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Letter to the Editor: COVID-19 in St. Charles County

Ms. Patoka’s letter regarding St. Charles Executive Steve Ehlmann (Dec. 16) makes the logical point that everyone wearing masks, benefits us all. 

I took a look at the numbers to see if they would support this opinion. I looked at the cumulative number of positive cases, the cumulative number of fatalities and the population of each county for a fair comparison on a per capita basis. 

As of Dec. 27, the infection rate is 7.16% for St. Charles County and 6.72% for St. Louis County. We are 7% more likely to become infected in St. Charles County. That is to be expected since we have fewer restrictions here. However, the fatality rate for St. Charles County is .08% and the fatality rate for St. Louis County is .13%. We are 59% more likely to die of the virus if we lived in the restrictive St. Louis County.

What accounts for this? Dr. Joshua D. Rabinowitz, a professor of chemistry and genomics at Princeton, and Dr. Caroline R. Bartman, a genomics researcher at Princeton, did an opinion piece in April for the New York Times. They suggested, “The importance of viral dose is being overlooked in discussions of the coronavirus. As with any other poison, viruses are usually more dangerous in larger amounts. Small initial exposures tend to lead to mild or asymptomatic infections, while larger doses can be lethal.”

They used the example of sitting next to an infected person on an hour-long train ride as a large dose exposure. Therefore, small exposures may help to some extent to build a slight immunity or resistance to the virus as evidenced by the fatality statistics between our two counties.

I found the same difference on a large scale in restrictive New Jersey’s fatality rate of .20%, Illinois .13%, and New York .18% compared to low restriction Florida .098%. However, if one is a vulnerable individual such as the immunocompromised they, like your high risk family members, need to take extra precautions.

Perhaps Mr. Ehlmann’s policies are not as harmful as you imagined.

Denise Visintine

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