A Voice of Reason …

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 …

 

NYTimes.com/David-Leonhardt

david-leonhardt
By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

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.

20 thoughts on “A Voice of Reason …

  1. I have to be honest with you, I yearn for some real human communication. When the time is right, I can’t wait to get back to our road trips and see for myself the state of our recovery from the Corona Virus throughout our country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I fully agree with you … for me, I am less afraid of contracting the illness than I am the extremes to which people are taking the precautions. I think the emotional toll is going to be heavy … has to be. There was likely a better way, but our leaders were caught with their pants down, so they grasped at straws and came up with this. Sigh. Even I, who have a typically positive outlook on most things, have begun to question whether a life lived as we are now, is even worth living. Sigh. Keep safe and hang in there, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There is too much not known, much less understood, about Covid-19 in the present and in the long term scenario to even consider abandoning the measures that have proven effective. Though they have varied widely from state to state, and some states less restrictions or have already dropped parts of them (in my opinion too soon for the safety of many), it is safer to err on the side of caution. If inconvenience and monetary loss are weighed against possible needless deaths…it seems a no brainer to me. Then again, I am considered one of the expendable drains of government resources and therefore my opinion is of little to no value whatsoever to most. I too, as you know, find David Leonhardt and Nicholas Kristof along with Charles M. Blow to be mandatory reading. I suggest reading Blow’s April 19th opinion column, that was included with this one by Leonhardt, “Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings!” Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree fully that it is far better to err on the side of caution, though I’m not convinced the isolation has been working, as it was too little, too late, and I expected to see fewer and fewer cases/deaths much sooner. Still, it is necessary, and much as I am sick of the whole thing, even if every restaurant and bookshop (the only two places I care about anyway) opened tomorrow, I would not patronize them, nor do I think would many others. So, rather a waste … better to keep them closed until the experts believe it’s safe, or relatively so. I did find that column of Blow’s and have it waiting on my list of articles to be read this evening … thanks for the reminder!

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  3. I’m going to take the devil’s advocate approach to this guy’s point-by-point.

    1. The number of Americans testing positive is not a reliable yardstick. The amount of testing continues to expand, so the amount testing positive should also continue to expand. That fact that positives are remaining stable indicates a possible per capita drop in positives.

    2. Waiting until we’ve had 14 days of zero new cases before reopening is probably politically unsustainable in a country that allows freedom of speech and press, and the freedom to demonstrate. Americans are impatient and will not likely tolerate such a long delay.

    3. Refusing to reopen because 90% of Americans have not been exposed to the virus is like saying we have to expose more Americans to the virus before we can reopen and allow Americans to be exposed to the virus. It’s an impossible Catch-22.

    4. Requiring more testing before we can reopen makes no logical sense. If someone tests negative today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be positive tomorrow. Would we have to be tested every day? And who would be tested? Everyone? Every day? Every week?

    5. There may be shortages of supplies in some areas, but many areas have not seen a dramatic increase in demand for PPEs and respirators. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to shutting down economies makes no sense for many communities.

    6. Suspending our economy until we develop a comprehensive contact tracing system might delay reopening until it’s way too late to avoid a great depression. And many Americans will resist having their privacy invaded in the manner in which contact tracing has been done in other countries. This is a big political football that could delay contact tracing indefinitely.

    7. What? We don’t yet have a full plan for quarantining? Could have fooled me, when 95% of our country is in lockdown.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your argument has alot of merit, I’m sure the experts have taken these issues into consideration. The main reason for the extended lockdown is not to overwhelm our hospitals, now that the curve has flattened, it would be prudent to slowly reopen low risk rural areas where infection is low. Our major cities may need to be quarantined longer until deemed safe. Wuhan China reopened 60 days after, US is only 35 days in and ppl are going nuts. This too shall pass, we need patience and understanding and compassion for each other.

      Liked by 1 person

    • As we’ve talked somewhat about this before, I would have been surprised had you not played devil’s advocate! And, as before, you make some valid points here. Unfortunately, though, due to the bungling of this from January ongoing, we have a royal mess on our hands. Testing is still catch as catch can and I know of one hospital that only today was able to finally get their initial test kits. I am a science drop-out, so I don’t pretend to understand it all, but frankly common sense tells me that if you open up the restaurants, shops, and restart the dormant factories, there’s going to be another wave. Scientists tell us this one could result in even more deaths than the first, which is far from over. I tend to believe the scientists, just as I expect my tax clients to believe my judgement when I tell them they need to open an IRA. I stand by my motto … people over profit. If those rich industrialists were willing to open their deep pockets, they could take care of the people struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. Actually, none of our country, or very little, is in a state of lockdown. We can go wherever we want, basically, as long as we do it alone or with family, but … there’s noplace to go, so might as well stay home. Long walks are good, but otherwise, I’ll stay home with a good book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • There has been a lot of bungling. I’m willing to agree on that. But when it comes to the issue of keeping businesses closed, that is where you and I are not in agreement. I hate to take the side of the nuts on the right, but this is one case where I’m inclined to agree with them.

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  4. Something I have been thinking for weeks, but haven’t said aloud outside my sanctuary home: Testing for Covid-19 is but a picture of a moment in time. if the testee is positive, then one knows what to do. But if the testee is negative, there is no guarantee that they won’t be positive 5 minutes later. The test is not preventative, only descriptive.
    In a way it can be a false diagnosis in that the testee can feel invincible because they believe they are safe. They are not! And this scares me.
    I don’t know that this has happened yet or not, that a negative testee has later become positive, but I cannot imagine it has not. Especially those on the front lines, how often are they retested? I hear someone has invented a test that only takes twenty minutes or so to show a result. That helps those who test positive to remove themselves from those who haven’t contracted the disease yet sooner, but there is still that window before they are tested that they are a danger to others. In Alberta, a Canadian province, the health system is only testing those who think they are experiencing symptoms. It can take as many as 10 days before that happens. How many people around them have they infected in the interim? This is not the time to end lockdowns and social distancing. I can see this situation lasting at least 6 months, and maybe as long as 2 years. The virus may have already mutated in China. How many times will it mutate across the world? And into what? Different environments will cause different mutations, but hardly anyone is talking about that either. Can you imagine if the corona virus becomes a superbug? I can.
    I don’t mean to be a fearmonger, I am looking at worst case scenarios. I just think we should be prepared for things to get worse before they get better. To suggest anything else is criminal and inhumane.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, you’re not being a fearmonger, and that is a very real concern. A person can test negative this morning, then go to the grocery, pick up a can of peas that somebody coughed on a few hours before, touch his nose because it itches, and BINGO … he’s now at the very least a carrier. I agree totally with your assessment, but I don’t know what the answer is. The isolation can only go so far, for we all must get out to buy food, get some fresh air & exercise, etc. This is why I think there will be a resurgence once businesses re-open, then another shuttering of said businesses. Those who think that once the order to re-open is given, life will return to the state it was in January, are fools wearing rose-coloured glasses and blinders. It will be at least a year, likely longer, before we return to “business as usual”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear people saying in many places that this pandemic is just a part of life. 500,000 people die every day, who cares if it is 600,000 all of a sudden. If they want to play Russian Roulette with a loaded virus, who are we to stop them. Others say old people are a tax burden anyways. I hope they feel that way when they get old–if they do! People all over this world, especially populist conspiracy theorists, want to go to heaven sooner rather than later. I say open up the pearly gates, so they can see what is really on the other side.

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    • You are right in the sense that if this virus becomes mutable then testing is irrelevant. The annual flu has no cure b/c it mutates to a different strain every year. If this happens with Covid 19 then we’ll just have to live this superbug.
      Sadly elderly with preexisting conditions will be hardest hit, but children with good immune system should not be affected at all, which is a huge saving grace. Humanity will live on, and hopefully appreciate life more, living in the moment and care for one another. Death is a humbling reminder of what’s really important.

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  5. This is a great piece, Jill, thanks for sharing it. I have complete faith in the insanity of the right-wing cultists following Trump that they will ignore the science and common sense and ignite a new wave of COVID-19 cases in America. I remember when Trump won in 2016 and many US citizens were considering emigration to Canada. I would smile thinking they were blowing things out of proportion. They weren’t. I’m no longer smiling. Even if Joe Biden wins in November, I wonder if it won’t be too late by then to turn things around in America.

    Liked by 2 people

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