May 21, 2020

States Reopening

“The U.S. economy, frozen by COVID-19 shutdowns, is in the process of thawing out. All 50 states have at least partially eased tight restrictions on businesses, with a mix of policies letting restaurants or stores welcome customers.” NPR

Data trends from each state are available here. ProPublica

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that existing lockdowns have been effective and the economy shouldn’t reopen until proper precautions have been put in place.

“Researchers from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville studied the effects of four different social distancing policies — school closures, closing restaurants and bars, bans on large gatherings, and shelter-in-place orders — to tease out both their individual and cumulative effects in flattening the curve. They studied the period from March 1, before any of these policies had been put into effect, to April 27, when Georgia became the first state to start relaxing its social distancing measures. The bottom line, according to their modeling: These government interventions have worked to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”
Dylan Scott, Vox

“Georgia’s coronavirus numbers looked so rosy because officials misrepresented the data in such a way it’s difficult to believe it wasn’t done on purpose… Georgia isn't the only state itching to reopen that has a penchant for dubious data. Florida actively tried suppressing county coroners from releasing COVID-19 death tallies…

“Time will tell if Georgians will pay the price for the irresponsibility and incompetence of their leaders, or if they’ll catch a break. Hot, humid summer weather could send coronavirus into a remission unearned by responsible public health strategies. One thing, however, is certain: Wishful thinking isn’t going to end this pandemic. If the numbers look too good to be true, they probably are.”
Matthew Fleischer, Los Angeles Times

“The dates on the chart showed a curious ordering: April 30 was followed by May 4; May 5 was followed by May 2, which was followed by May 7 — which in turn was followed by April 26. The dates had been re-sorted to create the illusion of a decline. The five counties were likewise re-sorted on each day to enhance the illusion… The governor’s office apologized for what state Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat, properly called a ‘cuckoo’ presentation of data. But as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, it was the third such ‘error’ in as many weeks involving sloppy counting of cases, deaths and other measures tracking covid-19.”
Dana Milbank, Washington Post

Some note that “There’s little correlation between the severity of a nation’s restrictions and whether it managed to curb excess fatalities — a measure that looks at the overall number of deaths compared with normal trends…

“Early preparation, and plentiful health-care resources, were enough for several countries to avoid draconian lockdowns. Germany, with better testing and contact tracing and more intensive care units than its neighbors, could afford to keep the economy a bit more open. Greece, by acting quickly and surely, appears to have avoided the worst, so far… The Covid-19 experience has taught us that it’s far better to respond quickly and smartly, with the right technology and mass testing and tracing, rather than only relying on the crudest of shutdowns. If there are second waves of the virus, we shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the first.”
Elaine He, Bloomberg

“The discussion should start with, ‘How do we open schools in the fall as safely as possible?’ and not with, ‘Should we open schools in the fall or even the spring if the disease is still in circulation?’… Fear of the disease is rational, but the response of ‘Stay home until there is no fear’ is not. We need to start solving this problem — and opening schools, regardless of who says what…

“Yes, in an ideal world, every public-school district would have had online contingencies, curriculum, Chromebooks and high-speed internet at the ready for students in disadvantaged economic circumstances. We don’t live in that world, and we can’t create it by the fall. And keeping schools closed will, as in so many other areas, hit hardest those already hit hardest: The working class, African-Americans, Hispanics and those without access to daycare.”
Zachary Karabell, The Hill

It’s worth noting that “Large metro areas generate more than two-thirds of their states’ economic output in each of [the] political battlegrounds, aside from Wisconsin. In some cases, a single metro area is responsible for generating more than half of its state’s gross domestic product, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Detroit… The Philadelphia metro alone accounts for nearly three-fifths of the state's output and almost exactly half of its jobs. The Phoenix area accounts for nearly three-fourths of Arizona's output and jobs…

“The daunting equation facing Trump and Republican governors is that no matter how many restrictions they lift on the small-town and rural areas that have become their strongholds, both the national and state economies have little prospect of regaining critical mass unless the GOP can greatly accelerate reopenings in the big metro areas that have been moving away from them politically… And that means Trump can't hope to truly revive the economy without more buy-in from the communities and voters who were the most skeptical of him from the outset -- and have been the most badly battered by the outbreak this year.”
Ronald Brownstein, CNN

From the Right

The right praises Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, arguing that a targeted approach to lockdowns has been effective, and pushes for the economy to reopen.

The right praises Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, arguing that a targeted approach to lockdowns has been effective, and pushes for the economy to reopen.

“On March 15, 2020, as the national and local media blasted DeSantis for his refusal to close beaches, Florida’s Governor was issuing an important order two months sooner than St. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York who can do no wrong in the eyes of the media. On March 15, DeSantis ordered all seniors in elder care facilities who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 to be moved to facilities other than their nursing homes. New York’s Governor was still sending infected patients to nursing homes last week…

“[DeSantis] had his team survey Florida to find areas of high foot travel concentration and low automotive travel due to poverty, age, and other issues. He then set up walk-up field testing centers in those areas so residents could walk up for tests instead of relying on public transportation or other vehicles. That did not get national coverage either…

“As of this writing, New York has 353,000 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 and 22,843 deaths for a population of 19.45 million residents. Florida has 46,944 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 and 2,052 deaths for a population of 21.48 million residents… The national press owes Ron DeSantis and the people of Florida a huge apology for not only getting so much wrong but so freely criticizing a state that actually got so much right.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“The Florida Department of Health produces a report that DeSantis sees every morning: new cases, number of tests, positivity rates, etc. He also gets a rundown of the people who have gone into hospitals and of ICU usage. He can follow the key indicators down to the county level. This allows granular visibility into what’s happening. He cites the example of rural Hamilton County. It had 67 cases the other day. DeSantis was able to call the surgeon general of the state to find out what was going on, and learn it was an outbreak in a prison rather than a wider community spread…

“It’s worth delving into the state’s response — as described by DeSantis and a couple of members of his team — because it is the opposite of the media narrative of a Trump-friendly governor disregarding the facts to pursue a reckless agenda. DeSantis and his team have followed the science closely from the beginning, which is why they forged a nuanced approach, but one that focused like a laser on the most vulnerable population, those in nursing homes… Perhaps things will still go wrong in Florida, perhaps its relative good fortune can be chalked up to weather, perhaps county-level lockdowns made a big difference, but no one can say that the state hasn’t taken a thoughtful approach to the crisis.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

“Last Friday morning, some 3,500 New Yorkers lined up at a Catholic church in Queens to receive free food hours before it even opened, ­according to the New York Police Department. Catholic Charities has reported a 200 percent increase in demand over the past month and a half…

“In mid-March, we were told we have to endure a lockdown to ensure that hospitals didn’t get overrun. We did. The hospitals were not overwhelmed. We turned the Javits Center into a hospital. We didn’t need it. We brought in a giant Navy ship to treat New Yorkers. We didn’t need it. We were told we were moments away from running out of ventilators. We weren’t, and now the United States has built so many, we are giving them away to other countries… We did what we were asked. We flattened the freakin’ curve. There is no longer any reasonable justification for the government to deprive us of our livelihoods.”
David Marcus, New York Post

“The Hamilton Project/Future of the Middle Class Initiative Survey of Mothers with Young Children found that 17 percent of moms with children 12 and under reported that the kids in their households haven’t eaten enough since the lockdowns began, ‘because we just couldn’t ­afford enough food.’ In 2018, that figure was 3.1 percent. We need to shift our sympathies to Americans who aren’t working and can no longer afford to put food on the table. We need to help them now, and reopening is the only viable solution.”
Karol Markowitz, New York Post

Contact isolation is more effective than lockdowns and also less economically disruptive. This is how it works: Most adults are permitted to return to work and routine activities, though masks, for now, should continue to be required. Anytime someone tests positive — regardless of symptoms — their close contacts are identified. The person with the positive test result and all of those contacts are then required to move temporarily into a government-run, hygienic, isolated environment — probably in a hotel or similar setting — until they can be ruled out as infectious…

“With a few other measures, such as mask requirements — and given the fact that as summer begins, schools definitely won’t reopen soon — I estimate that contact isolation could enable the near-total reopening of businesses and moderate-size assemblies within six weeks. The better the isolation program, the sooner, and the fewer other measures will be needed.”
Lyman Stone, Washington Post

Doctors Weigh In

“We don’t believe we need to wait until everything is completely perfect or there is zero risk before we open again. The reality is that many states are already taking the first steps toward opening, and this must happen in the safest way possible. Americans should still #StayHome whenever possible and continue social distancing. Now we need to get on a path to #OpenSafely that gets it right

“As the reopening process begins and moves forward, states should be carefully monitoring hospitalization trends and their hospital capacity. If the rise in cases is on track to threaten hospitals’ capacity to care for COVID-19 or other acutely ill patients in the state, states should immediately take steps to slow or pause reopening efforts… [States should also have] adequate public health infrastructure to contact trace and offer voluntary isolation to contain the virus when it is detected… We are encouraged that other countries, including Germany, Italy and New Zealand, as well as parts of the United States, are implementing strategies to begin to open safely and closely monitor a step-by-step opening. We believe a safe step-by-step opening can happen across the United States.”
Andy Slavitt, Dr. Mark McClellan and 20 other health leaders, USA Today

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