By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Often we think with our emotions and not with logic. It is the classic Mr. Spock vs Dr. McCoy approach to things.

People have become emotional about the restrictions that are currently in place for COVID-19.

Some feel that they are very reasonable. Some feel like it is Big Brother taking over their lives.

What is sometimes lost in all the emotion is the reason for them in the first place. When they went into effect, we talked about flattening the curve. That concept has been somewhat lost in the fray.

The graph on page 15 shows the purpose of establishing restrictions in the first place. When infections began they were growing exponentially.

What that means is that the numbers of infected people were growing very quickly.

From February 29 to March 17, the number of infected individuals increased every 72 hours. It then accelerated to every 48 hours from March 19 to 23.

The restrictions began on March 13 in most places. Given the incubation period of the virus, it would take about 10 days to see an effect. That is exactly what happened.

From March 23 to March 26 the rate of doubling dropped to 72 hours. Then from March 26 to March 29, it was 80 hours.

From March 29 to April 3, it was 5 days. From April 3 to April 12, it was 9 days. Then from April 12 to April 30 it was 18 days. The national rate had slowed significantly.

Delaware showed a similar track. It matched the national doubling rate from March 14 to April 3. Then it doubled in 4 days from April 3 to April 7. It then doubled in 9 days from April 7 to April 14. It doubled in 12 days from April 14 to April 26.

At the current pace, both Delaware and national numbers are growing significantly less than they were. Mr. Spock would say mission accomplished. Dr. McCoy would say people are still getting infected.

However, if we go back to the original reason for the restrictions, the goal was to prevent what happened in Italy. Their medical system became overwhelmed. People were dying just because there were no medical people and no medical equipment to care for them.

We have accomplished the flattening of the curve that we set out to do. People continue to get infected at 25,000 to 40,000 per day nationally. However, that has been steadily happening since March 30. The rate of rise is currently under control. The medical system has not been overwhelmed. Thus it is time to think about moving in a different direction.

A second reason for flattening the curve is to give science a chance to catch up with the disease. We are waiting for a medication or a vaccine to work. That could take weeks, it could take months. It is not the main reason for keeping restrictions in place.

As a physician, I tend to be on the emotional side of taking precautions. As a scientist, I tend to look at the logical side of saying we have flattened the curve. The medical resources are in place. It is time to take the next step. However, whatever, we decide to do, there will be an emotional reaction from part of the population.

COVID-19 update

As of May 4, the United States has had about one case for every 274 citizens. Delaware was at one case for every 178 citizens. Sussex County was at one case for every 67 citizens.

The national numbers continue to increase at about 25,000 to 30,000 new cases daily.