Q&A of the Day – Would we have been better off leaving the economy open?

Q&A of the Day – Would we have been better off leaving the economy open during the pandemic?

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: Dear Brian Mudd, will you be able to talk about (Sweden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic)on one of the upcoming spots?

Bottom Line: This question was sent to me along with a blog entry purporting to show Sweden with fewer COVID-19 issues while being the only developed country which hasn’t taken drastic steps to lock the economy/country down. The question is whether we, and the rest of the world, would have been better off if we hadn’t closed down our economies. After all Sweden seems to offer an example of a country which didn’t, and it doesn’t seem to be so bad there...or does it?

From the onset I’ve mentioned there will doubtlessly be mistakes made across the country and right here in Florida that will come into focus with hindsight. Is it possible we’ll find we could have done things differently resulting in fewer cases? Probably. Is it possible we’ll find there may have been better ways to manage the economic impact of the pandemic? Certainly. What isn’t going to change however, is the threat the virus has posed to humanity. I don’t know what all the right answers are or would have been a couple of months ago. I do know COVID-19 has been the deadliest virus for those who’ve been diagnosed with it in modern history. On February 9th, when the virus was barely on our radar, the closed case death rate was 21%. Here we are over two months later and it’s 21%. This compares to a closed case death rate for the flu averaging 0.0005%. Additionally, the CDC discovered COVID-19 was 2.5 times more contagious than the traditional flu. Faced with that information, it’s understandable why we and almost all other countries have done what we’ve done. The downside of getting the response wrong posed extreme risk. So back Sweden. Why hasn’t it been worse in that country since the only response they’ve taken is to prevent gatherings of 50 or more people? The answer is –it has.

It’s easy to look at small countries, see what appear to be low total numbers of issues and draw deductions. It’s important to measure everything in context. Sweden’s population is just over ten million, or about the size of North Carolina’s population. The most analytical way to measure COVID-19 outcomes is to adjust for population. When we do, we see Sweden has performed far worse than the United States and most of the world. Here are COVID-19 deaths per 1 million in population:

  • North Carolina: 11
  • World average: 16
  • United States: 79
  • Sweden: 102

That’s telling. Sweden has performed greater than 9x worse than the most comparable state, greater than 6x worse than the world generally and 29% worse than the United States in total. To put this in perspective, there are 130,000 people who’ve died due to COVID-19 worldwide. If the worldwide average were on par with Sweden, 830,000 people would have already died. Sweden illustrates an important point about why it was so important for us to have taken it so seriously. 

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