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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Special Covid-19 Podcast: Divisions over when, and how, to reopen things [Free listen]

Let’s talk about the numbers (even if you’re getting sick of hearing about them).

In North Carolina, we’ve reached about 5,000 cases and just over 100 deaths. About 2% of patients have died — and the rest are expected to recover, albeit some with painful or debilitating after-effects. That makes Covid-19 about twenty times more deadly than the flu. For comparison, in the 2019-2020 flu season, there have been 165 reported deaths.

If half of the people in North Carolina eventually were infected, that would mean around 100,000 deaths statewide, around 2,250 in New Hanover County.

These stark numbers have been used by public health experts and many (but not all) elected officials to drive home the point that social distancing and other restrictions are still required.

At the same time, a growing chorus of residents, business owners, and elected officials have pointed to the relatively low number of cases in New Hanover County — 55 confirmed cases, just a fraction of a percent of the total population. And, while New Hanover Regional Medical Center hasn’t released hospitalization data, county officials confirm there are currently 13 Covid-19 cases — nowhere near the hospital’s capacity (at least 769 beds and 100 ventilators).

There’s also tentative evidence that the ‘curve’ is flattening, with cases increasing daily by a few dozen, not several hundred — although that data comes with a lot of caveats.

Versions of both of these arguments have become politicized. But, at the same time, many people are caught in the middle. They’re torn between taking the virus (and efforts to subdue it) very seriously, while at the same time wondering how long the economy (and their own businesses) can survive strict shutdown orders.

While local leaders have some say in things, they are by and large at the mercy of state and federal decisions. But if those restrictions are lifted earlier rather than later, those local officials will likely find themselves between a rock and a hard place in determining how local counties and municipalities proceed.

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