Letter to the editor: Here’s my theory on Summit County’s low COVID-19 death rate

Dr. Kim Nearpass

A Sept. 2 article said, “Four residents have died as a direct result of the virus … giving Summit County one of the lowest death rates in the state.” According to another article published June 2, Summit “has one of the lowest death rates per capita at 0.00026%.” Public health and the county commissioners credit this success to early shutdowns, mask orders and high vaccination rates. A logical hypothesis.

Others hypothesize these measures worsened our outcome, arguing that isolation and loneliness are strong predictors of morbidity and mortality. They may refer to the county coroner’s report listing one death from COVID-19 in 2020, before the vaccine was introduced, or say that breathing recycled air and chemicals from synthetic masks is toxic to health.

I favor a third hypothesis: Our health explains our success. “U.S. News ranked Summit County ninth in its Healthiest Community Rankings for 2020. Of the top-25 communities, the county had the second-lowest COVID-19 fatality rate.” This is not a coincidence. Strong immunity depends on optimal health. Viruses do not harm all equally. Although there are reported deaths of seemingly healthy individuals, those cases are rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95% of patients who die of COVID-19 have at least one comorbidity.

Whichever hypothesis is most accurate, I hope the future illuminates what we’ve done well and what we could do better to reduce total harm and collateral damage to our mental health, education and economy. In the meantime, I propose that we be kind to those who do not agree with our favored hypothesis. Listen to and respect one another. We can all celebrate our relative great fortune.

And please stay healthy. Go outside, play in the dirt, exercise, sing and dance, hug each other, take vitamin D and eat your vegetables.

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