I believe in the importance of facts and numbers.

My body and the planet I call home operate based upon facts and numbers.

Give my mitochondria some C6H12O6 and a shot of O2 and I can generate the energy I need to operate my favorite transportation device, my mountain bike.

Allow a chlorophyll-containing plant to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) I produce as a result of extracting energy from sugars like glucose while riding my bike, add H2O and a dose of radiant energy from the sun, and the plant produces more C6H12O6 and releases oxygen allowing my mitochondria to continue doing what they do so well.

The facts and numbers of life tell an amazing story. Take the time to learn and be amazed by that story.

Let’s take a look at facts and numbers that address the topic on everyone’s mind: COVID-19 and re-opening of public schools in Vermont.

From early March through Aug. 23, 1,557 individuals out of 120,043 people analyzed in Vermont for infection by SARS-CoV-2 (acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2) tested positive.

These numbers detail a very, very low positivity rate of 1.3 percent.

In Chittenden County for the period July 25 through Aug. 7, the positivity rate was even lower at 0.37 percent. That means about one in every 300 people tested during that period were infected by SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2 has the capacity to cause COVID-19 (acronym for Coronavirus infectious disease in 2019).

Let’s clarify the definition of a positive result (a “case”).

It means a nasal swab from a test patient contained genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2. It does not say the person has or had disease; only that the person was infected by the virus at the time of the test.

Is there a difference between infection and disease? Yes.

The adult human body consists of between 30-40 trillion cells.

At a minimum there are at least an equal number of microbes living on and in the human body.

Are they alive? Yes. Are they replicating? Yes.

Are they causing “disease”? Most of the time NO, they are not causing disease. They “coexist” with their host. They can cause disease under defined conditions, but harming their host is in general not beneficial to their existence.

The aggregate data acquired nationwide to date lead to the conclusion that at least 40 percent, and probably a much higher percentage of people, will show no or very minimal signs of illness (disease) when infected by SARS-CoV-2.

Note, however, that even if asymptomatic with no disease, infected individuals can and do spread the virus because viral replication is occurring.

Statewide through Aug. 22 here is the breakdown of infections, deaths and hospitalization rates according to age (from Vermont Department of Health’s website).

Age Cases/ Deaths Hospitalization rate per 10,000 Vermonters

0-9 55 cases/ no deaths 0

10-19 127/ no deaths 0

20-29 261/ no deaths 0

30-39 221/ 1 death 0.5 (rate = 1 in 20,000)

40-49 187/ 2 deaths 1.2

50-59 252/ 2 deaths 2.5

60-69 203/ 8 deaths 3.6

70-79 111/ 20 deaths 6.5

80+ 82/ 25 deaths 13.4

What do these numbers tell us?

The data above convey Vermont is extremely well prepared to have children return to public schools with minimal likelihood of a “bad outcome” in terms of the child’s health.

What about adults that children come in contact with?

Unless the adults in question are immunocompromised or have one or more of a number of underlying comorbid health conditions, most adults are at low risk of significant harm (yes, low risk is not synonymous with no risk).

Moreover, with the extremely low positivity rate in Chittenden County, recently even high-risk individuals are at (relatively) low risk for “bad outcomes.”

So far in Vermont 58 people have died due to COVID-19.

No deaths have occurred in individuals younger than 30, and the hospitalization rate for the latter age group is zero.

Most (78 percent) deaths have been individuals 70 and older, many with underlying medical condition(s). The last recorded death was in late July

The numbers and the facts associated with the current epidemiology of infection by SARS-CoV-2 in Vermont convey two messages:

(1) they strongly suggest sending children back to public schools will be safe and

(2) they do not support the level of fear and anxiety that exists in the community and statewide regarding children returning to school.

Reliable news and information is vitally important. Local advertising has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis but the Vermont Community Newspaper Group remains committed to its responsibility to serve its communities. Your communities. With some assistance from loyal readers, community organizations, foundations and other funders, we hope to keep reporters on the job keeping you informed. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our local journalism fund. Thank you for your support.

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