Jim Russo via wwub.com

I appreciated Greg Fazzari’s May 21 letter to the editor describing the reported individuals, as a percentage of the population, who have tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19 and who have died.

His letter asks, “What shall we conclude?” I suggest we do the following:

1) Look at epidemiology statistics in context. In 2018, the most recent year for which I can find mortality data from the CDC, 0.86% of the U.S. population died. Of this, 0.19% of the population died from heart disease in all of 2018; 0.18% from all cancers; 0.016% died from influenza and pneumonia.

In only two months in 2020, 0.029% of the population died from COVID-19, and that is likely an underreporting since other deaths in January and February from pneumonia were not yet linked to COVID-19.

Hence, I conclude that COVID-19 has rapidly established itself as a leading cause of death in the U.S., and could be much larger without containment and mitigation efforts.

2) Not misinterpret, whether by ignorance or malicious intent, the role of public health in our communities.

When fewer deaths or disease occur due to public health interventions (e.g. vaccines, social distancing, better hygiene, nutrition or access to care) than we had predicted or anticipated, that is not an indication of an overreaction or a hoax.

Rather, that is when our collective public health actions have been most successful. We have reduced disease in the US from smallpox and polio by 100%, and from diphtheria, rubella and others by  about 99%. The measures taken to achieve these public health boons were not overreactions.

I conclude that the lower percentages of cases and deaths in Washington state and Walla Walla County relative to the U.S. overall is an indication that our local and state public health responses have contributed to a much lower burden of disease.

For that I am grateful for the collective actions we have taken to reduce the mortality and morbidity caused by COVID-19 and to keep those percentages as low as Greg described.

Jim Russo

Walla Walla