Federal and state governments are making a massive gamble about a little-understood new virus. They may not only be betting our entire economy, but our nation’s future. Thus it’s imperative that they not make foolish choices.
The current gamble seems to be to shut down the nation indefinitely to suppress a virus that is especially deadly to some demographics and experts agree cannot be contained, only slowed. The New York Times claims the basis of many U.S. officials’ decisions so far is a report from Imperial College London, and other models that spit out similar results. It says to contain the virus it will be necessary to quarantine Americans for two- to three-month stretches .
The alternative, says the report, is 4 million Americans dead, half who would otherwise have lived but instead die for lack of medical capacity such as ventilators. If we merely quarantine sick people and those at risk, a “mitigation” strategy, it projects the U.S. death toll at about 2 million, again half from lack of ventilators, not depth of disease.
This is why state governors are shutting down restaurants, schools, entertainment venues, government offices, parks, historical sites, churches, and travel. Most Americans and businesses likely can sustain a suspension of their lives for two weeks, the usual annual vacation time.
But start extending these bans to one and two months, and then to four and six months, and people are going to revolt as they sit chained to their houses, watching their jobs, businesses, and retirement accounts disappear, replaced with funny money taken from yet-unborn generations and no end in sight. Numerous people are already skeptical and fed up with the lockdowns, and we’re not a week in.
Just one competing projection, from the Hoover Institution, suggests “the total number of cases world-wide will peak out at well under 1 million, with the total number of deaths at under 50,000″ (emphasis added). This is near the annual death rate due to flu in the United States alone. We don’t know if that estimate is accurate either, but that’s the point.
It seems a fool’s errand to pre-emptively and indefinitely risk everyone’s livelihoods without hard information about what happening and a risk assessment that includes the serious dangers of killing the U.S. economy, not what computers will happen with lots of missing, unreliable, and rapidly changing information.
Every year, 40,000 Americans die in car wrecks. I don’t see any critical mass of politicians calling for banning cars, and if they did, they would lose their next election. That’s because we as Americans have decided that the benefits of modern transportation outweigh the lives of 40,000 Americans a year, which a few years ago included my own young brother. Do I still drive a car? Daily.
“Of course, every life lost is a tragedy…but those deaths stemming from the coronavirus are not more tragic than others, so that the same social calculus applies here that should apply in other cases,” he says.
“[T]he massive curtailments of the U.S. economy can have as many health consequences as the virus itself—if millions lose income and jobs, become depressed in self-isolation, increase smoking, and drug and alcohol use, and postpone out of fear necessary buying and visits to doctors and hospitals for chronic and serious medical conditions unrelated to the virus,” writes Victor Davis Hanson.
What if the real scenario is one of these: 1) We plunge the nation into a depression that kills many businesses and addicts millions to welfare, in a nation that has already pledged more welfare than it can afford for at least the next three generations. Because of this depression, many people die due to poverty, lack of medical care, and despair. Millions more transform from workers to takers, causing a faster implosion of our already mathematically impossible welfare state.
2) The nation quarantines only at-risk populations and those with symptoms, like South Korea has, and ensures targeted and temporary taxpayer support to those groups, goes nuts cranking out ventilators and other crisis equipment such as temporary hospitals using emergency response crews, while the rest of us keep calm, wash our hands, take extreme care with the at-risk groups, and carry on.
Why would the entire nation grind to a halt when the entire nation is not at a severe risk? I would rather have a flu I am 99.8 percent likely to survive than the nation plunged into chaos indefinitely because we pulled the plug on our economy during a stampede.
At the very least, Congress should wait a week or two, while half the nation or more is home, to see how the infection rates look as millions of test kits go out. The worst-case scenario they are predicating their actions on may not be the one we’re facing. Prudence suggests a measured, wait and see approach to policy until we have better information, not chucking trillions of my kids’ dollars out the window “just in case.”