On Monday, the Republican governors of several southern red states announced plans to partially reopen. Tennessee will reportedly terminate its stay at home order on April 30, and Georgia and South Carolina are planning to permit the reopening of certain businesses which have been considered nonessential.
This is a desperately needed development. The country cannot remain in lockdown indefinitely. The economy has lost 22 million jobs since President Trump declared a national emergency, and protests are breaking out across the nation in response to the petty tyranny of local political leaders. With children barred from school, Americans lining up at food banks and job losses beginning to resemble those of the Great Depression, we are going to have to reopen the economy sooner rather than later. The question pertains to how we’ll actually do this.
The problem is that many Democrats – particularly within the media – are refusing to entertain the possibility, propping themselves up as morally superior guardians of the weak and vulnerable, and casting their political opposition as an evil bunch of ignoramuses more concerned with profit than the protection of human life and too stupid to heed expert advice.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes that conservatism is “a political movement that demands absolute loyalty [and] considers quacks more reliable than genuine experts.” As well, he slapped conservatives with accusations of both racism and idiocy, suggesting that conservatism is equal parts aggrieved white men and “hostility [toward] ‘elites’ who claim to know more than guys in diners.” Don Lemon suggested on CNN that the push to reopen is driven by selfish conservatives who want to play golf and get haircuts.
Unlike many journalists, the majority of Americans aren’t receiving their full salaries to propagandize from their couch on behalf of the DNC. Those Americans who cannot put food on the table, and those business owners who invested their life savings in a small venture, aren’t nearly as content to kick back idly on their sofas and indulge Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s moronic celebrating of crashing oil prices as an opportunity to transition to “green infrastructure.”
The Democratic preference may be for an indefinite shutdown with indefinite government spending for an indefinite period of time in which to peddle collectivist claptrap, but the reality is that we’re going to reopen sooner rather than later. And, in doing so, we will have to weigh particular considerations and make careful decisions.
First of all, the federal government does not know better than states and localities when certain areas are ready to reopen. There is no reason to believe that Florida and Georgia should reopen at the same time as California and New York, and the best course of action would be to gradually reopen the economy in bits and pieces instead of all at once.
Allowing for states to gauge their own readiness and gradually reopen particular sectors of the economy as appropriate will provide the best chance for us to heed as much advice from epidemiologists as possible while still making responsible policy decisions to alleviate economic suffering.
The bulk of the reservations about partial reopening pertain to testing: how much and how to administer. The problem is that most estimates are unrealistic, and testing itself isn’t intended to stop general infection but to prevent outbreaks by identifying hotspots. Most Americans are expected to contract the virus and develop immunity, and – given the primacy of our testing and irresponsible media coverage – far more (or perhaps fewer) than we probably realize already have. While there are unknowns, one way or another we’re going to end up emulating the Swedish pursuit of herd immunity.
As well, the data show that states which have locked down are not performing terribly better than those which haven’t. This is a matter of population density, and would suggest that denser locations – like New York City – need to remain locked down longer than less densely populated areas, which should reopen while maintaining responsible social distancing.
If the goal is to prevent human suffering, then it would be as irresponsible to remain locked down indefinitely as it would be to reopen the entire economy tomorrow. At some point, our goal has to be to send younger, healthy Americans back to work while mitigating the risk to the elderly and immunocompromised. As is the case with crises, we will have to take smart action without access to perfect information, and do so in gradual, calculated steps. Those decisions should begin promptly with the states when – and where – ready.
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Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.