Wisconsin is seeing an uptick in daily reported COVID-19 cases as the summer warms up. The statistic that we are supposed to be scared about continues to shift as the scare-mongers and power-grabbers grasp around for the most alarming statistic, but Wisconsin has been seeing an increase in daily reported cases for about a month. Should our state government do anything about it? Mark Twain once wittily classified statistics as one of the three kinds of lies. If we remember back to when the coronavirus crisis came to a head in March, the two statistics that were being trumpeted were deaths and hospitalizations. Deaths were being tracked because the models predicted 2.2 million deaths in the United States. Those models have now been proven woefully incorrect, but we believed them at the time.
We tracked the number of hospitalizations because of the great fear that we would overwhelm the capacity of our health care system and cause a lethally cascading event. This was the whole logic behind “flatten the curve” and “15 days to slow the spread.” The logic was sound in the face of models projecting a doomsday pandemic, so we implemented striking infringements of our civil rights to flatten the curve.
Thankfully, as it turns out, we never came close to overwhelming our health care system and the overflow hospitals that were built were left unused. After the Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ unconstitutional dictatorial power grab on May 13, the number of hospitalizations remained manageable and eventually declined. The death rate also continued to decline.
Now, two months after the state reopened, we are seeing an increase in daily reported cases and we are told by the media and our government that the state must act to lock down the state, require masks, or some other reactive measure to keep everyone panicked and docile.
Let us return to the statistics that we were originally concerned about. As of this weekend, there were 264 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 out of 7,305 active cases. That is a hospitalization rate of 3.6%. Wisconsin has 11,390 hospital beds of various uses – not including the overflow beds built by the state. At the peak of this crisis, 446 people were hospitalized. Wisconsin’s health care system still has ample capacity to handle the ongoing spread of the disease.
There seem to be two main reasons why Wisconsin is adding more cases every day but the hospitalization and death rate continue to be flat or decline. First, Wisconsin is testing more than ever. With a capacity of over 24,000 tests per day, testing has become easy and routine. Early during the pandemic, only people who were sick or suspected of being sick were tested. As such, the percentage of positive results was high. Now we are routinely testing entire workplaces or facilities and finding more people who have, or had, the virus without ever actually being sick.
Second, many of the cases being discovered are people who are younger, healthier, and fight off the virus as easily as a cold. The age group of 20-29 now comprises a full 25% of reported cases and growing, but only has a hospitalization rate of 3%. Whether the virus is spreading through the younger portion of the population or we are merely noticing it now that we are testing more is subject of speculation. In either case, it is a good thing. The virus is working though the least vulnerable portion of our population and building a natural community immunity. This is the surest way to protect the most vulnerable parts of our population.
The goal of our public policy was never to stop the virus completely, nor should it be. Such a goal is impossible and has the fetor of a hubris only a politician could entertain. Our government’s response should be to do exactly what this column said months ago. Our government should pool resources to respond to outbreaks, provide the latest recommendations, and provide the legal protection to allow Wisconsinites to continue to work. Other than that, our government should stay out of the way and let Wisconsinites manage their own lives.