April 27, 2020

States Reopening

Georgia’s reopening is set to continue Monday when movie theaters can welcome customers and limited in-restaurant dining may resume in a loosening of coronavirus restrictions. This comes after other businesses, including barbershops, gyms, tattoo shops and nail salons, were allowed to start seeing customers Friday.” AP News

“[Oklahoma] began opening hair and nail salons and other personal care businesses along with state parks on Friday. Oklahoma also allowed hospitals to resume elective surgeries Friday. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R ) said on Monday that ‘the vast majority of businesses’ will be allowed to reopen when the state’s stay-at-home order expires on April 30, and as of Friday state parks and dine-in restaurants were allowed to open with reduced capacity.” Mississippi, Colorado, Alaska, Texas, and Montana are all relaxing their restrictions this week. The Hill

See past issues

From the Left

The left urges caution in reopening and worries that doing so prematurely will result in unnecessary deaths.

“White House guidelines recommend that state officials wait for a ‘downward trajectory’ over 14 days in either the number of new cases or the share of all tests for the virus that come back positive before they lift business restrictions. Georgia fails the first test. The number of new cases that its health department has announced each day has trended up over the past two weeks.”
Nathaniel Lash and Gus Wezerek, New York Times

“Surveys show that a vast majority of Americans support strict shelter-in-place policies that are intended to limit the spread of the disease… an economy depends on consumers just as much as producers. Businesses need customers. It’s not clear they plan to participate. If a nail salon or tattoo parlor is open but no customers show up, those businesses will suffer. If restaurants are open but no one shows up to eat, those restaurants will suffer. When movies, concerts or sporting events open up, people aren’t going to show up, no matter how much performers and sports teams would like them to…

“A recent survey asked noted economists across the country whether they thought the government should invest more than it currently is toward measures like accelerating testing and providing financial incentives for the production of a successful vaccine. All of them agreed that it should. The survey also asked them whether abandoning severe lockdowns at a time when the likelihood of a resurgence in infections remains high would lead to more economic damage than staying in lockdowns to prevent a resurgence. None of them disagreed. Economists and public health experts aren’t on different sides here. The way to save the economy is to do everything public health experts are asking for.”
Aaron E. Carroll, New York Times

“Our true choice is not a matter of debating May 1 versus June 1 versus Sept. 1. It's entirely a matter of how fast we put in place a public health system that is ready to do its vital job. Opening the economy without a functioning public health system is a death sentence that could send the current 50,000 death toll to hundreds of thousands instead… my advice to the mayors and governors is this: Scale up your health systems so that they start tracking every day where your citizens are most likely becoming infected…

“By tracking cases and interviewing (safely, by phone) each newly infected individual, you can get these individuals into early isolation and determine where the infections in the community are generally occurring, for example, whether among family members, congregant settings like nursing homes, shelters, prisons, or shops, restaurants and workplaces in particular parts of town. By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, you can far more quickly identify new cases and help those to isolate.”
Jeffrey Sachs, CNN

Some note that “Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee formed a regional pact with Georgia to end coronavirus restrictions… All six states also rejected Medicaid expansion, even as 36 other states adopted the plan to help more poor people get health coverage…

“The Trump administration has said it will reimburse hospitals for treating uninsured patients suffering from coronavirus, provided those hospitals don't bill patients. But they haven't detailed exactly how much money would be allotted for the program. It wouldn't preclude hospitals from deciding to charge people rather than seek reimbursement at the Medicare rate. And it doesn't appear to cover all doctors, including those working at hospitals, and or cover people who get sick from the disease but whose tests come back negative, or people who are ill, seek treatment and end up having something else…

“That means if workers do get sick as a result of being forced to return to work, many won’t have health insurance and could face financial ruin if they go get treatment.”
Cameron Joseph, Vice

“Imagine a world where [Las Vegas Mayor] Carolyn Goodman had to spend her evenings cleaning up a casino, where Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had to do part-time labor in an Amazon warehouse, where Donald Trump had to work one day a week as a hospital orderly…

“We have to demand a wider sharing of the burdens of the pandemic. The ruling elite have to be forced to choose: Either they can start spending on the scale the problem needs, or they’ll be conscripted into the army of essential laborers.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

From the Right

The right argues that it is time to start relaxing the lockdowns.

The right argues that it is time to start relaxing the lockdowns.

“Consider a thought experiment in which metropolitan New York weren’t just its own state, but its own country. What would the crisis for what remained of America look like, then? In this slightly smaller nation of a little more than 300 million people, the death toll would amount to about 7.5 per 100,000, slightly above Germany’s levels. No wonder so much of America has dwindling sympathy with the idea of prolonging lockdown conditions much further. The curves are flattening; hospital systems haven’t come close to being overwhelmed; Americans have adapted to new etiquettes of social distancing…

“Yet Americans are being told they must still play by New York rules — with all the hardships they entail — despite having neither New York’s living conditions nor New York’s health outcomes. This is bad medicine, misguided public policy, and horrible politics.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

Sweden is fighting coronavirus with common-sense guidelines that are much less economically destructive than the lockdowns in most U.S. states. Since people over 65 account for about 80% of Covid-19 deaths, Sweden asked only seniors to shelter in place rather than shutting down the rest of the country; and since Sweden had no pediatric deaths, it didn’t shut down elementary and middle schools…

“How did the Swedes do? They suffered 80 deaths per million 21 days after crossing the 1 per million threshold level. With 10 million people, Sweden’s death rate‒without a shutdown and massive unemployment‒is lower than that of the seven hardest-hit U.S. states… all of which, except Louisiana, shut down in three days or less. Despite stories about high death rates, Sweden’s is in the middle of the pack in Europe, comparable to France; better than Italy, Spain and the U.K.; and worse than Finland, Denmark and Norway. Older people in care homes accounted for half of Sweden’s deaths.”
T. J. Rodgers, Wall Street Journal

In the US “The curves have been flattened. Now, we must use established medical science and the evidence we have ­gathered… Officials must issue rational distancing guidelines to the elderly and their families, including self-isolating the mildly sick. Masks could be required for public transit. We know children and young adults in good health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19, so logic means opening most schools. With sensible precautions and sanitization standards, most workplaces and businesses should reopen. This would save lives, prevent overcrowding of hospitals, restore vital health care for everyone and allow the socializing essential to generate immunity among those with little risk of serious consequences.”
Scott W. Atlas, New York Post

“The government should be providing clear guidance as to the best practices to follow as we reopen. Students and workers will need to be given more room to spread out and avoid physical contact as much as possible. New sanitation measures will need to be in place and personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and other related materials will need to be made available. But any operation that takes all of these steps and can demonstrate that they’ve made a good faith effort to keep people safe should be offered some sort of shield against crippling lawsuits…

“It’s virtually impossible to make an establishment 100% safe without shutting it down entirely. That’s not a suitable answer because we have to get our people back to work and our students back to learning, preferably sooner rather than later. Any institutions that remain shuttered because they are paralyzed with fear of a lawsuit won’t be contributing to that effort.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

Some note that “The outrage over Florida's beaches is silly and unfair. With spring break crowds (which would be dangerous) long gone, opening beaches for safe, socially distant exercise is no riskier — and no less beneficial to public health — than open parks in New York and elsewhere around the country…

“Is walking on a beach somehow more dangerous than walking through a park? New York City, site of the single worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country — and boasting a higher population density than any place in Florida — has kept city parks open for exercise. The guidelines for park use are, in fact, remarkably similar to Jacksonville's present beach rules: Solo exercise is permitted. Team sports and group gatherings are not. A major difference is New York's decision to keep many of its park restrooms open to the public. On that point, Jacksonville is the more cautious municipality.”
Bonnie Kristian, The Week

A libertarian's take

“One needn’t understate how much a few weeks can matter to a laborer or struggling small business owner to appreciate that, even setting mortality risks aside, shelter-in-place orders are the least of our worries. Six months from now, access to the ballot will matter more for democracy than the precise length of today’s shutdowns. A year from now, different statuses for people with different antibodies in their blood may pose thornier questions than any we’ve yet confronted. Two years from now, the endurance of liberty will hinge more on, say, how much we allow COVID-19 to permanently increase the degree of surveillance in society than whether one’s local beach or hiking trail stays closed––even needlessly and frustratingly––for a month or two too long.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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