Early projections that millions could die here in the United States alone from this novel coronavirus were way off base, as was the severity of the virus in general. Those early projections resulted in panic and overreactions, the consequences of which we are dealing with today.

One of those consequences is the furloughs that we are seeing at the Southcoast Hospitals Group. Another round of furloughs was announced this week for a total of 10 percent of the workforce impacted. Furlough means you don't get paid.

How does it happen that people in the medical business are being furloughed during a viral pandemic? Early projections of the numbers of people that would be infected with the virus and become deathly ill were exaggerated and the prediction that the medical system would collapse under the weight of COVID-19 never materialized. Not even close.

The nation's hospitals were told to prepare to be overwhelmed and as a result, all elective surgery and other services were suspended so that the hospitals could focus solely on COVID-19 cases. When the crush never occurred and hospitals never came close to capacity, the lost revenue associated with the suspension of all things non-COVID began to be realized.

The miscalculations have also resulted in a national economy in tatters, and many businesses and lives destroyed. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have led to suicides, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and depression.

I suspect that history will judge us harshly for our handling of all of this.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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