The country is gradually starting to reopen, but not before 33 million Americans are out of work. Millions more have or soon will lose their businesses. But if you stop and think about the difference between reopening and staying open from the start you’ll realize that except for the carnage there is no difference.
Of course not stopping and thinking is what got us into the horrific mess we are now in. About two months ago we recognized that a severe respiratory viral disease was spreading through America. We knew back then that the disease mostly affected the elderly and the chronically ill. There were several courses of action open to us. We could have informed the public about the nature of the disease and let them make their own choices as how best to protect themselves. Or the government could have mandated how the public was to behave.
As everyone knows we, or rather they, chose to order everyone possible into isolation. Many warned that this approach could cause societal collapse. The approach was kill the country in order to save a few who could just as well have been rescued by information and voluntary isolation.
When the predictable devastation reached intolerability, parts of the country started to drop the draconian restrictions that had brought the country to is knees. The regions of the country committed to management from the top are still resisting, but eventually they will have no choice but to relent.
The problem is that they are doing what they should have done two months ago, but only after a near (I hope) death experience. The virus is still in the wild. The vast majority of Americans are still susceptible to it. But much of this susceptible group is either unemployed or bankrupt. They are also still subject to restrictions which are deadly to commerce.
How can a bar, restaurant, sporting event, entertainment venue, etc be economically viable while keeping their customers at least 6 feet apart? Short answer – they can’t. And given the fear that has possessed much of the world, will customers return? When the virus re-emerges with greater numbers of infected subjects will we lockdown the country again? Doing so will finish us off.
Consider the airlines. They’re in a death spiral. They’re talking about screening for future flights that can take four hours to complete for a domestic trip and eight hours for international travel. This thinking is delusional. People won’t’ put up with it.
The stark truth, absent a prompt appearance of an effective vaccine, is that we will have to tolerate infections in the young and healthy allowing a large enough population to gain immunity to the virus such that it disappears. This, obviously, is what we could and should have done from the outset. The difference between then and now is that we have endured much hardship that could have been avoided had we gone this route from the start.
Why did we do this? As I’ve said here and elsewhere, we paid too much attention to our medical experts who saw the epidemic from a limited vantage point. In a highly charged political environment the president was forced into doing more than he should have while being criticized for not doing enough. Sober analysis and action was precluded in such a polarized atmosphere.
Anthony Fauci is a brilliant infectious disease specialist, though he’s a little long in the tooth for his current position. He’s also been at it long enough for ossification to have settled in. His motives were pure, but his understanding of the full scope of the problem confronting the country was of necessity limited. Acting with the noblest intentions, posterity may regard him as the man who did more harm to his country than any American since John Wilkes Booth. Just how much harm is still hard to ascertain. Ready or not, the country has to resume its full menu of activities or it will die.