Monday Tuesday morning quarterbacking, if you will, but one thing that we need to demand as we move through the Covid-19 process is an honest assessment of what we have done, why we did it, and whether it worked. The goal of politics will be to screw this whole process up and turn it into a blame game. The media philosophy will screw this process up because the media just likes to find a narrative and ride it until it drops dead of exhaustion and thirst (more on this in another post). A better perspective it to acknowledge that this was new, dangerous, and we all want to learn so we can take what was good forward and leave what was bad behind. Below are some thoughts that I have in no particular order about what went right and what went wrong.
Although it left many US citizens stranded overseas, limiting travel between continents was obviously the right move to make. In an ideal world the virus could have been contained much more effectively if all nations had worked together from the start. Borders are the legitimate boundaries of a sovereign nation and there is nothing wrong with having them, protecting them, and knowing who is crossing them.
Flatten the Curve
This was the mantra that we were supposed to buy into from the start as preached to us by celebrities, radio DJ’s, government officials, etc… I see a couple issues as follows. 1) Because we are still ramping up testing, it seems obvious that there will be more positive results which will continue to make it look like the curve is going up. We can’t really trust the curve while we are changing the factors that go into it. 2) Unless we all sit inside until there is a cure/vaccine, I don’t see how the curve isn’t going to go back up once states begin to “open”. This has been the problem from day 1 with “flatten the curve” being our top priority.
Having said that, I think there are benefits from it as well. For example, our healthcare system did not get overwhelmed as we saw in Italy. It also gave everyone some kind of achievable target, which was psychologically important on a societal level. For me, it just got a little hinky when popular opinion seemed to take for granted that flattening the curve was an end game solution as opposed to a short term first step.
National State of Emergency
Allowing broad executive powers to be used at the federal and state level is dangerous. These powers are typically reserved for extreme situations that anyone with eyes can see: Joplin demolished by a F5 tornado or German U-boats off the coast. But with Covid-19, we were basically told, “This really is bad, even though you can’t see it. You’ll just have to trust us”. Yeah…I don’t think so. By devaluing the term “state of emergency” we have not done ourselves any favors.
The problem with experts is that they only know what they know while being largely in the dark on what they don’t know. In this case, trust in the experts led to measures that leaned draconian and it turns out they didn’t have some key information, such as the percentage of populations that had already been exposed. “Stay at home” doesn’t help when the people at home have already developed immunity or a large percentage of the population has already been exposed. This information drastically changes the actual mortality rate of Covid-19, as well as brings into question the effectiveness of “quarantining the healthy”.
Painting With a Broad Brush
Growing up in a small country with a homogeneous population has actually increased my position that top-down approaches do not work well in the USA. Two recent failed attempts to “nationalize” that prove this point are the ACA and No Child Left Behind. These ideas came from different political parties but their failure lies in thinking that one size fits all. America struggles with an imbalance of power coming from large urban centers that dominate national policy, media philosophy, and the public agenda while ignoring those in “fly over” country. So the approach of a nation-wide shut down from the White House to the approach of state-wide shutdowns by governors lacked the surgeon’s touch of avoiding the healthy organs while trying to fix the sick ones. We blasted our entire nation with high powered radiation when the actual cancer was much more localized. The damage from this approach will take time to heal.
This whole concept was a complete failure. All business is essential to someone, if only to the people who rely on it to sustain their families. I could buy flowers from Price Cutter, but not from a florist. I could buy fishing supplies at Walmart, but not at Bass Pro (much less the local tackle shop). Elective surgeries were put on hold while abortion was allowed to continue. In the midst of all of this, churches submitted to the authority of governing authorities and canceled their gatherings because they were labeled “non-essential”. I don’t ever want to hear this term again. Let’s bury it.
As I said at the start, this is a learning experience and we need to have the conversation now, while it is still fresh in our minds. I would prefer a political leader saying, “Yeah, we shouldn’t have done it that way, and we know better now.” That is, as opposed to said political leader doubling down on something and trying to tailor the narrative to fit. Later in the week I’ll take a stab at plotting a course for future pandemics. I’m sure with my vast readership it will become the guiding light of our national response in the future.