Whether or not a given person will get COVID-19 is unknown. Even if they do get it, healthy people are likely either to not get sick at all or recover after an illness not a lot more severe than the flu. On the other hand, not having any money, not being able to buy food, stay in your home, keep your car, pay your utilities and so forth are immediate, urgent and very tangible problems.
In addition, there is going to be a vast wave of bankruptcies. There will be severe stress on banks and weaker ones are vulnerable to failure. Unless they are rapidly given at least a trillion dollars in federal support, financially weak states are going to essentially collapse and become unable to provide basic services. Cities and towns across the country are going to lay off essential personnel. Services such as fire protection, police and health care are going to be reduced.
The re-opening of America is going to cause an increase in COVID cases and deaths. How great these increases will be is presently a matter of debate, but within 8 weeks, we will have a clearer idea. The danger is that the healthcare system could be overwhelmed and become unable to admit new patients.
People ask me if the visitors have said anything about the crisis. The answer is yes, and it’s a lot. I have not be emphasizing their participation, largely because of fear that this will mean that their suggestions will be singled out to be ignored, or that anybody in the scientific community pursuing them will be ridiculed and ignored, or have their grants cut.
But if you read these blogs, you will find good ideas and straight talk, most of which emerges out of my partnership with this enigmatic presence I call “the visitors.” Probably the most important idea is the urgent need to identify which healthy people have a concealed vulnerability to the virus. Once we know who they are, we can narrow the need to protect and isolate only to people who are actually vulnerable, which are the old, those with underlying health condition, and this as yet unknown group.
We are going to conduct the experiment of re-opening. When people have a choice between losing their homes and livelihoods or possibly getting a disease that probably won’t kill them and may not even make them sick, of course they are going to choose to go back to work.
They will continue for a while obeying closing rules. But not for long. Communities have to either open up at least to the point that relatively normal economic activity can resume, or the public is going to do it for them.
We are forced by the situation to gamble. Will the healthcare system be overwhelmed before antivirals and vaccines can reduce the seriousness of the sickness? Only time will tell. But we don’t have a choice. We have to reopen or see our world, as we know it, destroyed, and with it billions of lives across the planet.
We have to do it intelligently, though, not by listening to people who say things like the virus doesn’t exist, or that it will mysteriously disappear, or that it isn’t as dangerous as it is, and so forth, and using these fallacies and an excuse not to social distance, keep our hands clean and mask our faces in order to reduce the chance that our own breath might infect others.