Mark Dickinson’s two recent letters (April 11 and April 22) have drawn awareness to the comparative potential for mortality due to the COVID-19 threat of infection and the potential for mortality due to the economic consequences of dictatorial government-forced harm. He notes correctly that far greater mortality would likely result from the economic trauma than from novel coronavirus infection.

A careful mathematical analysis would support Mr. Dickinson’s comments. In an epidemiological model based on Malthusian population dynamics, this “pandemic” spread of a predatory invasive species into a defenseless host population could be modeled as a tensor differential equation system with solutions that are Malthusian exponential in nature. The dominant Malthusian exponent here is the difference between a parameter-dependent population density and the locally variable population density. A positive exponent would predict runaway propagation of the pathogen; a negative exponent would predict regionally averaged timewise demise of the pathogen complicated by a real variation of population density within a specific region.

Our experience in northern Minnesota and North Dakota is consistent with this model. All five resolved COVID-19 cases in Beltrami County were imported, and they failed to propagate. And based on the Sanford Health system’s experience of negligible COVID-19 impact throughout their northern multi-state outreach, it’s clear that COVID-19 presently is not a problem here unless we import it.

Based on this model and Sanford Health statistics, the average population density north of Brainerd appears to lie below the Malthusian threshold, so COVID-19 propagation would be limited to close social affiliations with incoming travelers here. This suggests response measures more intelligently strategic than an executively imposed order indiscriminately paralyzing everyone everywhere at the price of economic disaster. And, as mentioned previously, economic disaster would likely reap greater mortality than the COVID-19 virus ever would. (Actually, it already has.)

Every governmental dictatorship pretends to be acting in the best interest (as in “safety”) of its citizenry in suspending civil rights and civil liberties. It’s a common tool. When public “safety” is used as a propagandistic magic wand or tyrannical club, whose safety is it that’s truly being protected? (Most fifth-graders can answer this question. Can you?)

David A. Bahr, Ph.D., is owner of 3Suns Research in Bemidji and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Bemidji State University.