Nobody We Know Wants America To Be Closed

So the “debate” between “Open It All Up!” and “Keep It All Locked Down!” is a bunch of bunk.

What it’s really about is:

A) Opening up ASAP with:

  • Testing
  • Tracing
  • Treatment


B) Opening up ASAP with:

  • Nothing

(Except for a suggestion that you maybe wear a mask, although you can go down to your local Costco and protest if you feel even that’s too much.)

Most of the money going out from the federal government thus far is to support businesses, very little to support public health.

Almost as if they’re not really connected at this time. Almost as if the economy will inevitably reanimate, but only if the nation speeds things up and cuts corners on counting and countering Coronavirus infections.

Or, as some in our social media feeds suggest: there’s not much return on investing heavily to save a bunch of older or chronically ill people, because they will probably be dead pretty soon anyway. Which then degenerates into a question of whether these people’s deaths should even be considered from COVID-19, or if they are “inflating” the fatality numbers. Even Trump has suggested this. To which we say: any COVID-19 related death that is preventable is not inevitable. And really? You’re spending trillions that’ll mostly benefit big business; you don’t really have a couple of dollars in your pocket to protect the people who need help most urgently?

And yes, opening more safely means opening more slowly. But the President’s wasting a lot of time ignoring or even expressing disdain for a health and economy-based approach as being inherently damaging to his re-election prospects and thus he’d be playing into the hands of Democrats if he emphasized the importance of any of that. Or even put the brakes on a bit to get at least some of it sorted out.

Instead it seems, the President is betting big on the economy alone magically reviving just by sending people willy-nilly back to work. And then, he says:

“This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.”

And we do believe whether or not there will be a vaccine, and whether it can be sooner rather than later, we need to act as if there might not be. Which means acting responsibly. Which means acting safely. Which means not turning everything into a contest. Or a conflict. Which means changing some personal habits. Like wearing a mask. As we’ve said before, that is about the smallest sacrifice we can think of.

Or peacefully not frequenting some businesses that you want to if you don’t feel they’re operating safely. Or peacefully not frequenting some businesses that you want to if you feel they’ve got too many rules.

Without expecting business owners to instantly bend to your beliefs about how it should be done. Maybe for a long time. And right now everybody’s improvising to some extent. Especially with a lack of firm guidelines from the federal government. At some point, probably soon, “best practices” will emerge (largely by word-of-mouth) and except for a few outliers, things should get easier. But only if there’s some pulling together and cooperating (or if you can’t, temporarily walking away) in the meantime.

Which means not compelling an ice cream shop not far from where we live to close on the same day it opens because some folks don’t want to comply with the owner’s protocols set up to protect his customers. And also his employees who are there all day. And then according to the owner, those folks got highly abusive to those employees because they didn’t get their scoops. As the owner says in a local news report:

People are going to have to adjust and learn that we don’t know. We’re trying. We’re giving it a shot”.

Timing is a central issue for businesses and governments everywhere, but it’s even more an issue of money, will, competence. And learning, and adjusting.

The President recently expressed doubt in the efficacy of tests: “somewhat overrated” (even though he gets tested once a day, and most of the rest of us still can’t get tested unless we’re very, very sick), because he noted tests only assess your status at the specific moment you are tested. Right. That’s why lots of tests are needed. Not why tests aren’t needed.

Also because, he says:

“If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases. So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”

So let’s talk about numbers. Because rules about social gatherings of 2 people, or 10, or 50 have little to do with limiting the chances that those people you come in contact with are infected. That one other person, or those 10, or those 50 have just as good a chance of being infected as anybody. It’s just if they do infect you (or vice-versa) then limiting the number of initial contacts should limit the possible spread. Which makes it easier for public health officials to track. And should keep infection numbers down.

But that only works if there’s strong contact tracing. And as we’ve pointed out several times, most of the biggest contract tracing efforts in this country right now are being built and run by charities, not the federal government. Which is fine if that’s what works. But then they need money and are going to for a long time. Yet the federal government does not seem at all inclined to finance this. Despite the fact it could also be a huge and highly effective jobs program.

The fact that Trump is refusing to invest (or even provide much guidance) on social and safety protocols, is what concerns us most about reopening under current conditions. (We originally wrote “guidelines” instead of “conditions”, but there really are no uniform guidelines in widespread practice right now. And those that do exist are generally not being followed by the states that are reopening.)

And just to avoid any confusion, there’s one thing we want to say loud and clear: we’re rooting for Trump! We’re not happy when he fails again and again. Or doesn’t seem to care. We would love for him to start showing some leadership that helps people and pays off. We want people to be well, and we want the economy to be strong. We could give less of a crap about the presidential election right now. And by that we don’t mean getting him out of office in November isn’t crucially important. Just that it’s still almost half a year away. And right now is right now.

At the same time, we fear the President’s only concerned with the economy anymore, and has pretty much given up on reaching pretty much any health milestones.

We feel this way not because we want Trump to lose in November, but because we don’t want people to die unnecessarily. (But as a good friend of ours pointed out recently, not wanting people to die now does seems to be a partisan stance.)

That means spending more of those trillions of dollars the Treasury’s printing up, on public health. Not just on businesses. Or at least get corporations to test and track and protect their workers as a condition for receiving federal money. Instead of working to give those corporations immunity from lawsuits if people come back to work too soon, or to what turns out to be unsafe conditions. (Trump hasn’t been hesitant to propose lots of conditions for state and local governments if they’re ever going to see cash from the federal government.)

And to those that scream we must open immediately, we scream back: we can, if we’re willing to spend the money to do it safely. And it’s not like there’s no will to spend money. The only question is on what? And the U.S. could already be there if the President was able to show some consistency and not base his actions on capricious flavor-of-the-day opinions that change with the wind.

This is America, after all. This country’s ingenuity is unparalleled. When we saw the President greet World War II veterans at the end of last week, we remembered how the U.S. built more than 300,000 planes during that war. Backed up by money, and will, the American people can accomplish anything.