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Whether comparing Maryland to Sweden or New York, the facts still point toward a cautious approach to reopening | READER COMMENTARY

Musician Susan St. George has lost many gigs and other jobs she counted on to pay bills. The group ReOpen Maryland held a rally to get Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to do away with COVID-19 restrictions completely on Friday, May 15 on State Circle in Annapolis.
Musician Susan St. George has lost many gigs and other jobs she counted on to pay bills. The group ReOpen Maryland held a rally to get Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to do away with COVID-19 restrictions completely on Friday, May 15 on State Circle in Annapolis.(Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

I question some of the comparisons that Herb McMillan makes in his recent commentary (“Gov. Hogan needs to reopen the state," May 18). The comparisons are not necessarily fair and, if taken naively, they make his argument for hastening Maryland’s reopening appear stronger than it really is.

Mr. McMillan’s comparison of Swedish and U.S. outcomes under two different policies is superficial. Sweden’s COVID-19 mortality reflects not only its more-elderly population but also a healthier population generally; Sweden is 16th in the world in life expectancy compared to 43rd place for the U.S. If the Swedish population’s health status were to reflect the same burden of chronic conditions that we have in Maryland and the U.S. generally, Swedish mortality might be even higher than 36 per 100,000 people. Furthermore, the nature of Sweden’s laissez-faire policy may be overstated. The Swedish health authorities issued recommendations for social distancing, working at home, self-isolation for vulnerable groups, online instruction and so forth and compliance was reportedly high.

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Nor is New York versus Maryland necessarily a fair comparison. For one thing, the COVID-19 epidemics in the U.S. are not occurring all at the same time. Maryland’s epidemic appeared to lag behind New York’s and Maryland’s mitigation policy apparently came earlier in its epidemic, in time to affect the infection and mortality outcomes favorably compared to New York. Additionally, population density and other relevant attributes of the two states likely differ. For example, New York City’s population density is about four times that of Baltimore.

A judicious schedule for reopening Maryland stands to give businesses and other sectors time to set up strong protective measures and keep more of us alive.

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Ann Meadow Williamson, Highland

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