For many, COVID-19 has been a nightmare. Thousands have lost loved ones, most of them elderly aunts, uncles, and grandparents who may have lived years longer if not for this virus. For most, though, COVID-19 has been a nightmare for different reasons. Those who found themselves unable to work soon also found the government’s supposed safety net at best inadequate, and at worst inaccessible. The lucky ones managed to keep a roof over their families’ heads. It’s hard to say which kids had the worst academic year, the ones whose school just threw in the towel or the ones whose school put a brave face on substandard Zoom “classes” and busywork “homework”. The charitable parents hedge their experience with “Well, they’re doing their best...”. Domestic violence skyrocketed: those once figuratively trapped with their abusers now literally have no escape. Mental health has taken a nosedive. As we stand on the cusp of another months-long semi-lockdown, we face a continuation of this waking nightmare — a nightmare of our own design. Today I want to talk about what we should have done, and where we ought to go from here.
I’ll start from the beginning.
It has become fashionable to pretend COVID-19 did not originate in Wuhan, China, or to buy into the Chinese Communist Party’s line that Americans spread it in the country. Both are well-documented lies. In the February to March time frame, then, as Wuhan became a blip on the global community’s radar, they faced a critical question: Is there a chance this is an existential threat? As all activity pointed to yes — from the quarantining of an entire city the size of Deleware to the rapid construction of field hospitals — world leaders should have begun acting under this assumption. Like the question of whether or not Sadam had weapons of mass destruction, we must consider any chance of a “yes” a certainty and take extreme measures to counter it. Instead, the world trusted Chinese officials. By the time the Chinese Communist Party’s politically-motivated assumptions had proven false, and their many lies had been exposed, the disease had spread across the globe.
Each country now had to make that assessment for itself: Is there a chance COVID-19 is an existential threat? Although world leaders should be forgiven for their earlier miscalculation, based on a global lack of understanding but mostly on the Chinese government’s lies, they should have known better by now. The Chinese government had failed to contain COVID-19, and everything we knew about the virus — from the way it spread to its lethality — was almost assuredly incorrect, incomplete, or based on artificially low numbers. Without trustworthy information, that possibility should have been considered a surety.
Highlighting the CCP’s well-documented incompetence and mythomania, and a global lack of understanding of how the virus spread or its propensity to kill those it infected, world leaders should have made the tough call to safeguard their populaces. This should have looked like widespread lockdowns, emergency field hospitals in population centers, fast-tracked vaccine development, and some sort of economic protections for workers and businesses. Remember, at this point, all the world knew was that COVID-19 spread rapidly, put a lot of people in the hospital, and may have killed many; it may very well have been an existential threat, and the CCP’s dishonesty certainly supported this.
Although some countries handled this well, most did not. In the United States, some places had some sort of lockdown, a few field hospitals went up in population centers that went unused, vaccine development stalled, and most of the economic stimulus went to companies. “Bungled” comes to mind when I think of the United States’ COVID-19 response, and most would agree. This is the world in which we have lived for the last several months.
Interestingly, and as a brief aside, few argue that the government did a stellar job handling COVID-19 — yet few support lifting the onerous restrictions it put into place. Either these measures have lead to the small number of COVID-19 deaths in the country, in which case the government deserves commendation for its success, or they had a negligible effect on COVID-19 deaths in the country, in which case we might as well lift them. Evidently, cognitive dissonance is not something the bleeding heart elites struggle with as they work from home, get their food and groceries delivered, and crack jokes about the President on Twitter. But I digress.
This brings us to the present.
Months have passed since COVID-19 spread to the United States. We now have reliable data, which means we can unequivocally say COVID-19 is not an existential threat. A local tragedy, absolutely: it has claimed the lives of loved ones across the globe. COVID-19 is not an existential threat, though, which makes the extreme measures such a threat justified — and even the half-measures the United States implemented — unwarranted. So now we must decide what measures are warranted. I think it is helpful to think of possible options as existing on a spectrum: on one end we have “do nothing”, and on the other we have “total lockdown”. We have pursued, in fits and starts and half-measures, the “total lockdown” strategy to disastrous results. This route would have been justified months ago, when we did not know what we were getting in to; now that we do, now that we know COVID-19 just isn’t a big deal, we need to swing to the other extreme. Our cure has been far worse than the disease, and the longer we pretend otherwise, the worse our situation becomes. COVID-19 just isn’t a big deal; it’s high time we got back to normal.
Unfortunately, too many people have marinated in their fear for too long to make such a reversal palatable, well-founded or not. A (perhaps) more viable strategy might recommend that those with certain health conditions minimize their contact with others, and permit the rest of the country to return to normal. Maybe legislators could come up with some legal protections for this small subset of the population, or incentives to encourage companies to support more remote work; most companies plan to do this anyway, though. Would such an aggressive reopening strategy cause an uptick in COVID-19 cases? What about COVID-19 deaths? It depends on how well you think the government has done so far, but I bet we would still only hear about the former and never the latter. Will we ever see such a strategy, though? Thanks in no small part to our present aversion to individual responsibility, I think not. Settle in, we have a long ways to go. As for what you should expect, expect more of the same.