LANSING, Mich. — As coronavirus concerns continue to spread, more and more events and celebrations are being canceled.
It might seem like an overreaction, but retired brigadier general Michael McDaniel says it’s an important part of keeping risks low.
McDaniel is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. He says there will always be respiratory illness epidemics, as we've seen over the past two decades. However, he says precautions are still needed to keep people healthy.
“The risk to anyone in the State of Michigan right now is extremely, extremely low. No question. But that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here. We’re trying to accomplish that this remains a low level event," he said.
McDaniel, an associate dean at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, says COVID-19 didn’t catch the United States off guard.
“This is the sort of event that we’ve already planned for. One of my pet peeves that I’ve seen in the news (is that) they call this a 'black swan event', like nobody could plan for this because it’s wholly unnatural. That’s absolutely not true," McDaniel said.
He explained, "This is absolutely the type of event that we’ve planned for, and we should be prepared for. But we apparently haven’t been because we did not have those tests, and we did not get them available to state and local health departments in a timely fashion.“
As of Thursday morning, 11,000 people in the United States have been tested. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“That’s wholly, woefully under-testing for something like this... the potential magnitude of this. And the reason is: Look at South Korea, a country much smaller than us. They’re testing 10,000 citizens a day," he compared.
McDaniel says we're past the point of containment. To prevent COVID-19’s infection rate from jumping, McDaniel says it will take a concept called 'flattening the curve'. That means avoiding a spike in cases that could overwhelm hospitals. The way to do that is through something called ‘social distancing,' and that’s what we’re seeing with the cancellation of college classes and major sporting events.
“If this is as infectious, as contagious as it appears to be, we still won’t have a lot of cases. But it does mean that we’ll have those cases spread out over more time, and our public health community is therefore going to be able to respond to them," he explained.
McDaniel added, "We’ll have enough hospital beds. We’ll have enough ventilators. We’ll have enough respirators. We’ll have PPE equipment sufficient for our health community so that we can sufficiently respond to this and that will lower the lethality all by itself.”