Another guest posting by Pediatrician Dr. Duane Rommel.
I often get a call in the middle of the night from an anxious parent because their child has a fever of 104.
“What other symptoms does he have?” I ask. “How is he acting?”
The mere fact that a two-year-old has an elevated fever is not a cause for alarm if the child is acting fairly normal, or if other family members have had the same illness. Fever is only a symptom. The important information for me is what is causing the fever.
Similar reasoning applies to the most recent increase in Covid 19 cases in Florida. The number of reported Covid 19 cases has increased significantly in Florida in the last week. Forecasters are predicting their usual doom and gloom.
“There will be catastrophic consequences,” according to the ‘model’ of Dr. Marrazzo of U of Alabama Birmingham Infectious Diseases.
The big issue I have with the word “models” is that it suggests some kind of legitimate scientific basis for predicting the future. However, every model which has been quoted in the news since the pandemic started has been drastically wrong.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated the same thing when asked about reopening New York, “All the national experts … were all wrong.” There is not much difference between ‘models’ predicting the future for Covid 19 and tea leaves predicting the future. These are guesses. There is a little bit of science and a lot of guessing. So let’s start ignoring these guesses and concentrate on what is important.
From the beginning, I have stated that many people will get infected with Covid 19. The state of Florida has dramatically increased its testing availability and more cases are being diagnosed which were missed several weeks ago.
Also, the state has relaxed the lockdown guidelines for most of Florida. Many more people are returning to normal activities with social distancing. It is to be expected that more people will get the virus. This also is not a cause for concern.
The infection mortality rate is the most important statistic, which the media continues to ignore. The infection mortality rate is the risk of dying from Covid 19 if a person gets infected with it. The infection mortality rate in people under age 65 is about .1% in the latest U.S. studies. This is a more encouraging and lower mortality rate than previously feared. It is not necessary or wise, in light of this data, to make any changes to present health guidelines regarding the virus in Florida.
As Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom stated this week,”We have to recognize that you can’t be in a permanent state where people are locked away to see lives and livelihoods completely destroyed, without considering the health impact of those decisions as well.”
Efforts and resources need to be focused in protecting those who are most at risk of dying from this infection: people in nursing homes and those with well defined risk factors.
The most important statistics are not the daily case counts. Other statistics to monitor are the ages of the individuals who are becoming infected, the daily hospitalization rates and daily death counts. These statistics will be better guides for our policy making decisions than the number of cases per day.
A child with a fever can cause anxiety for a loving parent. Reassurance and education about how the fever is the body’s normal way of fighting an infection are often the only treatment needed. The prospect of an uncontrolled virus at large has caused the same anxiety; however, the most important facts, like the infection mortality rate, should be trumpeted by the media to calm our country.
As a medical professional, I implore the media to cease broadcasting the so-called ‘scientific models’. It’s harming my patients, and the general public as much as the screaming of ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre.
Disclaimer: My views may not reflect the views of Children’s Medical Center. Please consult your own doctor for specific advice in your situation.