanitizers on subway platforms would improve safety for straphangers.
New York City mass transit is facing a double health crisis, posed by the virus and an influx of homeless using the cars as toilets and shelters. The coronavirus can survive on stainless steel for at least 48 hours, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Most bacteria survive even longer.
MTA workers manually scrub subway cars every two or three days. That’s better than nothing, but barely. Applying antimicrobial coatings to subway poles and seats would continuously kill traces of coronavirus and bacteria.
Nature Research reported Monday that coronavirus particles linger in the air for hours when spaces are crowded and ventilation is limited. Think subway cars and stations.
New technologies can continuously reduce that viral burden. President Trump has marshaled the private economy to help with ventilators, masks and a vaccine. He features problem-solving CEOs at his briefings. It’s time to deploy innovative technologies to make going back to work safer.
Many workers are fearful, reports Fishbowl. No surprise. They have been bombarded with daily death reports that ignore age or health status.
Re-opening the economy should be guided by facts. And fact is, working-age people seldom die from the coronavirus. With precautions in place, they can go back to work.
Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, is chairwoman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.
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