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There is no justification for a state of emergency

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

During the April 15 Gainesville City Commission meeting, City Manager Lee Feldman said imposing a mask mandate is within his authority under the Emergency Order. Those who have actually paid attention to real life since the current state of emergency was declared over a year ago may be wondering what the emergency is and how a state of emergency is even legal.

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Despite the media hype and leftist talking points echoed by the city commissioners and their cronies, we do not see bodies lining the streets or overwhelming hospitals. In Alachua County, COVID-primary hospitalizations are down 81% from the January 13 peak, and that peak was only 14% of the county’s hospital bed capacity.

Many who haven’t bought into the fear (and aren’t getting paid to hide in their homes) are living their lives normally. It turns out Dr. Anthony Fauci was right about COVID-19 back in February 2020 when he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that coronavirus would be more akin to a severe seasonal influenza.

From 2010 to 2018 (ignoring the latest seasons affected by COVID-19), the CDC’s estimate for the infection fatality rate (IFR) of seasonal flu averaged 0.14% (ranged from 0.10% to 0.18%), so about 14 people die for every 10,000 people infected. The table below shows the CDC’s current best estimate for the COVID-19 infection fatality rate by age.

So there’s over a 99% survival rate for about 80% of the population (under 65) and still over 90% for the rest. The numbers are probably better than that in Florida and Alachua County based on actual data, not estimates. The table below shows the case fatality rate (CFR) using the same age groups.

An infection is anyone who gets the virus, whether they test positive or not. A case is someone who tests positive and has symptoms or has been clinically verified to have the disease. Those are CDC definitions, but for COVID-19, any person with a first-time positive test goes on Florida’s case line list. That means CFR uses a smaller denominator than IFR, meaning that CFR is always greater than IFR. The fact that Florida’s CFR is so close to the CDC’s estimated IFR suggests that their estimate is too high, there aren’t nearly as many asymptomatic cases as they think, or Florida is exaggerating case counts (maybe because any positive test is considered to be a case regardless of symptoms). Whatever the reason, the overall COVID-19 IFR is close to seasonal flu, and the CFR is well below the original 3.4% estimate from the WHO. (As of April 17, 2021, the overall Florida COVID-19 CFR is 1.62%, and Alachua County’s is 1.11%.)

For those who prefer graphs, here’s a chart of the Florida and Alachua County COVID-19 case fatality rate by 10-year age groups. Note that every group under 55 has well over 99% chance of surviving COVID-19 if they test positive. This result has been known since we first published a similar chart on May 20 of last year.

In fact, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) published long-term care (LTC) facility data on July 24, 2020 that dispelled the talking point that everyone over 65 is in grave danger. The publication of that information allowed us to subtract LTC cases and deaths from the case line data to estimate the CFR for people over 65 who were in or out of LTCs. As the graph below shows, 65-74 year-olds who were not in LTC facilities were 5 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than 65-74 year-olds in LTCs. You’d think such good news would be widely-circulated and amplified, but FDOH never bothered to update the LTC data. Data that doesn’t fit the narrative is quickly forgotten. How often do you hear news about Sweden, where maskless, in-person schools were open all year and excess deaths were lower than most of the lockdown European counties?

The emergency powers that Lee Feldman is so fond of are based on the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, which hinges on Florida Statute 381.00315. That statute only grants emergency powers “for communicable diseases that have significant morbidity or mortality and present a severe danger to public health.” Clearly, COVID-19 does not meet that criteria.

The figures above are not new information. As early as July 10, 2020, the CDC reported that 79.6% of COVID deaths were 65+ and the median age was 78, about the same as average life expectancy. Over three quarters of the people who died suffered from at least one underlying medical condition (83.1% of those under 65).

Originally, Governor DeSantis declared a state of emergency because of the unknown nature of the virus, but we’ve known for a long time that the health care system would not be overrun. The havoc wreaked on our society since March 2020 has been caused by the government reaction, not the virus itself, but there probably will not be any repercussions for all the politicians who have abused the emergency powers to limit rights and destroy property, even though U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 242 suggests there should be.

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