A baffling COVID claim by Austin’s top doc

Yesterday multiple media outlets reported on a claim made by Dr. Mark Escott, the interim director of Austin Public Health, in a presentation to the Travis County Commissioners Court. Escott, discussing the risk of re-opening schools, said that we should assume that 70% of the students would become infected and that that could lead to between 40 and 1,300 student deaths. 

Time out. Let’s consider some statistics. Here is the age distribution of COVID-19 deaths from the CDC about a month ago, when the U.S. had already hit over 100,000 deaths. 
That shows 24 deaths for those under age 15 nationwide. And yet we’re supposed to believe that just in the Austin school district we could have scores or hundreds or thousands of youth deaths? 

You know all of those idiots who say that the coronavirus is no worse than the flu? Well, if we were just talking about kids, they’d be right. In fact, the flu appears to present a much greater risk to minors than COVID-19. 

Check out this chart from the CDC. I’m sorry if the numbers are blurry. Notice how many more deaths there are in the two columns on the far right for the youngest age groups. 
Today, in a press conference involving a number of public health officials, Dr. Jason Pickett, who was filling in for Escott, defended the projection, saying that the sheer number of AISD students made the high death toll plausible. 

Both Escott and Pickett said that the case fatality rate for minors could range from 0.03 to over 1%. That is a range so wide as to be useless, but I cannot believe they are really suggesting the rate could be over 1%. The case fatality rate for COVID-19 is not even 1% for the general population. 

What makes this extra frustrating is that there are actually very serious concerns about re-opening schools. There could be a big risk to staff and to the families of students. I think they’re right to hold off on re-opening at this time. But raising the prospect of mass death among students is irresponsible and will make it much harder for the community to make a rational decision about when schools can be re-opened. 

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