In the midst of this current pandemic, I don’t envy the position that you are in. I applaud your diligence and frankness. You have put aside your own personal health issues while leading our State. Despite your busy day, I hope that I can have your attention for the two minutes it may take you to read this.
Now my two cents worth.
Your empathy for the lives lost is appreciated. New Jersey continues trying to spare lives by spreading out public health resources and strategies. Attempting, at all costs, to divert COVID-19 from infecting the population en mass. With all sincere respect, Governor, I ask you—please give up that ghost.
You, nor any power on earth, can cause our State to escape fatalities in flu season, much less during a pandemic. The effort is as gallant to try as it is foolhardy. If, and when, COVID-19 should return, it will claim more lives, unavoidably. You can’t spare New Jersey from all cancer deaths, coronary disease deaths, pulmonary disease deaths, or traffic fatalities, either.
By instead concentrating public health resources and strategies on the at-risk population, there is a better chance of combating COVID-19 and limiting fatalities.
What I know and learned about influenzas during my public health career is true for yesterday, today, or tomorrow. You can’t contain a virus. They thrive is dense populations. They can prove fatal to the elderly and those with collateral health issues—the at-risk population.
You have very capable advisors around you, but you need to add two more—a virologist and an immunologist. Scientific experts who can help redirect New Jersey’s strategy for combating influenza without curtailing civil liberties and destroying our economy. You can probably recruit such capable experts at one of our State’s universities or hospitals.
This virus was likely hitting New Jersey in December. It was then being seriously misdiagnosed as a common cold or seasonal influenza. Many doctors, health clinics, and hospitals do not always resort to swab tests and laboratory analysis of symptoms in flu season—many prescribe the standard medical protocol without testing. COVID-19 most likely tracked into New Jersey via residents who work in New York. Between its tight living and working quarters, packed entertainment venues and subways; New York City is the perfect petri dish for spreading a virus—severe negative density issues.
I believe—relying on what’s been reported, and public timelines of events—that New Jersey already had its [initial] Covid-19 peak between December and February. When the misdiagnosed cases are added into the March and April [second peak] data and factored out, it might be determined that between thirty-to-fifty percent of New Jersey residents were already infected. Many were either misdiagnosed, had slight symptoms, or were asymptomatic.
It is probable that the COVID-19 virus has mutated several times since it infected its first NJ victim. Typically, for influenzas, such as SARS, the strain of the virus infecting individuals in the waning days of flu season is less virulent than the strain that was hitting in December. That means the infection rate continues, but the severity is less and fatalities are lower. As viruses progress, they typically mutate to weaker forms—what virologists refer to as ‘Muller’s Ratchet.’
Ideally, this is the perfect window of time for anyone in the not at-risk population to contract the virus—little risk of a harsh onset and the opportunity for the infected to buildup antibodies to help fight off a second bout with COVID-19 in the late fall. This provides a chance to lessen the risks of the virus for all New Jerseyans through the spread of herd immunity.
Ironically, our immune systems thrive on germs. Children buildup immunity by coming into contact with germs, not avoiding them. Colds and flus help to strengthen and tune-up the body’s immune system. Our immune systems are nature’s and God’s gift to us for fending off disease—the miracle of Plasma B cells.
Governor, the greatest weapon we have for combating influenzas like COVID-19 is our immune systems. Social distancing practices and masks, employed by the not-at-risk population, are tuning out their immune systems to germs. The strategy is making the not-at-risk more vulnerable to disease, not less. In addition to the already at-risk population, those who may also get hit the hardest in a second round of COVID-19 will be the people who social distanced and isolated the most, and wore masks all of the time.
The latest scientific data bares this out. New York data indicates the majority of people who contracted the disease were the people who were isolating indoors, about 60%. The majority of fatalities in New Jersey were in nursing homes and among the at-risk population. Sweden and Florida’s approach of safeguarding the at-risk population, and implementing not-as-restrictive measures—life as usual—for the not-at-risk population is working out with much success. Our State’s own supermarket workers are a shining example of why New Jersey can go back to work, without fear.
Implementing sound public health strategies that offer protections to those at-risk, similar to how non-smokers were once afforded accommodations, might prove sounder for keeping them safer from influenzas. Social distancing sections for beaches, restaurants, theaters and other public venues and businesses is a more practical approach than continuing a stay-at-home policy and a mandating the closures of certain businesses policy. Above all, individuals in every free society must accept responsibility for their own decisions.
New Jersey COVID-19 fatalities [thousands] without a cure or vaccine are a constant—they always will be during flu season. No emergency practices or rigid restrictions can appease this fact. By employing emergency policies to protect our at-risk population and concentrating public health resources on them, instead of the population en mass, gives New Jersey a better chance to assuage fatalities. It also avoids the millions of casualties resulting from the collateral damage of wrecking our State’s economy and the human misery that the loss of businesses, jobs, and homes portends.
Of course, a strategy for handling two unique circumstances must still be developed for New Jersey. First, the impact of another New York outbreak spreading to New Jersey, given that many of our State’s residents work in New York. And second, the risks posed to nursing homes and acute care facilities by employees with second or part-time jobs in hospitals or health clinics—who may unwittingly track seasonal flu viruses from those facilities back to the at-risk populations.
Governor, we trust in you to keep New Jersey healthy—both physically and economically, in congruence, and not one at the expense of the other. I think all Americans now have a greater appreciation for the sentiments expressed by one the Founders, Benjamin Franklin— “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Your continued leadership in maintaining an evolving policy that keeps abreast of the latest scientific updates, as well as the economic climate, is appreciated.
Louis Michael Manzo
Former New Jersey State Assemblyman
My earlier lifetime, often forgotten, began with a career in public health. NJ Certified Health Teacher, Registered Environmental Health Specialist, Chief of Jersey City’s Health Division. Director of the Hudson County Division of Environmental and Public Health. During my public service career, I’ve dealt with epidemiology and strategies combating everything from foodborne illnesses, product tampering, the AIDS virus, the country’s largest chromium contamination site, and anything from a measles to influenza outbreaks affecting Jersey City and Hudson County.
New Jersey State Assemblyman sitting on the Assembly Health, Economic Development, and Environmental committees.
Traditionally published American author. Published works include the bio, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie ; and the novel, An Irish Lullaby. On occasion, a content contributor to the Sports Palace Blogs.