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COVID – Don’t Lock Us Down This Summer

Dear Editor, 

I am not a scientist and I don’t play one on TV but I’d like to present a fact-based hypothesis for keeping the beaches open this summer. 

Consider these relevant facts: 

  • Dr. Fauci: COVID-19 is not going to just disappear like SARS. 
  • Imperial College: Society needs to develop “herd immunity.” 
  • The Data: The New York City curve has greatly flattened with four consecutive weeks of decline. 
  • History: Coronavirus infections tend to drop significantly in the summer, especially in humid places like NYC. 
  • Antibody tests: It is probable that more than 1.5 million (and possibly many more) New Yorkers have already been infected, most not even knowing they were sick. 
  • Observation: Most people have gotten used to social distancing precautions. 

Add all of this up and what do you get?  Summer is an opportunity for the virus to spread in a much more controlled fashion.  We need this.  Remember that we are trying to flatten the curve, not squash it to zero.  Keeping people sheltered in place all summer may give the healthcare system a respite but could also lead to an even bigger explosion of COVID-19 cases and deaths come fall.  That is what happened with the Spanish flu 100 years ago.  Most deaths occurred during the fall recurrence. 

There are multiple upsides to opening our beaches this summer. 1) People need to get back to normalcy for mental health reason is nothing else.  That makes us stronger.  2) Exercise on the beach also makes us stronger, promoting good health and a heartier immune system. 3) With simple precautions, the rate of spread will be low thereby building COVID immunity in the younger generations without overwhelming the healthcare system. 

Collectively, these outcomes would move us toward the end of the epidemic more quickly.  They would also help us avoid a fall spike that would be devastating both in terms of loss of life and economic destruction.  Neither Rockaway nor the nation can afford that outcome. 

I am not suggesting we throw caution to the wind.  Reality isn’t an all-or-nothing argument you see on Facebook.  People in high-risk categories –who are up to 10 times more likely to die from this virus– should be restricted.  Everyone needs to demonstrate personal responsibility.  Keep wearing a mask when appropriate.  A little common sense goes a long way. 

It is only natural that many people are fearful of COVID-19.  I am afraid, especially for the senior citizens and babies in my family – even though children have an extremely low chance of becoming seriously ill.  Fear is contagious, more contagious than coronavirus. As hard as it is, we need to step back and look at the big picture.  We must consider all of the data, not just the gut-wrenching headlines. 

It is also important to have hope.  Hope enables us to break free of fear and envision creative solutions. As the saying goes, “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” 

Hope to see you on the beach this summer. 

Paul King