The COVID wars are coming back to New Hampshire politics.
Gov. Chris Sununu says he’s not returning to the days of mask mandates and lockdown. He’s rejecting calls for more state action and dismisses President Joe Biden’s plan for a $100 vaccine bonus as “an unserious solution to a very serious issue.”
Democrats respond by comparing him to “the worst” governors — Republicans Greg Abbot of Texas and Florida’s Ron DeSantis — and denounce him for signing a law banning mandatory vaccines or so-called “vaccine mandates” for government spaces and services. (Florida and Texas both have lower COVID death rates than New York and Massachusetts.)
“Sununu: No New Restrictions Even Though COVID-19 Numbers Continue To Climb” is the headline at the leftwing news site InDepthNH.
Many of the arguments about masks, mitigation, and mandates are familiar. Unfortunately, something else is, too: Math.
Or rather, the lack thereof.
Nature and partisan politics abhor a vacuum, and with a novel coronavirus, there was never going to be enough science, data, and research to fill it — certainly not in the first year or two. And so politics rushed in to fill the void.
Last year’s conversations about COVID were embarrassingly innumerate, as media coverage hyped COVID as an all-but-certain death sentence. In fact, the official death rate based on known cases (as opposed to actual cases — more on that in a moment) in New Hampshire is 1.4 percent.
Or put another way, 98.6 percent of known COVID infections weren’t fatal.
Here we are again, with less-than-sufficient information. When opponents of additional restrictions say the evidence that we need them is sketchy, they’re right. When advocates of mandates say there are unknown risks from exposure to the virus and even mild cases today could turn out to have significant health impacts tomorrow, they’re right, too.
These are the “known unknowns,” as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once put it. With a new virus — one whose origins we don’t even know — there are going to be a lot of those.
The frustration some feel over the current debate is the unwillingness of political leaders and health officials to acknowledge the “known knowns.” We’ve been fighting the virus for about 18 months now and there is some data strong enough to build public policy on. Rather than debating the theoretical, perhaps public health policy should be based on the practical data we have now.
Call it the “99 Club:” The stats that are 99 percent or better.
The Odds of Surviving COVID If You’ve Been Vaccinated: 99.9 percent.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has been gathering the available data and they’ve got the numbers.
- The rates of death among fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 were even lower, effectively zero (0.00 percent) in all but two reporting states, Arkansas and Michigan where they were 0.01 percent. (Note: Deaths may or may not have been due to COVID-19.)
- The hospitalization rate among fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 ranged from effectively zero (0.00 percent) in California, Delaware, D.C., Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia to 0.06 percent in Arkansas. (Note: Hospitalization may or may not have been due to COVID-19.)
And from Axios:
- Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001 percent have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you’re arguing that vaccinated people need to wear masks to keep from spreading the disease, there are no data to show that vaccinated people are at any risk from the disease.
If you’re arguing they should wear masks or limit their activities on behalf of the unvaccinated, many vaccinated Granite Staters are with Sununu –that’s their problem. If they don’t want to get the shot, they can deal with the consequences.
But what about children too young to get the shot?
The Odds of An Unvaccinated Child Surviving COVID-19: 99.995 percent.
If you’re arguing for mandatory vaccines for public school teachers or forcing six-year-olds to sit in hot classrooms out of fear for their young lives, the math is against you. One British study found some 99.995 percent of the 469,982 children in England who were infected during the year examined by researchers survived, one study found.
In New Hampshire, there has yet to be a single COVID-19 death of anyone under the age of 20. In a statewide “study” of the entire population of the unvaccinated under the age of 12, the death rate from thousands of COVID-19 exposures since March 2020 has been…zero.
The numbers for hospitalizations are similar. Only 11 Granite State children in the under-10 population have been sent to the hospital by COVID-19, despite having no vaccine. The 10-19 age group has had 12 hospitalizations.
That’s 23 hospitalizations and zero deaths out of about 350,000 people. There have been about 18,000 positive COVID-19 tests in this group, but that number is largely meaningless. We only test people based on need and circumstance (symptoms, workplace requirements, international travel, etc.)
Unlike Great Britain, the U.S. (for some inexplicable reason) hasn’t been doing blood tests to determine how many people have had some encounter with the virus. They’ve discovered that 92 percent of the British public has COVID-19 antibodies.
It’s hard to imagine the U.S. percentage is significantly lower. This means those 18,000 positive tests among young Granite Staters are likely 180,000 actual COVID-19 contacts — or more.
And once again: Zero deaths, 23 hospitalizations.
With these numbers, calls for classroom masks are difficult to defend. They certainly don’t support New Hampshire Democrats who want all teachers forced to get vaccinated before returning to the classroom.
The Odds A COVID Patient or Fatality is Unvaccinated: ~ 99 percent.
Once again, these numbers are from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- The share of hospitalizations among those with COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated ranged from 95.02 percent in Alaska to 99.93 percent in New Jersey. (Note: Hospitalization may or may not have been due to COVID-19.)
- The share of deaths among people with COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated ranged from 96.91 percent in Montana to 99.91 percent in New Jersey. (Note: Deaths may or may not have been due to COVID-19.)
The obvious conclusion is the vaccines work, therefore the top priority should be to increase vaccination rates. Telling people, “If you get the vaccine, you’ll still need a mask because you’re at significant risk of spreading and catching the virus,” is a lousy way to increase vaccination rates. Also, it’s not true.
Global pandemics of easily spread and sometimes lethal diseases are lousy. The debates about how to handle them will be heated.
But please, start with the facts.