Letter: Asheville is dead forever unless we wake up

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Our small city is great because it’s local. And it has a hometown feel. We support small business. (At least we did. Until we started running for the hills.)

But if our small businesses are driven to the ground by the lockdowns (they’re close!), who do you think is going to swoop in? If the local economy is destroyed, it’s likely not going to be people in Asheville.

It’s going to be people most of you abhor. It’s going to be impersonal developers who don’t care about Asheville’s local culture. It’s going to be corporations buying buildings for a song and dramatically transforming this city into something it isn’t and never wants to be.

I know this virus is very serious to a lot of you. We didn’t know much in the beginning. Now, however, we know a lot.

One thing we know? The curve is flat. In six months, I haven’t been able to locate one city or county in the U.S., big or small, that was overwhelmed with COVID patients beyond capacity. In a pandemic, that’s unexpected.

Right now, as you read this, the vast majority of hospitals in America haven’t seen one COVID patient in weeks, sometimes even months. Not one.

Even during “outbreaks” … the odds of dying from COVID have been less than getting struck by lightning. … One estimate out of a Stanford study claimed, for the average individual aged 50-64, your odds of dying from COVID-19 are 1 in 19.1 million. Getting struck by lightning? One in 1 million.

Through these lockdowns, we are allowing the destruction of our “we love local” economy.

The second wave is hypothetical. If lockdowns are needed again, they need to be hyperlocal, targeted, smart and thought-out. We can’t again selfishly demand those local businesses that want to stay open assuage our fears by going out of business.

I’ve been absolutely disgusted by the fact that Starbucks, Walmart, Krispy Kreme, Chik-fil-A and all of these deep pockets have had lines around the block all year, while we’ve demanded our backbone, the local entrepreneurs and businesses and their hardworking employees, struggle under most of the weight.

Reality check. Local businesses are dying. Asheville itself is taking a massive hit. Stop it with the false dilemmas.

It’s time to save our entrepreneurs and local business and open up. It’s time to wake up and save Asheville.

There are options. Prophylaxis? Sheltering of vulnerable?  Let’s get smart about this.

People won’t say this because they’re afraid of being bullied. But it’s the truth. And more people agree with me than the finger-waggers think.

Speak up!

— Chris Campbell

Editor’s note: A New York Times Opinion piece published in May detailed problems in the Stanford study referenced above: “A Study Said Covid Wasn’t That Deadly. The Right Seized It.”


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17 thoughts on “Letter: Asheville is dead forever unless we wake up

  1. blarkin01

    This is filled with lies and half-truths: you should be ashamed of yourself. “the vast majority of hospitals in America haven’t seen one COVID patient in weeks, sometimes even months. Not one.” – can you provide a source for this extreme and doubtful claim? Hell, the President himself was admitted to the hospital the other day! You continue… “the odds of dying from COVID have been less than getting struck by lightning” – tell that to 209,000 of your fellow Americans who have died. Have you lost someone you loved? I have.

    Why are you trying to save local businesses at the cost of human lives? Businesses can be rebuilt. People cannot be brought back to life.

    • R Engel am I

      According to the National Weather Service 1/1,222,000 (0.00008%) of Americans get struck by lightning each year.

      According to worldometers.info and the U.S. census 0.065% of Americans have died of COVID in just six months.

      Statistics don’t Lie, Liars do

    • Deborah

      I am a medical professional. Corona virus is endemic now. That means it is not going to go away, like the flu it will be with us. We are getting better at treating it and survival rates are improving. Although I fight for lives everyday and have been willing to risk my own I understand that unfortunately not everyone will survive this disease. Protect the elderly, wear a mask in public spaces. Medicine is working hard to advance better treatments. The chances you will survive should you become infected are 98% even with co-morbids. I personally don’t think cities should be shut down any longer. It doesn’t help and it’s putting average folks in financial hardship.

  2. Chris Campbell

    Sorry for your loss.

    But I refuse to be ashamed merely for speaking my opinion on something that has had such a catastrophic effect on so many lives (and, no, I’m not just talking about the virus).

    (Also, of course, I was expecting a “Shame on you!” right out of the gate.)

    And I’m not wrong. Nothing I said is a lie. The majority of hospitals haven’t seen any COVID patients. The death rate was wildly overblown. Some of the military hospitals thrown up early in the year didn’t see any patients either. There are many hospitals in America on the brink of bankruptcy.

    If we defined “cases” by ICU admissions rather than just a positive PCR test (as Belgium and Sweden are doing), we would have a much more accurate read on the situation… and the media wouldn’t be able to throw people into a panic as easily as they’ve been able to this year.

    The president going to the hospital isn’t a very good example. If anything, it proves my point. He comes into contact with more people in one day than most have in months. He went to the hospital out of an abundance of caution. He’s in his 70s. He’s in the “vulnerable” range. And… he’s already leaving.

    Let’s talk facts.

    209,000 people did not die FROM COVID-19. The majority of them died “with COVID-19.”

    There’s a big difference. But what does it mean to die “with” COVID-19?

    It means they died after testing positive from a test that the New York Times itself has said could be showing up to 90% false positives. (See: Your Coronavirus Test is Positive. Maybe it Shouldn’t Be.)

    The PCR test itself isn’t actually a diagnostic test. It can’t test for a virus and it can’t tell if you’re infected. It wasn’t designed to do either. It is used to identify genetic material that is associated with the virus.

    For that reason, per the NYT article, we should be reporting the cycle threshold with every single test, but we’re not. PCR experts have almost unanimously stated that 40-45 cycles is too high and could be throwing up false and “cold” positives. They should be at 25 to stave off as many false positives as possible. (Most of the tests in America are running at 40… meaning, we’re taking people who aren’t sick and aren’t contagious and calling them a “confirmed case.”)

    What we’re seeing in terms of “confirmed cases” is a bunch of asymptomatic (healthy) people testing positive on a PCR test. Cases by themselves, however, are not an entirely useful metric for “outbreaks” (hence the quotation marks), which is why many countries have stopped leaning solely on the tests for their “confirmed case” count.

    (Point blank: Because it’s unscientific.)

    The point for bringing up the Stanford study, however dubious you might think it is, is simple: the odds of dying are not as high as the early models were suggesting. Not even close. This is a fact. And in some areas, yes, the odds of dying from COVID-19 were so low you had a better chance of having a freak accident. (And the fact we’re not accounting for any potential false positives in the death count also means the CFR is even lower.)

    Michigan, like Sweden, has almost exactly 10 million people. Like Sweden, most live in a large metro area and the rest in the woods. Unlike Sweden, Michigan had one of the earliest and draconian lockdowns. Yet Sweden, which did not lock down, has about 10% fewer deaths than Michigan, and a functional economy. If I were in Detroit right now, I’d say Sweden was pretty successful.

    Saying we have to choose between the economy and lives for a virus with an, on average, 99.6%+ survival rate is such a silly false dilemma it should be blatantly obvious to you how untrue it is.

    But I guess not.

    The truth is, we can protect the vulnerable and our local economy. Which is a point you seemed to gloss over completely.

    Furthermore, you can’t exactly have a healthy population without a healthy economy. They go hand-in-hand. Not understanding that reveals a lack of understanding in what the economy really is — an interdependent system of daily interactions we all depend upon for our livelihoods.

    The second-order effects of the COVID-19 lockdown– throwing people into unemployment, economic uncertainty, social isolation, and worse–have been absolutely catastrophic.

    (Very few people talk about what psychological effect this is having on children… which I think is a disaster in itself)

    Small businesses are the backbone not just of this city, but of this country.

    Most of these small businesses that have been left to rot aren’t going to be “rebuilt.”

    Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. What will actually happen, which is the point of the letter, is already happening — one of the greatest transfers of wealth in history from the bottom to the top.

    And if we lock down again, especially if based on unscientific “confirmed case” counts, Asheville never be the same because of it.

    • bsummers

      And no one who died after being struck by lightning died because of the lightning. It was their pre-existing allergy to electricity that was responsible.

  3. Harold

    “Through these lockdowns, we are allowing the destruction of our CAPITALIST economy.”

    There, I fixed it for you.

    Whatever it takes, whatever it takes…

    Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

    • Chris Campbell

      If you have a better alternative, I’m all ears. But if your alternative is devastation (especially of the underprivileged) and unnecessary suffering, you can count me out. The lockdowns aren’t necessarily hurting the big corporations, if that’s what you’re thinking. And it won’t kill the capitalist economy, only make it more centralized.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    ‘WE’ are not ‘allowing’ it…it is EVIL control by the EVIL democrackkks who control AVL/Buncombe. There has been NO leadership in Asheville
    for DECADES and it shows. It’s becoming a pathetic place…every day I go in businesses I remind them of the pathetic nature of NO leadership here.
    Teachable moments.

  5. Charlotte_inAVL

    So, the lightning strike comment is just silly. The average annual death toll in America from lightning strikes is 51. Coronavirus is MUCH more deadly, no matter what source you cite or which stats you believe. I do think we need to be very careful and strict about distancing and sanitizing and limiting our exposure. But I also agree that business owners should have the right to decide to open or not, so long as they adhere to the “rules” (yes I know they are ever-changing) about keeping distant and covering your nose and mouth; and patrons have the right to decide to visit or not. If you’re not comfortable out there, it’s totally fine to stay home! If you are comfortable getting out, BE SMART AND SAFE.

  6. Jon King

    Dead FOREVER, huh? Seems hyperbolic, like the rest of the letter.

    I have all the sympathy in the world for the pain that small businesses are experiencing. But the truth is that until sensible, enforced, rules about mask-wearing and sanitation are in place, it isn’t safe to open. The weather is getting colder, which means that more people will be indoors, breathing each other’s air.

    Regarding Asheville being dead forever, the housing market would beg to differ. Covid refugees are coming to our fair city, buying houses sight unseen. They wouldn’t be doing that if not for the reputation that AVL had already made in the marketplace regarding our livability as a city. These new arrivals, and the folks living here already, are going to continue to demand the small-town, small business feel that’s made this place a mecca.

    Yup, a lot of bars and clubs are gone forever. A lot of restaurants are losing money, barely scraping by. We will eventually outlast this virus. And the entrepreneurial spirit that lives here will put new local businesses in the open slots.

    If you think about AVL in the 70’s and 80’s it was very quiet. It’s not nearly that quiet now.

  7. Jason Williams

    As I walk through Downtown Asheville on a fall evening, it sure doesn’t look shut down to me.

  8. luther blissett

    Things can’t open (properly, responsibly) till people feel safe. Things can’t open till people feel safe. And people won’t feel safe until there’s something to offset the basic challenge of enclosed spaces, close contact, open mouths.

    The places that I love the most are staying closed or mostly-closed because they don’t feel comfortable bearing the risk, because they don’t primarily deal with weekenders from Charlotte or here-and-gone visitors from wherever, they’re serving people on first-name terms. Covid probably won’t kill you — might mess you up, because we’re only scratching the surface of its long-term effects — but everyone is close to someone who’s a lot more vulnerable. Americans have a lot of chronic conditions and comorbidities, and a lot of them are undertreated.

    ‘209,000 people did not die FROM COVID-19. The majority of them died “with COVID-19.”’

    Now do cancer. I mean, this is just nonsense. Nonsense.

    We have a barely accountable TDA sitting on $12 million. It is spending about $250,000 a month on marketing right now, most of which is the retainer to its ad agency. Occupancy tax revenues are down, but down by 30% from last year is less down than you might expect. (Or perhaps not if you’ve been downtown.) The way to keep things open in the long term is to shove money their way to keep them closed in the short term. It should have been done better from the outset and it wasn’t. Can’t unmess the bed.

    • Paul o'Taur

      ‘209,000 people did not die FROM COVID-19. The majority of them died “with COVID-19.”’

      It means a virus did not kill them. If they died from a motorcycle crash or fell off a ladder and someone could find a sun-shaped virus on their body, it got added into the numbers. The number of people who died FROM a virus is probably less than number of those who died as a result of the lock-downs and restrictions being thrust onto the population. It seems some people are having a hard time understanding this concept (?)

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