September 9, 2020

Noting Relevant Comparison in Response To Letter on “Crippling of Local Economy”

To the Editor:

Ken McCarthy in his letter (Mailbox, September 2) asks if anyone can explain how 18 deaths in Princeton’s population of 28,000 “creates a rationale for a multi-month crippling of the area’s local economy.” The relevant comparison is not the number of deaths that occurred despite the stringent measures, but the number that would have befallen us in the absence of those measures.

It is estimated that 50-60 percent of the population would have to be infected before herd immunity is reached. And the fatality rate among those infected in the U.S. is around 3 percent. Using these numbers for Princeton yields somewhere between 420 and 504 deaths. Therefore the measures probably saved this minus 18, i.e. over 400 and perhaps close to 500, lives.

The correct question is whether saving that many lives is worth the effect on the economy. Perhaps not, but surely a very different comparison. 

Avinash Dixit
Gordon Way