I receive a daily newsletter from David Leonhardt, an opinion columnist for the New York Times. Given that on the average day I receive some 200+ emails, not counting those that are automatically diverted to my spam folder, I often delete newsletters without reading them. Two of my favourites, though, are Nicholas Kristof and David Leonhardt, so I usually try to at least skim theirs. Today’s stood out for the title alone, and I read it. I want to share this today, for I think it is a worthy read, and I fully agree with Mr. Leonhardt.
In recent days, protests have been widespread in a number of states. These protests are being encouraged by a variety of conservative coalitions, and egged on by none other than Donald Trump himself. People aren’t thinking, aren’t using that grey matter inside their heads. This is a complex situation, uncharted territory, and I think we need to err on the side of caution. So, too, does Mr. Leonhardt …
By David Leonhardt
Seven Reasons We Can’t Yet Reopen America
1. Every day for the past two weeks, another 25,000 or so Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. It’s great news that number is no longer growing, but it’s barely started to fall.
2. Countries that have succeeded in containing the virus made much more progress in reducing the number of new cases before reopening. “China did not allow Wuhan, Nanjing or other cities to reopen until intensive surveillance found zero new cases for 14 straight days, the virus’s incubation period,” as The Times’s Donald McNeil writes.
3. The vast majority of the American population — perhaps about 90 percent — has not yet been exposed to the virus. So there is tremendous potential for outbreaks worse than any we have experienced so far.
4. The testing program in the United States remains terribly flawed. About a month ago, the Trump administration promised 27 million tests would be available by the end of March. Late April is now approaching, and yet only about 4 million tests have been conducted. The current pace of testing needs to triple before the country can safely reopen, Harvard researchers estimate.
5. We also haven’t fixed our shortages of protective equipment for health care workers. As a recent paper from the conservative-leaning Mercatus Center puts it: “Demand has rapidly outstripped supply as the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, respirators, gloves, and gowns, as well as for ventilators, continues to grow apace with the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
6. Most places in the United States don’t yet have a plan for aggressive contact tracing — the process of tracking people who may have been exposed to the virus. “Only a few states are recruiting and training the army of public health workers who will be needed to track, trace and isolate anyone exposed to the coronavirus,” Politico’s Joanne Kenen wrote. This kind of tracing has been vital to reducing the virus’s spread in South Korea and elsewhere.
7. The same goes for quarantining: We don’t yet have anything approaching a full plan. A recent Times Op-Ed, by the public health experts Harvey Fineberg, Jim Yong Kim and Jordan Shlain, explains.
The bottom line: If the country reopened now, we would probably end up in lockdown again soon, while also needlessly increasing the death toll from the virus.