June 15, 2020

Reopening and COVID

“One by one, states are weighing the health risks from the virus against the economic damage from the stay-at-home orders that have thrown millions out of work over the past three months.” AP News

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From the Left

The left calls for a comprehensive plan for reopening the economy and is divided about the risks from protesting.

“New hot spots are emerging [in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah]… Some of that spike is probably the result of more testing. But what’s so concerning is that the positive test rate is also increasing at the same time, up from less than 8 percent at the end of May to nearly 14 percent now… It is difficult to ignore that the places seeing surges in Covid-19 cases began to reopen businesses and other public spaces a few weeks ago

“The nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death, police violence, and structural racism have also been met with concerns that they would become superspreading events… According to the experts I spoke with, however, it is simply too early to know whether the coronavirus will spread widely because of the protests. And it is worth remembering the differences between outdoor and indoor exposure, the latter being much more dangerous; it could end up being the case that people got infected because they were arrested and put into a police van or jail cell with other people, not because they were outside protesting in a big crowd.”
Dylan Scott, Vox

Some argue that “I’ve been a vocal supporter of these protests from their start… But what we should not tolerate, and what the scientific community cannot permit if it is to retain its credibility, is the abuse and manipulation of health expertise for political ends. One of two things is true; either 1) these protests will lead to a significant spike in coronavirus infections and deaths, in which case public health experts should reconcile that outcome with how they could have encouraged and endorsed them; or 2) it will not lead to such a spike, in which case it will appear that the months of extreme, draconian lockdowns — which caused great suffering and deprivation around the world — were excessive, misguided and unwarranted.”
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

Others note that “The people who are marching in the streets right now are well aware of the risk of coronavirus transmission… They are not acting out of ignorance that needs to be corrected by public-health experts. As one protester in Minneapolis said, ‘Yes, corona is happening. It’s real, it’s deadly. But racism kills way more lives’… Even if public-health experts did want to stop the protests, they almost certainly could not. Any public-health pronouncements to the hundreds of thousands of people marching around the U.S. and worldwide would be like shouting into a mighty wind…

“Many experts, and some public-health officials, have adopted a harm-reduction approach to the protests, accepting that they must happen and offering recommendations to help people protest as safely as possible. Others have gone further by handing out masks and other protective gear on-site… The decision reflects what public-health experts have always tried to do: maximize the health of the population across all aspects of life.”
Julia Marcus and Gregg Gonsalves, The Atlantic

“Experts never said that eternal lockdowns were the only choice we had to combat the pandemic. They argued that once areas got the initial case spikes under control through widespread social distancing (with new cases decreasing over at least a two-week span), a new phase of control should begin with widespread testing and contact tracing. The initial lockdown period avoided the worst possible scenario, but the US didn’t use that time to prepare for managing the pandemic in the future. And now we’ve wasted the weeks that have passed since reopening…

“‘We managed to disrupt our economy [and] skyrocket unemployment, and we didn’t control the damn virus,’ said Jeff Shaman, an infectious disease modeler at Columbia University.”
Brian Resnick, Vox

Our current vaccine production infrastructure is already strained and... building new infrastructure is both expensive and complicated. It costs anywhere from $50 to $700 million to build a new facility and takes years to complete. Existing production facilities are highly specialized for making a single, specific type of vaccine, like polio or measles, and they are currently reserved to make those vaccines. If those facilities are repurposed to make a new COVID-19 vaccine, it will put the supply of other critical vaccines at risk…

“In addition, shortages of supplies like syringes and vials could delay the delivery of current vaccines and a future COVID-19 vaccine. Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, warned that there are only 200 million vials left in the world because they’ve all been bought up… Operation Warp Speed is a fantastic goal. It needs a plan to match it.”
Kaitlin Hunter and David Kendall, The Hill

From the Right

The right calls for reopening the economy and criticizes those who support the protests while arguing for continued lockdowns.

The right calls for reopening the economy and criticizes those who support the protests while arguing for continued lockdowns.

“Democrats cite a spike in cases in Florida, Arizona and Texas as evidence of a virus resurgence. But more testing, especially in vulnerable communities, is naturally turning up more cases. Cases in Texas have increased by about a third in the last two weeks, but so have tests…

“A more important metric is hospitalizations. In Arizona the weekly rolling average for new Covid-19 hospitalizations has been flat for a month. Emergency-room visits for Covid-19 have spiked this week, but the number of ER beds in use hasn’t changed since late April… More infections are inevitable as states reopen, and there will be much trial and error. States need to be vigilant for outbreaks and protect high-risk areas and the vulnerable. But the costs of shutting down the economy are so great, in damage to lives and livelihoods, that there is no alternative to opening for the broader public good.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Although the true number of unemployed people is a matter of debate, the data show that as many as 27.5 percent of Americans lost their job or had their hours scaled back as a result of the shutdowns. That’s more than 30 million Americans, at a minimum, who were hit hard economically. We simply cannot sustain that level of economic catastrophe much longer…

“Rises in the coronavirus infection and hospitalization rates have to be put into context. We must minimize the potential loss of life, but public health measures must also be weighed against the cost of millions of ruined lives. Keeping the economy closed and the lockdowns tight would be fatal to America itself. To do this would be the public health equivalent of the famous quote from a dispatch during the Vietnam War: ‘It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.’”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

Maximum lockdowns were never a realistic long-term option… The end of our patience was never going to coincide with the end of the pandemic. Yes, warmer weather will probably help some, along with more Americans spending more time outdoors. In some parts of the country, lots of people are still wearing masks; in other parts of the country, not so much. Ending idiotic policies about returning still-contagious patients to nursing homes will help reduce the death rate considerably…

“But… the virus is still out there. The fact that people would rather play out an American version of China’s Cultural Revolution, complete with public ‘struggle sessions,’ or go over footage of a cop shoving a senior citizen in Buffalo like it’s the Zapruder film, or remove the television show Cops from the airwaves — because having camera crews ride along with police officers is somehow enabling police brutality — does not change any facts about the virus and its spread.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“The coronavirus has not disappeared, and the rules governing our response to it are still being applied to businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations. In Maryland, for example, outdoor religious services have been banned completely by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich… And my church in northern Virginia has decided to hold off on in-person services, outdoors or indoors, because the regulations are too vague and too difficult to navigate. Where were these regulations during Saturday’s protest?…

Government officials cannot selectively restrict constitutional rights. Either the law applies to everyone, or it doesn’t apply at all. In other words, if protesters have the right to gather, churches should have that right as well. Any other application of the law is hypocritical and unconstitutional.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“With coronavirus, government has been aggressive to excessive. When business owners have attempted to reopen ahead of government timelines, many have faced harsh responses. Government actions and reactions have been aimed at normal activities by otherwise law-abiding citizens. Meanwhile, government has been permissive to passive (at least initially) with protests. Here, government action has not been taken against people gathering en masse in violation of health orders, even when some of those protests turned to violent riots…

“The danger Democrats increasingly face is that Middle America and moderate voters will see these increasingly stark juxtapositions… Democrats need protests to end now — yesterday actually. The longer they last, the worse Democrats look, and the greater the likelihood that Middle America and moderate voters make a connection from current chaos, to coronavirus, to leftward campaign content — and break with Democrats.”
J.T. Young, The Federalist

A libertarian's take

Public health officials are squandering their credibility by reversing directives on the need for social distancing and limiting public mass gatherings in order to express support for the Black Lives Matter protests against police violence. There’s an undeniable and immediate need to significantly reform policing and the criminal justice system, but the next time a real health emergency arrives, many Americans will remember this hypocrisy and dismiss health experts’ warnings out of hand…

“Americans’ ability to accurately incorporate information into their private decisions is without parallel. The re-opening efforts underway should be rapid and give responsibility to private actors to implement voluntary new precautions against future contagion. The mass coordination of individuals’ decisions through the marketplace has built the most prosperous society in world history. Now is not the time to abandon that tradition in favor of central planning by a political class that is manifestly not up to the task.”
Marc Joffe and Geoffrey Lawrence, Daily Caller

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